Willamette Valley Vineyards: Shades of Burgundy



By Kori ~ October 26th, 2010.

Jim Bernau founded Willamette Valley Vineyards, located in Turner, Oregon, in 1983. Through his work as a small business lobbyist, he helped pass legislation to develop the Oregon wine industry. He was also involved in the establishment of the Oregon Wine Advisory Board. When he planted his estate vineyards, he chose to focus on Pinot Noir and other cool climate varieties that he believed were best suited for the cool climate of the Willamette Valley. Willamette Valley Vineyards is now Oregon’s third-largest winery, producing over 130,000 cases each year.

Willamette Valley Vineyards, the winery itself and its vineyards, are certified sustainable through LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) and Salmon-Safe programs. It is also one of the first wineries in Oregon to become carbon neutral. Bernau believes that the soil where the Willamette Valley Vineyards winery and vineyards are located is similar to the red clay soil found in the world-renowned Grand Cru Pinot Noir vineyards of Romanee-st-Vivant in Burgundy, France.

Recently, we had the opportunity to taste some Willamette Valley Vineyards wines in a blind samples tasting. We tasted four of their wines from the 2008 vintage and would recommend all four. We especially enjoyed the 2008 Estate Pinot Noir. Marked by a cooler than normal growing season, the 2008 vintage is considered one of the best vintages ever in Oregon. While Willamette Valley Vineyards has been around for 27 years, we knew very little about them prior to this samples tasting. Therefore, they are an exciting new discovery for us.

Oregon’s Willamette Valley is a great place to visit, particularly for Pinot Noir lovers. Our last trip to the Willamette Valley was in 2008, and we are anxious to visit again. We will definitely be adding Willamette Valley Vineyards to our list of places to visit on a future trip to the area. In addition to their tasting room at the winery in Turner, Willamette Valley Vineyards wines are also available for tasting at the Travel Café Visitors Center in Salem.

2008 Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon): Medium, ruby red in color. Beautiful bouquet with aromas of red cherry, earth, and oak. Red cherry, strawberry, dark chocolate, and a hint of smoke come through on the palate. Medium-bodied with crisp acidity and medium tannins. Well-balanced and smooth with a long, slightly spicy, finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $40; Available elsewhere, $30 to $40

2008 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris (Willamette Valley, Oregon): Pale, greenish straw yellow. Very aromatic with floral and lemon notes on the nose. Citrus fruits, especially lemon and lime, as well as green apple and tropical fruits come through on the palate. Dry and medium-bodied with very tart acidity and a long finish. Residual sugar: 0.15%
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $15; Available elsewhere, $13 to $18

2008 Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling (Willamette Valley, Oregon): Pale, greenish yellow. Aromas of honey and peach come through on the nose; peach, dried apricot, and a hint of pineapple on the palate. Medium sweet and light to medium-bodied with crisp acidity and a long finish. Residual sugar: 4.3%
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $12; Available elsewhere, $8 to $15

2008 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon): Medium, ruby red in color. Nose is a bit tight at first then aromas of raspberry, strawberry, and a hint of oak come through. More red fruits, black cherry, and clove on the palate. Medium-bodied with tart acidity, medium tannins, and a long, bitter finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $25; Available elsewhere, $20 to $27


Filed under: American Wine, Oregon Wine, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Red Wine, Riesling, White Wine, Wines Over $25, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Martin Redmond | October 26th, 2010 at 7:38 am

    I’m enjoying your blog,particularly the QPR ratings! I’m in CA, but have enjoyed WA,and OR wines..need to try more!

  2. Kori | October 26th, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Martin,
    Thanks for your kind words. Glad you are finding value in our QPR ratings. Cheers!

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