Willamette Valley: A Valley with a Vision

In 40 short years, the Willamette Valley has risen as a wine region from obscurity to international acclaim, we asked this group of esteemed winemakers, "why?"

Published: 2/01/2015

In 40 short years, the Willamette Valley has risen as a wine region from obscurity to international acclaim, we asked this group of esteemed winemakers, "why?"

Silvan Ridge Winery’s Juan Pablo “JP” Valot
“The Valley has a mild climate with cool, wet winters and dry, warm summers. Warm temperatures and low sun exposure during the growing season prevent sunburn on the thin skin of Pinot Noir. Most of the rainfall occurs at the end or after the harvest season. This provides ideal growing conditions for our signature grape, Pinot Noir.”

Hyland Estates’ Laurent Montalieu
“We are very fortunate that the forefathers of this Oregon wine industry had incredible vision. We’ve also had the incredible luck of having the right combination of soil and climate not to mention how viticulture, in terms of quality and expertise, has exploded over the past 20 years.

Adelsheim Vineyard’s David Paige
“The coastal mountains are what give us the ideal climate for the varieties we grow. If they were higher mountains, we would be more sheltered from the Pacific, and we would have eastern Washington’s climate. Without any mountains at all, it would be much too cool to ripen Pinot Noir or anything else.

Soter Vineyard’s Tony Soter
“The pioneers of our industry made some stellar wines that got my attention, and the world’s to be sure. But it took another generation to enhance consistency and concentration of flavor. The next generation knows full well that quality, not quantity is key for success and survival.”

Ponzi Wines’ Luisa Ponzi
“We have focused on those varietals that are perfectly suited to our cool climate. Pinot Noir, in particular, is extremely difficult to make and only expresses itself fully when planted in the correct place. The people crafting these wines are driven solely by the pursuit of creating stunning wines. Our commitment to place shines through in our wines.”

ArborBrook Vineyards’ Dave Hansen
“The Willamette Valley, representing numerous sub-AVAs, possesses ideal growing conditions to produce world-class Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and other cool climate varietals. The area produces beautifully nuanced wines, especially accentuating the wonderful flavor range often found in premier Pinot Noir. We have a similar growing season as France’s Burgundy but very different soils.”

Winderlea Vineyard and Winery’s Bill Sweat
“We are fortunate that the founders chose to plant cool climate varietals and did an exceptional job choosing the right sites. They also established a tradition of cooperation and helped each other learn about viticulture and winemaking. They created laws that protected agricultural land and had remarkable foresight that has allowed us to become a world-class wine region.”

Sweet Cheeks Winery’s Leo Gabica
“Willamette Valley has become highly regarded for many reasons: soil type, elevation, and especially climate. We have mild summers and the temperature drops at night, which slows the ripening process. Looking beyond Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris thrives in this area. The grapes are able to acquire sugar slowly, teasing the grape’s delicate characteristics.”

Lange Estate Winery’s Jesse Lange
“Our reputation is rooted in the fundamentals of growing the right grapes in the right place. Burgundian varieties grow exceptionally well at our 45th parallel latitude. Also, our community of winegrowers and winemakers are wholly dedicated to the craft of growing and making world-class wines of regional and varietal typicity.”

Le Cadeau’s Tom Mortimer
“Our flagship wine, Pinot Noir, has been recognized for many years, but more recently wine enthusiasts are discovering that our Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris have excellent potential. Add to that easy access to the winemakers and owners of artisanal wineries, along with a beautiful region with many fine dining options and it’s easy to understand this region’s growing popularity.

Argyle Winery’s Nate Klostermann
“The Willamette Valley has become such a highly regarded viticultural area due to our continuity and consistency in quality. Due to our cool climate growing region, we also see true year-to-year vintage variations, which bring unique wines each year, which emphasize subtlety, nuance, and structure for longterm ageability.”

As seen in the issue Pacific Northwest Spring 2015 of Touring & Tasting Magazine.