Pacific Rim
August 4, 2022 | wine | Pacific Rim

Why You Need to Try an Oregon Red Wine Next

Understanding and becoming interested in wine is a bit like going on a journey. You’ll want to visit lots of different places, and it may be tough to understand exactly which was your favorite before you’ve seen everything. No matter how overwhelming the world of wine may be, ensuring you give everything a try is an absolute must if you want to create a rich wine drinking experience. Oregon red wine is a little different. It’s an experience you absolutely want as your journey continues. 

Why Red Wine?

Red wine has always been known for its rich flavors and fragrances. Higher in tannins than white wines, you’ll find reds to be far more complex than others. There are lots of choices in red wines, just like there are in whites. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah, and Pinot Noir are all good starting places to explore red wines. Every bottle means a new taste experience like dark fruits, berries, cherries, and even leather and tobacco. Each means a creamy, velvety experience that will change the way you look at wine. While Oregon wine country is known to produce a variety of red wine options, the best Oregon red wine is the Pinot Noir.


Oregon = Perfect Pinot Noir

While many describe Pinot Noir as complex, most look at Oregon Pinot Noir as virtually perfect. Wondering why this state creates such incredible Pinot Noir? There are actually several reasons. 

The Climate: Pinot Noir requires a very careful temperature. The grapes don’t stand up well to particularly cold climates. Late spring frosts aren’t good for these grapes either, as they bud in March in some cases, and a frost will easily damage them. Likewise, they’re not suitable for hotter climates. Even Napa Valley is far too warm for these grapes. They need warm summers and cool winters without any real temperature extremes. The growing space in Oregon for Pinot Noir grapes is the Willamette Valley region, which is rather close to the Pacific Ocean. In this space, it’s rare to see temperatures below freezing, so those temperature extremes that can be so problematic to this type of grape just aren’t really present here. 

The Moisture: In addition to the right climate, Pinot Noir grapes require quite a bit of water from the rain to gain proper growth. There’s a limit to what they can take, though. Too much rain means mold with these grapes. This makes Oregon the absolute perfect spot to grow them because the state averages 48 inches of precipitation in the winter and spring months. In the summer, things are a bit drier. That mix of rain and drier weather helps these grapes grow well. Further north, the grapes would get far too much rain. Any further south and the grapes would suffer because they might not get enough moisture. 

The Ground: The soil quality can also affect Pinot Noir grapes. They grow best in soil that has good drainage so that standing water isn’t a possibility. They also need fertile ground that has texture for that necessary run-off but that isn’t so rocky the grapes can lay down a solid root system. In Oregon, the dirt is just perfect. It has the right amount of nutrients these grapes need to grow combined with the perfect texture. 


The Best Growing Regions

Just as you might find in France, Oregon has a number of spaces that are better for Pinot Noir than others. There are, in fact, six areas of the state that are perfect for Pinot Noir. These areas are called AVAs, or American Viticultural Areas. These are specified vineyard zones that are rated based on geography and climate. The zones include:

  • Eola-Amity Hills: The low hills in this area lead straight south into Salem, and along 221 highway, you can see the 1200 acres of Pinot Noir grapes. These varieties tend to be rich with both plum and currant flavors. 
  • Chehalem Mountains: There are 1600 acres of Pinot Noir grapes here just southwest of Portland. The overtones in these grapes are usually cherry, black tea, and cinnamon. 
  • McMinnville: Coming in at just 600 acres of Pinot Noir grapes, this is one of the smaller AVAs. The vineyards here face south, and the wines are quite rustic. You’ll find both plum and pine notes as well as other herbs. 
  • Dundee Hills: The oldest vineyards in the area are located here. There are 1700 acres of Pinot Noir grapes, and the flavors you’ll find in these varieties typically include both raspberry and black tea. 
  • Ribbon Ridge: This AVA is in the Chehalem Mountains, but it’s on the southern side of the mountains, which means it has a different soil type and often experiences different weather. There are nearly 500 acres of Pinot Noir grapes planted here, and the flavor overtone is intensely cranberry. 
  • Yamhill-Carlton: Located southwest of Ribbon Ridge, there are 1200 acres of Pinot Noir grapes here, and the low rolling hills not only make for a picturesque location, but also warmer temperatures in the afternoons. As a result, you’ll find a fruitier version of Pinot Noir that features black cherry and other fruit options. 


A Note About the Flavor Profiles

Each AVA offers its own flavor profile, but on the whole, Oregon Pinot Noir tends to be a medium-bodied choice. They usually have a high level of acidity with lower levels of residual sugars. Most have a 13% alcohol content. Many have a fairly fruity taste but earthy notes like truffle tend to round things out. You may also find hints of vanilla and cinnamon if the winery uses oak in the barrelling process. 

As with any wine, you’ll want to let it breathe for at least a half hour after opening. 

Pairing an Oregon Pinot Noir

Most wines pair well with a variety of foods, and an Oregon Pinot Noir is no different. Steak, duck, salmon, and even roasted chicken go well with this wine. Pasta dishes with robust sauces do as well. This is the perfect wine for pizza night too. If you’re sticking to appetizers, it pairs well with mild and medium cheeses, salami, and chorizo. It also makes the perfect partner for rustic breads, olive pate, and olive oil. 

Looking for the ideal Oregon red wine or Pinot Noir? Check out ours!


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