|Photos by Toledo Wines and Vines|
The bounty of vino ranged from powerful Cabernets from Napa Valley to the almost completely unknown Hondarrabi Zuri grape in the obscure Spanish region of Bizkaiko Txakolina. But one star outshone them all: the wines of Oregon.
The wine industry is big business in Oregon, bringing in an estimated $2.7 billion annually with $158 million coming from wine tourism. The TWAV tasting team was fortunate to get the flavor of Oregon during our recent visit. Here’s what we learned:
1. Oregon Wine Country is Cool. And we mean this in both senses of the word. There is a lot to be said for grape vines struggling out of scorched earth and rubble, resulting in concentrated flavors. That’s quite a contrast to Oregon, where marionberries, Douglas firs and a jungle of greenery seem to cover every inch of landscape. How can grapes not flourish in such a verdant landscape?
The cooler temperatures give it a leg up on California, its heated neighbor to the south. Oregon’s top three wines are Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Riesling. Chardonnay is also planted in large quantities. These are all varieties that thrive and gain character in the cooler climate.
Oregon is also a natural wonderland, allowing you to visit waterfalls, snow-capped mountains and amazing Pacific coast vistas all with a glass of superb wine in your hand.
2. Oregon Deserves More Notoriety for Amazing Rosé and Pinot Gris. We were expecting spectacular Pinot Noir – and we got it in spades. What we hadn’t expected was the refreshing and dazzling rosé and Pinot Gris. The rosé, made with Pinot Noir grapes, has a citrus lilt with a touch of melon. This is head and shoulders above the old style sweet pink stuff and even an upgrade from the dry French rosé. The rosé from Domain Drouhin, King Estate and Stoller Family Estate are great examples of Oregon style. It is a natural summer refresher.
Perhaps my favorite wine is dry Riesling. Who knows what would have happened if I were introduced to Oregon Pinot Gris first? The wines are medium bodied with ample dollops of fruit flavors that are balanced with acidity. Unlike some Alsatian wines, these are not unduly restrained, they dance with life. They are tasty, refreshing and memorable.
3. There is Diversity in Oregon Wine. One of the most delicious pairings you’ll ever experience is Oregon Pinot Noir with fresh, native salmon. But we discovered wines beyond Pinot Noir and even beyond Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. Oregon stretches from Washington State to the north and down to California in the south.
During the Oregon wines welcome reception we discovered the 2011 Aleash from Agate Ridge Vineyards. The Aleash is an estate-grown white Rhone blend featuring Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne. Agate Ridge also featured a 2009 Malbec. Agate Ridge is in the Rogue Valley AVA, the southernmost Oregon wine region.
Other popular varieties in southern Oregon include Albarino, Tempranillo and Cabernet Franc.
We’ll share more insights from our WBC12 Oregon visit in future posts. In closing here are a few of the top wines we sampled at the Oregon wines welcome reception:
- Agate Ridge 2009 Malbec
- Anne Amie Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir
- Argyle 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir
- Carlton Cellars 2009 Roads End Pinot Noir
- Chehalem 2011 Gruner Veltliner
- Cornerstone Cellars 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir
- Dion Vineyard 2010 Old Vines Pinot Noir
- Domaine Drouhin 2008 Laurène Cuvee
- Foris Vineyards 2010 Pinot Blanc
- Kramer Vineyards 2010 Müller Thurgau
- R. Stuart & Co 2011 Big Fire Pinot Gris
- Twelve 2010 Estate White
- Youngberg Hill 2009 Natasha Block Pinot Noir