Think of Oregon as America's Burgundy. The Willamette Valley, Oregon's most famous winegrowing region, roughly shares a latitudethe 45th parallel northwith the famed grand cru and premier cru vineyards of the French region. Thanks to its similarly cool climate and long growing season, Oregon has proven to be a perfect home for the Burgundian grape varieties Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. And the 2005 and 2006 vintages, both currently available in wine shops, are considered among the best Oregon has ever had.
The small 2005 harvest produced elegant Pinots with refined fruit and incredible depth. The 2006s show a different style: They're brighter and more lively, with juicy berry flavors. Both of these vintages were also terrific for whites from around the state. Here are five top bottlings:
2006 A to Z Wineworks Oregon Chardonnay ($16)
Made with grapes from vines that originated in Burgundy's Dijon region, this affordable Chardonnay is aged entirely in stainless steel, allowing its fresh green apple flavor and crisp minerality to shine through.
2006 RoxyAnn Winery Pinot Gris ($17)
This floral, white peach-scented Pinot Gris (Oregon's most widely planted white variety, followed by Chardonnay) comes from southern Oregon's Rogue Valley. It has a lot of zesty, bright acidity and is a great seafood wine.
2006 Brick House Vineyards Evelyn's Pinot Noir ($59)
Doug Tunnell, a pioneer in organic winemaking in Oregon, uses biodynamically grown grapes to make this earthy Pinot Noir. Named for Tunnell's mother, this herb-scented bottling recalls black raspberries.
2005 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Laurène Pinot Noir ($65)
Maison Joseph Drouhin has been making terrific Pinot Noir in Burgundy since 1880 and in Oregon since the late 1980s, when it founded this winery. Laurène, its top bottling, is a consistently beautiful Pinot. In '05 it's a touch austere, but with a perfect balance of acidity and dark-cherry flavor that should allow it to age for years.
2005 Domaine Serene Grace Vineyard Pinot Noir ($125)
The grapes for this concentrated wine comes from Grace Vineyardnamed for Domaine Serene co-owner Grace Evenstadin Oregon's Dundee Hills, a subappellation of the Willamette Valley. A peppery Pinot, it’s full of dark, curranty fruit.