Top Oregon Wines
Americans are crazy for Oregon reds, but its overshadowed whites are amazing, too. F&W’s Ray Isle names the Oregon wines he adores in every color, from wineries that share a love for doing good.
In this article:
- Wineries Helping the World
- Willamette Valley Travel Guide
- Green Wine Shopping
- Oregon Wine Pairings & More
Salmon-Safe Grower does not use chemicals or fertilizers that can run into streams and harm fish.
Live- Or LEED-Certified Producer practices “low-impact” agriculture (i.e., with as few chemicals and fertilizers as possible) or has green buildings.
Solar Power Solar panels help provide a portion of winery energy.
Carbon-Neutral Winery tracks and reduces carbon emissions as set out by a state program.
Social Charities Producer supports causes such as ¡Salud!, a nonprofit that provides health care for Oregon’s seasonal vineyard workers.
Organic/Biodynamic Grapes are grown in line with rigorous standards set by either the Oregon Tilth (organic) or by Demeter (biodynamic) organizations.
Oregon Wineries Helping the World
The producers of these terrific wines are all trying to help the world. To see how, match the symbols after each wine to the causes.
Winery: Ponzi Vineyards
Bottle to Try: 2010 Pinot Gris ($15)
Ponzi, one of Oregon’s most respected wineries, makes textbook Pinot Gris. That means fresh nectarine and white peach flavors and zesty acidity.
Winery: Sokol Blosser
Bottle to Try: Evolution White 15th Edition ($15)
A kitchen-sink mix of nine different grape varieties goes into this spicy white. The winery offers hikes up to its highest block of vines during summer months, with a picnic lunch, for $45; a bottle of this white would be just the thing to have along.
Winery: Elk Cove Vineyards
Bottle to Try: 2010 Pinot Blanc ($19)
Why Pinot Blanc is hardly known and Pinot Gris is practically inescapable is a mystery beyond the scope of this column. In fact, it’s even more mysterious when you consider how good this juicy, full-bodied white is.
Winery: WillaKenzie Estate
Bottle to Try: 2010 Estate Grown Pinot Gris ($21)
WillaKenzie produces a wide range of good wines in addition to its sought-after, single-vineyard Pinot Noirs. This bright, citrusy white is one of the winery’s most affordable bottlings.
Winery: Andrew Rich
Bottle to Try: 2009 Prelude Pinot Noir ($22)
Andrew Rich makes this fragrant, silky Pinot at the Carlton Winemakers Studio, a LEED-certified co-op winery that currently houses 11 different boutique producers.
Winery: Cowhorn Vineyard
Bottle to Try: 2010 Spiral 36 ($22)
Cowhorn concentrates on Rhône variety grapes, an unusual choice for an Oregon winery. Its substantial white blend of Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne gets a spicy lift from several months of aging in French oak barrels.
© Kate Mathis
Bottle to Try: 2010 Coast Range Vineyard Dry Riesling ($24)
Choosing to focus on Riesling in the heart of Oregon Pinot territory is a bold move, but it has paid off for Trisaetum. All five of its Riesling bottlings are impressive; this minerally one is an excellent introduction. The winery also supports scholarships for local high schools.
Bottle to Try: 2009 3 Vineyard Pinot Noir ($27)
Founder and winemaker Harry Peterson-Nedry creates some of Oregon’s best wines, among them this cherry-inflected Pinot. Visitors to the tasting room can also take part in Chehalem’s sustainable wine-on-tap program by purchasing a refillable one-liter bottle for $5.
Bottle to Try: 2008 Brut ($27)
Argyle’s sparkling wines, like this pear-citrusy vintage brut, can compete with those from top Champagne houses. This particular cuvée gets richness and depth from three years’ aging on its lees (spent yeasts).
Winery: St. Innocent
Bottle to Try: 2009 Villages Cuvée Pinot Noir ($24)
Winemaker Mark Vlossak earned his reputation with complex, vineyard-designated Pinots. His floral Villages Cuvée, a blend from four different properties, gives a sense of St. Innocent’s style at a lower price.
Winery: Stoller Vineyards
Bottle to Try: 2009 SV Estate Chardonnay ($28)
The wine is a luscious yet balanced Dundee Hills Chardonnay; the eco-friendly, Gold LEED-certified winery, located near the town of Dayton, is a great destination, and offers tours by appointment.
Winery: Planet Oregon
Bottle to Try: 2009 Pinot Noir ($20)
Not only does acclaimed winemaker Tony Soter donate $1 from each sale of this lively Pinot to the Oregon Environmental Council, he sells the wine solely through Oregon stores and restaurants to promote buying local.
Oregon Wine: Willamette Valley Travel Guide
© Dermot Flynn
Recipe, a Neighborhood Kitchen
Co-owners Dusty Wyant and chef Paul Bachand renovated an old Victorian, planted a vegetable garden and proceeded to serve dishes like creamy carrot soup with cumin butter and farro. 115 N. Washington St., Newberg; 503-487-6853 or recipeaneighborhoodkitchen.com.
Fino in Fondo
Everything’s house-made at this new charcuterie shop, with meat from heritage Berkshire-Yorkshire hogs. 777 NE Fourth St., McMinnville; 503-687-1652 or finoinfondo.com.
Red Hills Market
Snacks like roasted filberts with bacon and rosemary bring wine travelers to this market and deli. 115 SW Seventh St., Dundee; 971-832-8414 or redhillsmarket.com.
Fueled by Fine Wine Half-Marathon
Runners follow a tough 13.1-mile course that winds through the Dundee Hills, passing rows of grapes and hazelnut groves en route to the after-race party with (what else?) great wines. July 15, 2012; fueledbyfinewine.com.
“Wiking,” born in Oregon, mashes together two local obsessions: visiting wineries and hiking. The Willamette Valley is an especially good place to wike, with tons of trails and more than 400 wineries. From $125 for an expedition of six miles; grandcruwinetours.com.
Oregon Wine: How Green is Your Shopping
Founded in October 2011, this online wine shop only sells wines made from organically grown grapes. Additionally, the wineries it works with must pursue other green goals, like water conservation and vineyard biodiversity. ConsciousWine also donates 4 percent of its sales to charity—shoppers get to choose from a list of causes. consciouswine.com.
Willamette Valley Vineyards’ Jim Bernau helped start this recycling program, with drop-off points at Whole Foods Markets (along with several other stores in the western US). ReHarvest finds novel uses for the old corks—mixing them with paper pulp to make shipping cartons for the wine industry, for instance, or turning them into fishing bobbers. corkforest.org.