Oregon’s Willamette Valley


Possibly no other grape variety is as subject to the differences of terroir, as is Pinot Noir. And, no discussion or tasting of Pinot Noir would be complete without including Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Located West and South of Portland, the Willamette Valley is 150 miles long and nearly 60 miles wide, with 200 wineries and over 12,000 acres of grapes. Bounded by the Cascade Mountains to the East, the Coast Range mountains to the West, plus a series of lower hill chains to the extreme north of the valley, the Willamette Valley is one of those regions that illustrates the diversity of terroir. So much so, that in 2002, the vineyards and wineries of the region delineated and submitted petitions to the TTB to divide much of the northern part of the Willamette Valley AVA into six more specific AVAs. During 2005-06, the petitions were approved and the following sub-AVAs were created within the Willamette Valley: Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, and Yamhill-Carlton District

Rusty Gaffney (Prince of Pinot) selected 12 wines for us to taste, 2 from each region or district. Join us as we explore the wines of these sub-AVA regions, to discover their differences, as well as their similarities. The wines:

2006 ArborBrook Vineyards Estate 777 Block
2006 Laura Volkman Vineyards Jacob Estate

2006 Et Fille Maresh Vineyard
2006 Domaine Drouhin

2006 Torii Mor Eola-Amity Hills Select
2006 Cristom Eola-Amity Hills Eileen Vineyard

2006 Brittan Vineyards Basalt Block
2006 Raptor Ridge Meredith Mitchell Vineyard

2006 Patricia Green Cellars Estate
2005 Beaux Freres The Beaux Freres Vineyard

2006 Soter Beacon Hill
2006 Resonance Vineyard

Sponsor- Pinpoint Technologies, Mailing List Source: www.pinpoint-tech.com

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Show #239
(52:24 min 37MB)

14 Responses to “Oregon’s Willamette Valley”

  1. 1 Tim Meranda Jun 15th, 2009 at 8:29 am

    Very nice show. I enjoyed this format a lot. Will try to find some of these wines and taste them as I review the show. Have you ever thought of pre announcing a variety of wines and give the audience time to get them so they can drink along with a panel like this?

  2. 2 GrapeRadio Bunch Jun 15th, 2009 at 8:43 am

    That’s a good idea, Tim. I know we’ve talked about it before, and have had ever intention of following through on it. But, as you’ve probably heard, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” 😉


  3. 3 GrapeRadio Bunch Jun 15th, 2009 at 9:46 am

    As Eric mentioned, we have talked about it numerous times. The key is announcing it enough in advance to give people the time to get the wines themselves. I would also be interested in toying with setting up a “live chat” as we went through the wines.


  4. 4 Andrew Cheese Jun 16th, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Interesting show. Where does the notion that wines from the same “appellation” have to have some commonality. The French appellation system is about wines being from the same place as claimed not that they should taste/smell/look/feel the same. I don’t know the US AVA system too well but is it trying to be something more than the French appellation system ?

  5. 5 Cary Jun 17th, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Good show, however it can be argued that clonal selection from young (less than ~10 years) vineyards might overshadow any terroir differences.

  6. 6 GrapeRadio Bunch Jun 17th, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Andrew, interesting question. First, I do not think the AVA system is striving to be like the AOC system, i.e. there are several differences such as crop loads mandated by the AOC. But, to your point about whether “they should taste/smell/look/feel the same,” I do think there is the perception that some common degree of characteristics do exist within these lines of demarcation – in both the AVA system and the AOC system.

    Speaking for myself, I think the idea that an appellation has some “commonality” was probably a natural segue from the impression that the terroir of the AVA was supposed to be so similar as to nearly be the same — or at least produce similar results that could be defined. For instance, Margaux’s have more in common with each other than they do with the Pauillac’s right next door. Then there’s the similarity of “Rutherford Dust” for wines from this part of Napa Valley. This would certainly lead one to believe that similarity does exist – real or imagined.

    I think they both AOCs and AVA’s strive to carve out areas that historically produce similar products from a similar environment. If the devil’s in the details, then certainly how we define “similar” is where it gets slippery.


  7. 7 GrapeRadio Bunch Jun 17th, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Cary, an excellent point – and one that is constantly being stressed by producers. “We just don’t know,” “We’re too young an area,” “The vines are too young,” “We haven’t refined the clone that works best here,” – we are constantly being told. And, they’re RIGHT! But, that doesn’t seem to stop people from wanting to classify, categorize, or otherwise pigeonhole clones, vineyards, and AVAs. Look how we gravitated to the scoring of wines. We just love to refine stuff! 😉


  8. 8 Ryan Jun 17th, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Kudos to Jay for sticking up for the “radicals.” I don’t want to buy wine from my dentist! Enjoyed the format a lot.

  9. 9 Miguel Jun 18th, 2009 at 11:39 am


    Great job on this Oregon podcast and the way that the format was laid out. I dont think that there is anyting wrong with Mr. Soter for leaving California to come home and make Pinot. LOL! I liked how real Eric, Jay and Rusty where on the wines, but feel that it would have been better if you guys had 2 bottles of each producer. The sub’s where well represented from the little guys to the big guns. Californians have changed the way of the AVA’s and I feel that it is for the better. But it is confusing for the consumer and it is something that we are working on in educating consumers. Oregon is getting better year in and out. Keep up the great work but come back again to taste other Oregon producers.


  10. 10 GrapeRadio Bunch Jun 18th, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Thanks Miguel,

    I would like to take credit for the idea on the format, but the idea came from Rusty. A 2nd bottle from each producer sounds like a good idea. I would like to see us do more shows focused on a producer or perhaps on specific vineyards.

    Tim’s suggestion about announcing the wines ahead of time is something I really want to do. No matter what, I am convinced we should do this format more often.


  11. 11 Doug Smith Jun 24th, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Excellent show, guys. I always love the shows where you just have the hosts around talking about something interesting. I’m also glad that you didn’t try to extrapolate from two cases to any sort of conclusions about each AVA. Of course, any two points make a line, and any two wines will be like and unlike each other in many ways that are irrelevant to determining local character.

    But you need more microphones — some of the discussion was a bit out of range. (Didn’t you use more in the past?) It would make interactions more natural. The only benefit of having a single mic is that it allowed each of you to talk at some length without interruption, also nice.

  12. 12 Doug Smith Jun 24th, 2009 at 7:48 am

    Re. the ‘live chat’ option, personally I think it might be a bit tedious to hear people taste through each wine. I prefer this format, where we get the conclusions and the discussion that follows.

  13. 13 GrapeRadio Bunch Jun 24th, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Doug, you are the 3rd person who has used the word “tedious” when talking about shows where the hosts are tasting. I guess you are right, if we where to post in this format, it would avoid the minutia. The show would be more compact and stripped of superfluous material.

    I am a bit concerned that I do not want to turn GrapeRadio into a wine review show. Too much of that already on the WEB.


    p.s Recording was a last minute decision, but I think we used one mic the last time.

  14. 14 Jason Hagen Jul 10th, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Great stuff guys. I love the format … and the theme 🙂

    Too bad you picked a crappy vintage. 06 is pretty much monolithic which probably minimized many of the subtle differences. Revisiting them of 4 years may help.

    Best and keep up the great work!


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