I just had the pleasure of taking a 10-day trip to Oregon and Seattle- what a treat! The food and drinking was absolute gluttony and included much Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the area. And while, I would love to think my opinion alone urging you to try wine from Oregon should be enough to have you running to the LCBO or liquor store to buy some, the region was recently noted as a world-class food and wine destination to visit. And, it doesn’t disappoint. So here are some highlights when it comes to drinking wine from Oregon.
Versatility of the Varietals
Pinot Noir is the most widely planted grape in Oregon, with Chardonnay being number 2. It makes sense when you think about the climate and soil in the area- much influence from marine sediment and the maritime climate. These thin-skinned grapes grow well and produce some exquisite wines that can be jammy and ripe to refined and fresh. So depending on what your red wine preference is, there is a Pinot Noir from the region that is right for you. Pinot Noir is such a versatile wine to drink, whether enjoyed by itself, with grilled meat, some cheese, and actually in Oregon it is very often paired with Salmon! If you don’t have a lot of experience drinking Pinot Noir, or have only tried Pinot Noir from California, I urge you to give it a try from the Pacific North West.
Community and Co-operation
Visiting the Oregon wine region was an eye-opening experience with respect to the camaraderie and sense of community in the area. While winemaking is a business, the region boasts some of the most famous winemakers from all over the world who have settled here to make quality wine. And, instead of an industry built on strong competition, secrecy and individuality, the wine industry is about helping one another and creating a product that represents the region and its terroir. This is evident in how they share equipment, labour and even barter grapes. Something that is truly inspiring and regions around the world- including the ones in our own backyard could learn a thing or two from.
Location, Location, Location
There is no doubt that the location of Oregon’s wine region is an ideal place to plant and grow grapes. After all, it is located on the same latitude as Burgundy in France. And while many compare the two regions, there are some unique differences- including a maritime climate (instead of continental in Burgundy) and the soil being made up of marine sediment and volcanic matter. The Cascade Mountain range also provides a unique shelter from too much rain or wind that could otherwise cool off the grapes or saturate them with water.
Quality over Quantity
The underlying philosophy that winemakers and wineries in Oregon have taken to compete with their southerly wine region giant, is to focus on making high quality wine rather than mass produced, large volume wines. The reason is two-fold, they simply do not have the geographic size compared to California, and, the climate does not allow for them to grow the diverse grape varietals that love the warmth and sun that California climate sees each year. This commitment to quality leads to a number of smaller wineries that produce small quantities of delicious wine. For us Canadians, and even Americans (given the small number of cases produced), this can prove difficult to get your hands on the wines. After supplying to some of their favourite restaurants and their avid wine club members, it does not leave enough to sell to liquor stores. Look out for the LCBO to launch wines from Oregon in their vintages section. This usually happens at least once a year and gives great opportunity to try something new. If you can't find any at your local LCBO, be sure to check some of your restaurant wine lists- it might be a great opportunity to try something that you can't get anywhere else.
Here are some of my favourites (available at the LCBO):
Have a favourite Pinot Noir from Oregon? Share it with me!
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