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What Makes Oregon Pinot Noir so Special

What Makes Oregon Pinot Noir so Special

Pinot noir is unquestionably one of the world's most renowned grapes. It’s a favorite of sommeliers and novice wine drinkers alike. When pinot noir is being discussed, it’s likely that Oregon will be brought up early on in the conversation around where in the world the best bottles are coming from. Oregon is a winemaking region that is recognized for quality and has proven itself worthy of the praise. Given the state of things today, would it shock you to know that the first pinot noir grapes weren’t planted in Oregon until 1965? Would you be hard pressed to believe that Oregon wasn’t even on the winemaking map as little as 50 years ago? Well, believe it or not, that’s the case. Since the 1970s, Oregon has gone from a nobody in the wine scene to a region that’s central to the production of pinot noir in the United States.

Outside of the dedicated winemakers that have transformed Oregon winemaking into what it is today, climate is the most important factor contributing to the success of pinot noir in this pivotal region. The conditions are ideal for this finicky grape that has trouble growing in regions of the world that don’t have the perfect mix of temperature, humidity and soil. When it comes to the soil, Oregon wine lovers have ancient floods to thank for the prized and diverse soil that now helps pinot noir thrive. That, in combination with the ideal cool maritime climate, creates a match made in heaven for the grape that helped put winemakers in Oregon on the map.

The pinot noirs that are coming out of Oregon are quite different from those that come from the warmer and much more varied climate of California. California pinot noirs lead with fruit-forward flavor, especially in areas with warmer climates, while Oregon pinot noirs are appreciated for their acidity and earthiness. The flavors are refined, complex and stand in a league all their own. Oregon winemakers play with how long to age their wines in French oak to round out the tannins from the grape skins and soften some bitterness that comes from these grapes grown in a cool climate. The result is a singular expression that it’s hard to believe wasn’t even part of the pinot noir conversation just 50 years ago.

The region to look at for pinot noir from Oregon is Willamette Valley AVA, a valley that runs south from Portland between the Coast Range and Cascade mountains. The Coast Range mountains create a buffer along the coast that regulates the cold, wet conditions from the ocean and the Cascade mountains close off the valley to allow for morning fog and warm, sunny days that lead into cool nights. The conditions are ideal and it’s no wonder pinot noir has taken off in this area of the United States.

We would be remiss to cover Oregon winemaking without touching on the impact of sustainability on the winemaking scene in this state in particular. Oregon’s winemakers are committed to sustainability in a way that isn’t reflected anywhere else in the United States. More than 50% of the winemakers are certified sustainable. It’s clear that Oregon is dedicated to maintaining the quality of the conditions in the region that has not been widely affected by chemicals or unsustainable practices. It’s an admirable feat in an industry that can be seen cutting corners to maximize profit.

It’s safe to say that if Oregon pinot noir is not on your radar, it should be. We at Komo Cellars think a winery to start with that is illustrative of the beautiful bottles coming from Willamette Valley is Purple Hands. They are representative of the commitment to sustainability and premium quality that’s emulated in Oregon wines. Check out our Purple Hands Pinot Noir 3 pack here. We know you’ll love it. Cheers!

Written by Komo Cellars