When one thinks about wine from the Willamette Valley of Oregon the first thought is a Pinot Noir. However, one should not overlook the great white wines coming out of this wonderful region.
The mid-point of the Willamette Valley lies at 45 degrees north latitude, the same as the Cote d’Or region of Burgundy in France. The amount of rainfall, sunlight hours, and temperature differences between Burgundy and the Willamette Valley are often similar as well. Therefore it is not surprising that similar grapes like to grow in both parts of the world. Since Chardonnay is the main white grape from Burgundy it fits that the Willamette Valley would be a good place to grow Chardonnay. Chardonnay in the valley adapts well to the cool climate and produces lean and elegant wines.
Affordably priced examples include the A to Z Chardonnay at $17.99. This entirely un-oaked Chardonnay really showcases the leanness and minerality of Chardonnay from the valley. The Carabella Dijon 76 Estate Chardonnay at $24.99 with 80% seeing oak has wonderful citrus aromas with a creamy mouth feel and a hint of minerality.
Some family members of the Pinot Noir, specifically Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) and Pinot Blanc, have had good success with winemakers in the Willamette Valley. The Pinot Gris here is often lighter with more natural acidity than those found in the Alsace region of France where they are more full bodied.
From the furthest south to near the furthest north in the Willamette Valley some Pinot Gris examples of the 2015 vintage with all being offered for $19.99 are King Estate that offers flavors of pear, honeydew, and lime zest with a clean and long finish. The Van Duzer presents aromas of Asian pears with notes of ripe peach and cantaloupe, a citrus driven mid-palate and a mouthwatering finish. And the Elk Cove is considered to be a bit more juicy with apple and pear flavors, yet still offers some cantaloupe and hints of lime.
Pinot Blanc is another great white that can be found in the Willamette Valley. Oftentimes, it sees no oak or some neutral oak and/or stainless steel. The acidity and sometimes slight salinity notes make this grape a wonderful complement to seafood dishes, perhaps a nice sautéed white fish with a meyer lemon beurre blanc, as well as the wonderful Oysters of the Pacific Northwest. The Willakenzie Pinot Blanc at $24.99 has balanced acidity, pear and apple notes, and a nice creaminess in the mid-palate leading to a long and lively finish.
The white wines of the Willamette Valley are some of the best expressions of their respective varietal. They are great food wines with their balanced acidity and long clean finishes. Consider one of these white wines on your next visit to the store. You will be glad you did.
Bryant, Wine Buyer