A Visit to Willamette Valley, Oregon

After a long day of winery visits, GDP comes back with his six top picks from the Willamette Valley


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Andrew Rich

It’s easy to think of Oregon as the land of Pinots, and maybe even a little Riesling, but this is as multifaceted and compelling of a region as there is in the U.S. Andrew Rich seems to be on a one-man quest to prove it, whether that means venturing across the Columbia River for some Malbec or Syrah or staying closer to home for some Sauvignon Blanc.

Yes, the Willamette Valley produces Sauvignon Blanc, of all things, and Andrew has set out to make a rather unique version of it. Fermented in a tank and then finished in lightly toasted, cigar shaped barrels, this is not your father’s Oregon Sauvignon Blanc. I can say that quite decisively, since your father didn’t drink Oregon Sauvignon Blanc. You see, there just wasn’t any being, oh forget it. Go and check out this unique example of the fringes of Oregon’s wine culture!

2011 Andrew Rich Sauvignon Blanc Croft Vineyard
After tank-started fermenting, went into a lightly toasted, cigar shaped barrel

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: snoman
    229582 210

    Impossible to pick top five from WV.....so many great ones, and many are small production players. Laura Volkman and Patricia Green are at the top of my list.

    Sep 05, 2012 at 4:06 PM

  • Snooth User: Cabking
    658563 31

    How about exploring and writing about Southern Oregon, Rogue Valley? Sure would be nice to see what is going on in the other parts of the state rather than Willamette.

    Sep 05, 2012 at 4:43 PM

  • Snooth User: xhilogirl
    623056 11

    Erath Vineyards is one of my favs.

    Sep 05, 2012 at 4:45 PM

  • Snooth User: Zuiko
    Hand of Snooth
    540750 833

    Montinore Estate is worth checking out in the northern part of the valley. They specialize in Germanic wines, with several Rieslings, Gewurztraminers and Muller Thurgaus. There are other wines produced by them as well. Their 2005 Sweet Reserve Riesling really put them on the map for me.

    Sep 05, 2012 at 4:50 PM

  • Winderlea, Patricia Green, Ayoub and Brickhouse deserve mention as well.

    Sep 05, 2012 at 4:59 PM

  • Snooth User: jimgullo
    305658 4

    Some really nice calls here, from where I stand as a WV resident. Belle Pente and DePonte fly well under the radar, and are both terrific. Winemaker Isabelle Dutartre of DePonte also makes her own label, 1789 Wines, that holds its own with any Pinot here. Scott Paul's Audrey PN is first-rate, and Robert Brittan does wonderful things with chard and PN for Winderlea and his own label, Brittan Vineyards.

    Sep 05, 2012 at 5:21 PM

  • Snooth User: cbkjnk
    996242 34

    The Four Graces and Torii Mor are tops in my cellar.

    Sep 05, 2012 at 5:26 PM

  • Snooth User: deercreekvineyards
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    622712 44

    I agree with Cabking..In my opinion there never seems to be much focus on Southern Oregon wines. Southern Oregon has so much diversity in varietals and microclimates. it kinda irks us especially when we know that many of the wineries up north purchase their fruit from southern Oregon to blend with theirs. Added note for those that dont think that the quality of the wines are not up to par compared to the Williamette Valley. Take a look at this years S.F. Chronicles Wine Competition winners, the majority of the wines that won medals from Oregon were from Southern Oregon vintners. Food for thought folks!

    Sep 05, 2012 at 5:28 PM

  • Snooth User: craigis
    1047628 9

    In my opinion your list is missing some of the very top Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chards in the WV: Domaine Serene, Beau Freres, Chehalem, Brick House, Rex Hill (A to Z is probably one of the WV best values), and Panther Creek. There are so many great Pinot Noirs in Oregon, (albeit there are good and not so good Pinots by any measure) it's really a very personal taste/experience). Run down to your local wine store and pick up some WV Pinot Noirs and have a "blind" tasting with friends.

    BTW: There's also a bunch of good eats in the area too: run down to McMinnville and have dinner (or lunch) and Nick's Italian Cafe, and Recipe, A Neighborhood Kitchen in Newberg is terrific.

    Sep 05, 2012 at 6:45 PM

  • My favourite producer is Argyle. They have some world class sparkling wines there.

    Sep 05, 2012 at 6:52 PM

  • Although certainly not the first, Eyrie is a respected producer here in the Willamette making some tasty juice.

    Sep 05, 2012 at 8:00 PM

  • Snooth User: craigis
    1047628 9

    If I understand correctly, Eyrie was the first Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in WV and the first Pinot Gris in America. We tasted Eyrie vintages in their McMinnville tasting room on our last trip to the IPNC (in McMinnville) and found their wines good but not our favorite.

    Get your hands on a Domaine Serene 2007 Evanstad Reserve, their 2008 Evenstad Reserve (even their 2009 Jerusalem Hill Pinot Noir) and see how they compare to the award winning Eyrie. (Note: Domaine Serene facility atop the picturesque mountains in Yamhill County are arguably the most awe-inspiring in WV. For the views, you must also visit Domaine Drouhin atop the Dundee Hills with their stunning views. The facility has a somewhat "corporate" look and feel, pricey tasting and a little overpriced wines. Again, putting awards aside, taste is a very subjective thing.

    Sep 05, 2012 at 8:40 PM

  • for over 25 years RIBBON RIDGE has been producing the best pinot noirs in or.

    Sep 05, 2012 at 8:49 PM

  • Hey Craig, technically, it was David Hill Winery who claims fame to Willamette Valley’s oldest Pinot Noir Vines. http://www.davidhillwinery.com/page...

    Agreed, Eyrie was first in Pinot Gris (not only in WV but in America!)

    Sep 05, 2012 at 10:47 PM

  • Snooth User: AMFeM
    290730 50

    Of course, with so many excellent wines to choose from, picking a handful and calling them tops is open to question. I love Domaine Serene, DePonte, Four Graces and Argyle, all mentioned either in the article or comments. My absolute favorite is Archery Summit, and I also like another "under the radar" winery, Soter.

    Sep 06, 2012 at 11:09 AM

  • Domaine Serene, Erath, St. Innocent, some of my favorites. White Rose is not to be missed. 2007 one of the worst vintages ever in Willamette 2008 one of the best. 2009 is good but not as much aging potential as 2008. 2007 had a lot of rain late in the season which caught most vineyards flat footed and they could not harvest in time.

    Sep 06, 2012 at 2:27 PM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 7,292

    Cabking, you are, of course, correct. The powers that be at Snooth do not necessarily look under every rock to teach us about every under-appreciated wine, or grape variety, or producer or region. (GDP's recent article on Chilean old-vine Carignan notwithstanding.) However, you can do your part. Go over to the Snooth Forum and start a discussion of wines from the Rogue Valley. There are a bunch of us who hang out there and would very much enjoy hearing about it. I for one would be very interested. I had no idea that there was wine coming from there. I would make the same suggestion to deercreekvineyards, but I suspect that his/her exposition might be viewed by some as a bit self serving.

    Sep 06, 2012 at 7:54 PM

  • Snooth User: Finfan
    809217 1

    There is a boutique winery by the name of White Rose Estate which is very close to Domaine Serene. Their Pinot Noirs are wonderfully smooth.

    Sep 06, 2012 at 8:41 PM

  • I believe that White Rose is the same. Fantastic Pinots!

    Sep 07, 2012 at 12:43 AM

  • Check out Youngberg Hill and Evesham Wood Pinots. They are as "smooth as silk".They remind of a beautiful Burgundy

    Sep 07, 2012 at 5:05 PM

  • Snooth User: chazt
    1132095 16

    Look for Cloudline Pinot Noir. It's from the folks at Domaine Drouhin and a great value!

    Sep 09, 2012 at 10:55 AM

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