Willamette Valley Vineyards

While I am a prodigious drinker, I have to admit that I have neglected Oregon and Washington wines — mainly because they can be hard to find. I don’t often get a chance to taste them, and many are above the $20 price point at which I usually cut myself off (hey, there’s a recession on). I’m glad the Wine Bloggers Conference is taking place in Walla Walla, Wash., this year; I look forward to learning more about the wines of that area and the Pacific Northwest in general.

Recently I got a chance to explore some wines — a Chardonnay and two Pinot Noirs — from Oregon’s Willamette Valley Vineyards. Although its wines speak for themselves, I was particularly intrigued by WVV’s environmental commitment — they use Forest Stewardship Council-certified corks, they provide their employees with free biodiesel fuel, and their vineyards are certified through Salmon Safe and LIVE. Going organic or biodynamic is all well and good, but I like to see wineries emphasize environmental friendliness in other ways — you hardly ever hear about water runoff issues, for example, so I was glad to see the Salmon Safe certification. Anyway. On to the wines.

2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards Dijon Clone Chardonnay: Nose is rather tropical — pineapple and mandarin orange leapt out for me, but I didn’t pick up any coconut until I read the tasting notes (and that may be the power of suggestion at work). I also got some new oak, a touch of butter and a little bit of spice. This wine is nicely acidic — it’s got a good balance. I like the fresh citrus flavors — lemon, lime, crisp green apple; there’s not too much oak or butter. I don’t think I’ll ever be a fan of American Chardonnay and this probably isn’t one I would buy (I really only go for unoaked), but it wasn’t bad. If you are a fan of American Chardonnay, I suspect you’d like this wine.

2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir: This is their basic, entry-level Pinot Noir. I’m getting a lot of dark fruits (black cherry, blackberry) on the nose with a touch of coffee; after I let it sit for a few minutes and gave it another swirl, some earthy notes emerged. Lots of acidity up front, very active on the tongue. Intense, tart cherry floods the palate, followed by hints of smoke and dust. A bit rough at first — I gave this one some time to settle in the glass and it smoothed out. Definitely a food-friendly choice; I think this could stand up well to dishes with a touch of spice.

2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards Tualatin Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir: Very aromatic — spicy cherry just leaps out of the glass to grab you by the nose. A much more subtle offering compared to the Willamette Valley Pinot. Sweet spices on the nose with notes of pine. Juicy fruit flavors (raspberry, cherry, plum) wash over the palate, punctuated by pepper and smoke. Nice long finish; much more persistent than the other Pinot. Both this and the other one really should be enjoyed with food — I wish I’d thought ahead and made salmon, because I think that would have worked very well with this wine.

All of these wines were winery samples. Thanks to Willamette Valley Vineyards for giving me a chance to try them!