Pioneers and Passion: Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

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By founding a Pinot vineyard in Willamette Valley in 1966, David “Papa Pinot” Lett was making a statement for the rest of the world to hear – that this valley was an ideal place for a cool-climate grape, capable of producing wines with finesse, longevity, and elegance.

A few pioneers followed David’s example and today, Wilamette’s Pinot production is booming. Oregon-wine guides listed a couple of dozen wineries for the whole state. Today, Oregon has nearly 800 wineries and over 1,000 vineyards, with more than 70 grape varieties and 30,000 acres under cultivation. And yet, two-thirds of all of the Oregon wine produced is Pinot Noir — which makes Pinot Noir all but synonymous with Oregon wine. From the warm climate appellations of the southern Oregon, to the classic estates of Willamette Valley, to the cooler climate vineyards of Columbia Gorge, Pinot Noir is cultivated all over the state.

For years, the best compliment you could pay Oregon winemakers was to say their Pinot Noir was indistinguishable from Burgundy’s — and many of the state’s winemakers still make their Pinot Noir in the Burgundian style. But after 50 years of making Pinot Noir, many other Oregon wineries with a rich knowledge of the state’s diversity of soils, grape clones and vineyard sites are forging an Oregon Pinot Noir identity all its own.

Explore with us the young history, the vigorous development and the vast variety of appellations of Oregon Pinot Noir. Discover with us how the grape came to identify the state of Oregon. And taste with us the best Pinot Noirs made by the state which tastes like Pinot Noir.

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