Oregon Pinot Noir Seminar

Wines introduced by Tom Cannavan


Oregon lies in America’s Pacific North West, between California and Washington State.  Most of the vineyards are concentrated in the Willamette Valley in the north west of the state, between Oregon’s largest city, Portland, and the second largest, and the capital of the state, Salem. 

The better vineyards are all above 100 metres where the volcanic basalt soils are untainted by the alluvial deposits laid down by glacial meltwaters.

This was an interesting opportunity to taste a selection of Oregon Pinots together, something that is not easy to do without either a lot of shopping around or a visit to Oregon.  All the wines tasted are available in the UK.  How representative they are of Oregon pinot noir is not something I can comment on.


2006 Pinot Noir, Oregon, Firesteed Cellars
A minerally nose with raspberry fruit and a bit of spicy oak.  On the palate, it’s bright and youthful.  A nice wine, feeling relatively rustic, but also at the top of its money.  88/100 

2006 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, Duck Pond
A fairly deep nose with blacker fruit, good depth, and some dusty oak.  There’s a light, slightly jammy feel on the palate.  It has a sort of simple attractiveness and easiness, but isn’t terribly engaging.  84/100

2006 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, Willamette Valley Vineyards
A deep, rather closed nose with some berry fruit.  There’s some concentration and depth on the palate and a nice character.  A slight touch of alcohol on finish mars it though.  88/100 

2006 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, Domaine Drouhin
Drouhin’s vineyards are among the most densely planted in all of America, and are about four times more densely planted than most vineyards in Oregon.
The nose has good smoky, savoury black fruits.  On the palate, there’s a bit of a simpler feel then the Willamette Valley Vineyards, but more French (or do I mean more international?).  It’s easier to drink and less of a challenge than the WMV.  87/100

2006 Pinot Noir Cuvée Giselle, Willamette Valley, Oregon, Lachini Vineyards
Very deep nose with some quite black fruit and some forest floor notes.  There’s sweetish fruit on the palate with a herbal, jammy note.  A bit unsatisfying.  86/100 

2002 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, The Eyrie Vineyards
A closed nose that’s verging on the dead.  Very murky palate, but not totally uninteresting.  Faulty bottle or just past it?  82/100

I have to say that I didn't really detect an Oregon "style" for pinot noir - maybe there's a tendency to greater ripeness, manifesting itself in more black fruits character than I'd expect from pinot elsewhere? 

Some of them I thought were decent, though pricey (they range from £14 for the Firesteed to an eye-watering £52 for the Lachini Cuvée Giselle), but I think I shared the view of most of the room that we had yet to be convinced.  I thought most of the Californian pinots I tasted in February 2007 were rather more interesting.


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Last updated: 30 December 2008