What A cool moist climate region for grape growing – ideal for champagne varieties. Small volumes from artisan producers – sounds like grower champagne. Unfortunately it is difficult to locate these wines in the UK.
Where The region is called the Pacific North-west, and includes Oregon and Washington states. Oregon borders California to the south and the Columbia River/Washington State to the north. Production is centred on the Willamette Valley, which runs south-north through the west of the state, and then follows east along the Columbia River, into which the Willamette River drains. The Yamhill-Carlton AVA in the northwest corner of the Willamette Valley is also involved in sparkling wine production. The Valley is sheltered – to the east by the high Cascade Mountains, to the west by the coastal range and well to the north by a series of lower hills. Almost all grape growing is done in the west of the Willamette Valley, on east facing hillsides, above the frost-prone valley floor, avoiding deeply fertile alluvial soils and cooler hilltop mesoclimates.
Climate The climate is mild throughout the year. Winters are cool and wet with most of the rainfall, summers are warm and dry.
Soils Marine sedimentary, sandstone, volcanic basalt and windblown loess.
Marketing More or less boutique winery operations, with small production, manual processes and attention to detail. Markets are internal and certainly within the US.
Production Notable producers:
- Argyle Winery has been making high-quality sparkling wines since the late 1980s. About 13000 c/s, in the $30-$50 per bottle range. Makes a rose with pinot noir and pinot meunier, and a brut with chardonnay and pinot noir.
- Domaine Meriwether (soon changes to Valhalla Winery) – makes the complete range including vintage, from chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.
- Soter Vineyards – every Soter sparkling wine is vintage-dated, vineyard-designated, and disgorgement-dated. It seems that they make just one wine – a Brut Rose, chardonnay and pinot noir, with 3 years lees ageing. No production figures given.
- Other smaller artisanal vineyards producing a very few hundred cases.
Viticulture Pinot noir dominates plantings with about 11000 acres, then pinot gris 2500 acres, chardonnay, pinot blanc, and lesser others. Training will be on wires, system unknown.
Vinification Traditional method, making small amounts of hand crafted, often hand riddled sparkling wine. Brut – as varietal pinot noir or chardonnay, or blends. Total acidity I have seen in finished wine, is at French Champagne levels, of around 10g/l. Also semi-sparkling wines – brut rose and muscat.
Styles Similar to champagne.
Ageing Some vintage wines.
Tasting note Argyle Brut Oregon Sparkling Wine 2009 – This is Argyle’s most popular sparkling wine. The flavor is focused on white fruits, showing apple, peach, and pear with just a hint of yeast carried on a creamy textured wine, medium bodied and fresh with small bubbles. Apple and floral tones on the finish.
- Oregon Wine, Wikipedia. Online. [Accessed 15/11/16].
- Willamette Valley Wineries.
- Johnson, H., Robinson, R. (2007). World Atlas of Wine. Mitchell Beazley.