We went looking for the best Oregon Pinot Noir producers. We knew we had to start in the Willamette Valley.
Where Are The Best Oregon Pinot Noir Wines Produced
Oregon is the fourth-largest wine-producing state in the United States and Pinot Noir makes up over half of the plantings. The state features both large-scale producers and boutique estates and is especially known for the emphasis on sustainable farming and winemaking.
Stretching parallel to the northern half of the Oregon Pacific coastline, the Willamette Valley is the largest AVA (American Viticultural Area) in Oregon and encompasses nine sub-AVAs. The boundaries of each sub-AVA are determined based on soil, climate, and other factors that contribute to a unique and identifiable terroir. Pinot Noir reigns here; the region is practically synonymous with the variety.
South of the Willamette is the aptly named Southern Oregon AVA; this region is warmer than the Willamette and while Pinot Noir is still widely planted, varieties such as Merlot, Tempranillo, and Syrah thrive here. The eastern part of the state features a handful of AVAs that overlap with Washington State and Idaho. Warmer and drier than the coastal regions, this area grows a wide range of grapes.
What Characteristics Should You Find In Great Oregon Pinot Noir
The best Pinot Noir produced in Oregon can be very light to much bolder and more tannic (the grape is also popular for rosé and sparkling wine production), depending on site selection and winemaking choices, among other considerations. Warmer sites tend to produce wines with a deeper color and more dark fruit notes, while cooler sites lead to wines with racy acidity and tart cranberry characteristics.
The grape itself is quite delicate and requires a careful hand, both in the vineyard and the winery. Maturation in French oak is very common, adding texture and additional aromas and flavors of baking spices and cedar.
High-quality examples of Oregon Pinot Noir can be found in an array of styles and price points. While the Southern Oregon AVA and those to the east do produce Pinot, the very best and most consistent instances come from the Willamette. Below is a sampling of options, organized by sub-AVA, that consistently score highly with both critics and consumers.
Here Are The Best Oregon Pinot Noir Producers
Try this: Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir
Domaine Serene has become synonymous with high-quality Oregon wine; they regularly receive top accolades from numerous wine publications. Utilizing grapes from throughout the Valley to achieve the perfect balance of fruit and acidity, the 2017 Reserve ($85) is a cellar-worthy example of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
Try this: Estate Selection Pinot Noir
Dick Erath was an early advocate for Oregon wines and his legacy continues today. Utilizing fruit from throughout the Willamette, the 2016 vintage features some darker fruits and a slightly deeper color, making it an ideal match for hearty stews and another cool-weather fare -- and the $38 price tag makes this Pinot more accessible than many.
Try this: Tavola Pinot Noir
Grapes from the entire Willamette went into the 2018 Tavola, creating layers of flavors and texture that are further enhanced by a touch of new French oak. Tavola is Italian for ‘table;’ at $25, this wine is indeed a high-quality everyday‘ table wine.
Try this: Oregon Laurene Pinot Noir
Made from estate-grown grapes in the Dundee Hills AVA, this Pinot is recognized for fresh red fruits, a light citrus note, and a distinct herbal quality. The Domaine is owned by Maison Joseph Drouhin; this renowned producer in Burgundy brought a lot of Pinot Noir winemaking expertise to Oregon. The establishment of Domaine Drouhin started a trend of other Burgundian producers investing in the area. At $80 for the 2017 vintage, the Laurene Pinot Noir is a wine to lay down for a few years before enjoying from one of the best Oregon Pinot Noir producers.
Try this: Eyrie Estate Pinot Noir
David Lett saw the potential of the area and planted the Eyrie Estate vineyards in the Dundee Hills in the 1960s; he is often referred to as the pioneer of Willamette Valley wines. The winery is now considered one of the best Oregon Pinot Noir producers.
The 2017 bottling is available for $42. Fruit forward and a touch jammy, it can be enjoyed right away or put aside for a few years to further soften the tannins.
Knudsen Vineyards in the Dundee Hills has supplied grapes and made wine for some of the best Oregon Pinot Noir producing wineries for decades, but it is only in the last few years that they’ve offered their own labels.
Knudsen describes the 2015 Pinot Noir as “friendly;” it is easy-drinking yet elegant with well-integrated tannins ($52).
After conquering Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in southern California, power duo Raj Parr and Sashi Moorman set their sights on the Willamette.
Mixing Burgundian influences with biodynamic farming practices, they consistently produce complex wines that display the terroir of specific vineyards and vineyard plots (as is the case with La Source, a plot within the Seven Springs Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA). The 2017 vintage retails for $80 and features notes of bright cherry, licorice, and forest floor.
Try this: Rastaban Pinot Noir
Like the Erath described above, the 2015 vintage of this wine is another Pinot in a bigger, bolder style -- yet the zippy acidity keeps it fresh and floral notes add to the complexity. With the tagline “Peace, Bread, Land, Wine,” it comes as no surprise that Brooks employs organic and biodynamic farming methods. These grapes are from the estate vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills; the 2015 vintage retails for $65.
Try this: Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir
Cristom is a family-owned and operated winery in Eola-Amity Hills, where they farm the estate vineyards using biodynamic practices. This wine is made from vines planted in the early 1990s, yielding nicely concentrated juice.
The 2018 vintage incorporated a fair amount of whole cluster fermentation, a winemaking choice that adds to the color and structure of the final wine ($70).
Try this: Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir
While best known for their innovative Pinot Gris bottlings, Lange is also a producer of fine New World Pinot Noirs. The use of oak on this wine was handled with a deft hand, producing an end result of well-integrated tannins, complex flavors (red fruits, tobacco, earth, and spice), and a lasting finish. The 2016 edition is $70; Freedom Hill Vineyard is also within the Eola-Amity Hills sub-AVA.
Try this: Nuthouse Pinot Noir
Winemaking techniques make all the difference in this wine. Both cold-soaking and whole cluster fermentation were employed, giving rise to a wine with structure and power, but also elegance. Argyle is also an excellent producer of Willamette Valley sparkling wines. The 2018 Nuthouse Pinot Noir retails for a modest $50.
With grapes from the Ribbon Ridge AVA, this example is paler in color than the several preceding Eola-Amity Hills examples -- but that does not mean it lacks in flavor. No new oak was utilized in the making of this wine, so the bright red cherry note is the star, complemented by spice and a touch of smoked meat. After over 20 years in the wine business, Bergström remains family-owned and operated. The 2018 vintage currently retails for $85.