As we move into the holiday season — Thanksgiving being right around the corner — the question of what to pair with festive meals is asked more and more. Pinot noir, with its complex flavor profiles, light to medium body, and elegant texture, is a versatile go-to. And Oregon — the Willamette Valley in particular — is proving itself to be the epicenter of pinot noir in the U.S.
As winemakers from all over the world bring their experience and energy to this pocket of the Pacific Northwest, there’s no better time than now to explore all Oregon has to offer. Here are 10 Oregon pinot noir wines to reach for this season.
Sommelier Rajat Parr and winemaker Sashi Moorman made a name for themselves with their Santa Barbara pinot noir-focused labels, Domaine de la Cote and Sandhi, and their first project in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills continues the tradition of elegant pinot noirs. Vines for La Source are planted on shallow, rocky soils at the top of the Seven Springs Vineyard, and grapes express red fruit, mushroom, and floral notes.
Founded in 1988, Penner-Ash’s 15 acres of LIVE-certified estate vineyard continues to produce riveting pinots. Blackberry, pepper, and violets on the nose give way to concentrated fruit on the palate. Though fruit-forward, there’s a lightness to the wine, with fine-grain tannins that provide a lovely texture.
Ken Wright thinks of his wines as having both soprano and bass components and looks for an equal balance in his award-winning pinots. Black fruits and black tea notes often define the wines from this vineyard, which is named after the Spanish word for “onion” as the soils often carry the sweet scent of this vegetable.
From this higher-elevation site comes a pinot with plummy, very expressive fruit, a hint of mocha, pepper, and baking spices. Founded by father-daughter duo Howard and Jessica Mozeico, the focus on single vineyards shows off the diversity of Willamette Valley pinot noir.
The Pommard clone (originally from Burgundy) dominates in Yamhill-Carlton — one of the highest elevation sites in Willamette Valley. Because of the cool climate and slow ripening conditions, grapes are picked as late as November. Blueberry, violets, and plum on the nose meet a mineral, flinty undertone. Along with bright tannins, on the palate, the wine has good acidity, plus silky but crunchy fruit.
What happens when a music executive and a famous Burgundy producer get together? They create one of Oregon’s most exciting new labels. With Nicolas Jay, Jean-Nicolas Meo of Domaine Meo-Camuzet, and Jay Boberg, a music entrepreneur, seek out top vineyard sites in the region to craft their Burgundy-inspired pinots. L’Ensemble is comprised of the best blocks from the entire Willamette Valley and shows off dark fruit, forest floor, and a long, lengthy finish.
The Drouhins brought their centuries of winemaking experience in Burgundy to Oregon in the 1980s and were the first to plant Dijon clones in Oregon, which influenced others to follow suit. Black cherry, floral notes, and rose all shine in this signature pinot noir from Dundee Hills, balanced by structure and fine tannins from time spent in French oak.
The small-production estate predominantly works with vineyards from renowned Dundee Hills and Eola-Amity Hills AVAs, and their Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is an elegant balance of power and finesse from the two different areas. Black cherry, black tea, and spice jump out of this highly aromatic wine.
The aim of Geodesy isn’t just to craft beautiful wines, but it aims to empower and support the next generation of women in agriculture. The label was founded by Judy Jordan, the founder of J Vineyards and Winery. All proceeds from Geodesy support the WG Edge program (Women Gaining an Edge), which educates and provides leadership opportunities for its mentees. This elegant wine smells of red and black fruits, forest floor, with hints of cardamom and clove on the finish.
Rosé is fast becoming a favorite wine for the Thanksgiving table due to its food-friendly, versatile nature. Marry the best of both worlds with this rosé of pinot noir. Strawberry and ripe berry fruits meet delicate floral tones, but there’s a streak of savory minerality that makes this complex quaffer a great match for the feast.