Oregon pinot noir offers an ideal opportunity to explore the effects
of terroir, as the stateâ€™s main wine region, the Willamette (rhymes
with â€˜dammitâ€™) Valley features two main soil types, each with its
own expression in the wine.
I explore these expressions in my column this week in The Washington Post, written after my enjoyable sojourn in McMinnville at the International Pinot Noir Celebration.
The Oregon wine industry leads the way in the United States in
sustainable, organic and biodynamic viticulture. There is a state
certification for sustainable viticulture and a regional group called
that’s Low Input Viticulture and Enology â€“ that stresses
environmentally friendly practices in the vineyard and in the winery.
Its members include familiar names such as Adelsheim, Bethel Heights, Chehalem, and Rex Hill,
among many others. LIVE works with the â€œSalmon Safeâ€ certification
that monitors wineries for practices that protect fisheries, and the
IOBC, the International Organization for Biological and Integrated
Control of Noxious Animals and Plants. (Whew â€“ that’s a mouthful!)
This environmental consciousness is to be applauded, for it stands to
reason that healthier land will produce healthier grapes and better
wine. No one can prove that yet, and any honest winemaker will admit
that bad wine can be made from great grapes, and no great wine can be
made from bad grapes. So maybe land wins out over the winemakerâ€™s
hand, after all.
Price, of course, is always a factor. Oregon has positioned itself in
the $35 – $55 range for fine wines, and is beginning to feel the pinch
of the recession, as luxury wines from other regions such as Napa Valley
experience steep price cuts. Oregon pinot noir has not yet responded to
this pressure, though Ted Casteel of Bethel Heights said his winery
will be increasing production of its regular cuvee and de-emphasizing
its top wines with the 2009 harvest.
Even without the economic climate making its presence felt (yet) on
the price of Oregon pinot noir, there are several that provide good
value at $25 or less. Here are a few worth seeking out, in alphabetical
A to Z Pinot Noir 2007, Oregon, $20
Anne Amie Cuvee A Pinot Noir 2007, Willamette Valley, $25
Benton Lane Pinot Noir 2007, Willamette Valley, $25
Firesteed Pinot Noir 2007, Oregon, $18