Tasting T3.18 Oregon Pinot Noir

So we are back in the USA!! As you are no doubt aware by now if you have been reading our articles, we all have a love for Pinot Noir. So Dad and I were particularly looking forward to this tasting to see what Oregon could deliver. We will give you some knowledge before we delve into the tasting as there’s quite a bit to know!

Oregon has 5 key wine areas within the state. Walla Walla Valley, Columbia Gorge, Willamette Valley, Umpqua Valley and Rogue Valley. All of these wine areas are AVA’s (American Viticultural Area) and some of these wine areas have more AVA’s within them. What we are going to try and do is give you a rough idea as to the area and the AVA’s within those areas below:

Walla Walla Valley

Walla Walla Valley is surrounded by the Blue Mountains to the southeast, the Palouse to the north and the Columbia River to the west. The area straddles southeast Washington and northeast Oregon. The wine industry really began here in the 1970’s and today there are more than 100 wineries in the area. Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are main grape varieties grown in this area.

Within Walla Walla there is an AVA called The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, wines from here showcase perfumed bouquets with a savoury palate and a good minerality. Key varieties are Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache!

Columbia Gorge

This AVA is described as a place of extremes. Extreme climate, scenery and style of wine. Sitting 60 miles east of Portland the AVA sits in the heart of the river corridor that straddles the Columbia River, along the borders of Oregon and Washington. The climate is rather different depending on where you are in the region. The west side sits close to the Cascade Mountains which has a much cooler climate where it rains quite consistently, up to 36 inches per year. However, if you go east then you move to a continental desert which only receives 10 inches of rainfall per year… quite the difference!

The extreme variance does mean, however, that the region can grow a wide range of grape varieties. For example, it is estimated that there are more than 50 different varieties under vine here.

Willamette Valley

This is the AVA that we are focusing on more in this tasting. There are 11 AVA’s within the Willamette Valley AVA, so as you can imagine it can get a little crowded. Fortunately the Willamette Valley is rather large spanning at 3,428,800 acres. Most of these AVA’s are in the north of the Valley, sitting to the west of Portland and Northwest of Salem. In fact the only AVA south of Salem is Lower Long Tom AVA which is just Northwest of Eugene.

The Willamette Valley is Oregon’s oldest wine region and has two-thirds of the state’s wineries and vineyards within it. Pinot Noir is the main grape variety here, however also planted is Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah to name a few.

Umpqua Valley

This AVA is the result of a collision between three mountain ranges, all are of varying ages and structure. There is the Klamath Mountains, the Coast Range and the Cascades. There are two AVA’s within Umpqua Valley, namely Elkton Oregon AVA and Red Hill Douglas County AVA. This AVA is south of Willamette so we are working our way down the county of Oregon. The winegrowing history here dates back to the 1880’s and fast forward 80 years in 1961 the first Pinot Noir vines were planted. This AVA has the most diverse regional climate, meaning it can successfully grow both cool and warm varieties. Predominant varieties here are Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Syrah, Merlot and Tempranillo.

Rogue Valley

The Rogue Valley is compromised of three distinct valleys which all have progressively warmer micro-climates. It has one AVA within the region called Applegate Valley. The region as a whole does successfully grow both cool and warm climate varieties. More than 70 grape varieties are planted within the area offering a plethora of choices. The Rogue Valley is also Oregon’s only National Park. The region has an ideal climate for slow ripening grapes. This enhances the flavour development and results in word-class wines of great quality and overall structure. Predominant varieties grown here are Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Viognier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 

The Wineries are:

Luminous Hills

This is a unique high elevation site which bears typical sedimentary soils of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. The second project of Byron Dooley who also owns Seven of Hearts. This winery focuses on single vineyard sites and letting the fruit demonstrate the different characteristics of each vineyard. The winery has been farmed fully organically since 2018 and yields are managed to a minimum to ensure high quality fruit.


The first winery for Maison Louis Jadot outside of Burgundy. In April 2013 Thibault Gagey (the son of Pierre-Henry Gagey the President of Maison Louis Jadot) went to Willamette Valley with Jacques Lardiere who was the head winemaker at Louis Jadot for 42 years at this point. They tasted wines made from the fruit of these vineyards at Resonance and were so impressed that they bought it. Now Jacques Lardiere is the head winemaker here with both Thibault and his father heavily involved in the day to day running and vinification of the wines. 

Evening Land

Farming is a key component of this wineries practices. They have implemented biodynamic principles and farm fully organically, this is to somewhat off-set the amount of interference in the cellar. They believe that by doing more in the vineyard they can ease off in the cellar and let the wines develop themselves. I must admit after tasting their wines they weren’t wrong!

Walter Scott

Erica Landon and Ken Pahlow launched their dream of owning a winery in 2008. They put their insubstantial retirement funds together and started designing their own label to get started. Fast forward a few years and they have a rather successful winery. Having vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA (a sub-appellation of the Willamette Valley AVA).

Antica Terra

This is an 11 acre vineyard located in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of Willamette Valley. Maggie Harrison is the winemaker here and delights in creating balanced, pure and gorgeous wines. Maggie originally worked at Sine Qua Non, an extremely well-known exceptional winery. She then went off to create Antica Terra. Her attention to detail and following her own formula for winemaking make her indispensable to the wine world and great wines are created here.

There are 6 wines that we are tasting tonight, all of which are from the Willamette Valley and some from different AVA’s, others from the same AVA. Tonight's tasters are David, Harry, Kim & Jen.

Luminous Hills Very Special Reserve Pinot Noir 2019

This is very small production and only made in exceptional vintages. Vineyards are blended together here with sedimentary and volcanic soils giving each set of grapes different characteristics.

Note: Dark red fruit aromas, cherries, black raspberries with hints of mushroom. Enticing aromas which are very close to a Burgundian Pinot Noir. High acidity running through this lovely medium bodied wine. Fine tannins that give great mouthfeel, a certain liveliness which produces great harmony between fruit, acidity and tannin. A really good wine.

Resonance Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2018

Grapes are sourced from both estate vineyards and top vineyards in the Willamette Valley. During elevage small fermentation tanks are used to verify the best of the terroir from each vineyard. Ageing then takes place in French oak barrels.

Note: Beautiful herbaceous notes with herbs and spices. Raspberries and intense red fruit aromas bringing up the rear. A very pleasant and smooth mouthfeel on the palate, good acidity runs through to the end and fine, integrated tannins help bring the body together. Leather and cedar certainly coming through towards the finish. Very balanced and drinking really nicely.

Evening Land Salem Wine Co. Pinot Noir 2018

Sourced exclusively from Evening Land’s Seven Springs Estate Vineyard. The fruit was fully de-stemmed and fermented in stainless steel tanks for 14 days. The wine was then matured in barrel for 15 months.

Note: Blue fruits, raspberry and cherry aromas singing on the nose. Leather and cedar prominently coming through as well. Fruit translating beautifully onto the palate with pure expressions of cedar clinging on toward the finish. Tannins are integrating nicely but with a couple more years this wine will be bang on. Medium length finish to round of a really good wine, it will definitely get better.

Walter Scott Seven Springs Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018

Note: Aromas of liquor, raspberries, strawberries and undergrowth. Silky smooth on the palate with a very luscious mouthfeel. Silky red fruit on the palate with soil and hints of kirsch and liquor nicely balancing out this wine. Really good structure on this wine with good ability for long term evolution. Nice acidity giving great freshness to the wine, the finish does tail off fast somewhat but this is a really good wine. Definitely something to look out for and buy a couple of bottles.

Walter Scott Sojeau Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018

Note: Herbaceous notes with red cherries and strawberries. Leather and cedar certainly coming through as well. This has a very intense depth of fruit. Good, strong tannins with fantastic freshness from the powerful acidity. A good balance between tannin and acidity is very clear. This is a stellar wine with depth of flavour and a powerful body. Definitely something to cellar for a few more years to reach its peak, but drinking really well at the moment. Top notch.

Antica Terra Coriolis 2016

Whilst deciding which lots to put into their three different wines ‘Ceras’ ‘Botanica’ and ‘Antikythera’. Sometimes there are lots that just do not fit into any of the three categories. That is not to say they are any less quality, just different. Thus Coriolis is born, so even though Antica Terra never appears on the bottle you can rest assured it is 100% made by them.

Note: Immediate aromas of forest floor with a much richer and deeper aroma of dried fruits. Silky smooth body, thick and luscious around the mouth. Acidity bringing freshness and a certain liveliness to the wine with tannins perfectly embedded. Drinking superbly and will only get better from here, give another 3-5 years to watch it grow. A definite one for the cellar and Maggie can be proud!!


All wines were absolutely stunning in their own ways, whether it be their ability to translate their specific terroir, or their ability to bring such different characteristics considering how close they are to each other geographically. If you like silky smooth Pinot Noir, this is a definite for you. Ranging from £25 - £80 a bottle you can certainly find some great value for money wines here. Personally value for money I would buy the Salem Wine Co Pinot Noir. 

Certainly Willamette Valley demands a watchful eye from wine producers and wine buyers alike. I reckon a few more years and certain wines will be able to rival some of the great Pinots from Burgundy. They are certainly already making great strides in that direction.

The scores:

Very Special Reserve 2019 – 92 Points

Resonance 2018 – 90 Points

Salem Wine Co 2018 – 92 Points

Seven Springs Vineyard 2018 – 93 Points

Sojeau Vineyard 2018 – 96 Points

Coriolis 2016 – 95 Points

A great tasting as you can see! No we will not be back for another two weeks… however we are doing an Up from The Cellar tasting with a bit of a twist! We will be looking at 4 rose’s for the summer all from different parts of Provence and Southern Rhone. So stay tuned and see you then!


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