By Jim Gullo for
We recently stopped in at the gorgeous tasting room of Willamette Valley Vineyards, high up on a hill in Turner, Oregon with sweeping views of vineyards, to sample a selection of their fine wines from valley-grown varietals.
2008 PINOT GRIS: “The most popular white varietal in Oregon,” said Erik McLaughlin, WVV’s National Sales Manager. “It has overtaken chardonnay in the marketplace. It’s easy for us to sell, and at $15/bottle, is a nice value.”  Crisp and refreshing, with qualities of pear, green apple and honeydew, and a nice, creamy mouth-feel (achieved by lots of lee-stirring during fermentation, according to winemaker Forrest Klaffke), with floral notes provided by a touch of muscat in the blend. Drink now to 2010.
2008 WHOLE-CLUSTER FERMENTED PINOT NOIR: What is whole-cluster fermenting? Klaffke explained that whole bunches of grapes, stems and all, are dropped into the fermenters, yeast is added, and no crushing is done. Instead, the grapes burst naturally to release their juices. The result is a light, juicy, fruity  wine with strawberry and banana notes that is delicious chilled and compares to a French Beaujolais Nouveau. No barrel aging keeps tannins low and, at $19/bottle, "makes for an incredible value,” according to McLaughlin. Goes well with everything from sushi and Mexican food to barbeque. Drink young and enjoy the first of the incredible 2008 vintage.
2007 ELTON VINEYARD PINOT NOIR: Elton is an Eola Hills vineyard, which accounts for this wine’s hints of red fruits and rich cherry notes, with spicy, earthy qualities of cedar, ginger and soy. “’07 was a good year there,” said assistant winemaker Don Crank III. “The grapes were picked just before the rain got to them.” Strong, balanced tannins make this $40 bottle a fine accompaniment to salmon, duck and lamb. If you like this, be ready for the release of the 2008 Elton Vineyards; we tried some of the blends the winemakers were preparing, and the early results were sensational.
Branching out from their headquarters in Turner, the Willamette Valley Vineyards will open a new wine-tasting facility in downtown McMinnville this fall, adding to that town’s host of wine bars and tasting rooms. Located in a space on historic Third Street at Cowls Street, the tasting room will feature WVV vintages and add small-bites food service. Look for interesting décor touches such as soil samples from the many vineyards from which WVV sources its grapes, and a sculpture that points to Oregon’s AVA wine-growing regions.