Oregon’s Willamette Valley is one of the most exciting regions on the global wine map, period. Long known for Pinot Noir, the roughly 100-mile expanse stretching from Portland to Eugene is also home to a growing number of other varietals, produced in varying styles to much and well-deserved praise.
Often deemed the Burgundy of the New World, the Willamette Valley shares a number of traits with the famous French wine zone. The two are positioned alike in terms of latitude and boast similar climates and growing seasons. Unsurprisingly, what does well there (most famously Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) thrives here. But the valley’s diverse terrain, impeccable soils, and temperate weather are a warm invitation to many other grapes. It’s often said that if you can’t grow it in the Willamette Valley, you probably can’t grow it at all.
A few major events paved the way for what is now a multibillion dollar annual industry closing in on 600 producers. First, a world-renowned tasting dubbed theWine Olympicspitted Eyrie Pinot Noir against some of the most famous Old World labels in 1976. It was a blind tasting and Eyrie finished a remarkable tenth. A rematch was put together at Maison Drouhin in France and this time it finished second. Imagine the spit-takes when French wineries with centuries of experience lost out to an up-and-comer from Oregon.