The advantages of Oregon’s Willamette Valley in producing superb pinot noir grapes are easy to comprehend: temperatures are moderate during the growing season, the weather is dry and there are about 90 minutes more sun each day than in Northern California. Add in rocky hillside soils, low yields, an artisanal winemaking tradition and family ownership, and it’s a formula for success with a notoriously difficult grape.
Soter Vineyards “North Valley,” Willamette Valley, 2012
Quite floral, with notes of cherry blossom and cinnamon, this wine from longtime pinot guru Tony Soter shows the concentration of an atypically ripe 2012 season. It’s all about red berry fruit, silky textures and a lingering herb-like finish.
($40, Whole Foods, Dedham)
R. Stuart “Vignette,” Willamette Valley, 2011
This charming, unfiltered pinot is quite savory on the palate, with cherry, red pepper, baking spice and tea-like flavors. Light and delicate, it’s compatible with fish, salads and white meats. Serve this one a bit cooler.
($30, Boston Wine Exchange, Boston)
Bethel Heights, Willamette Valley, 2011
This delicate pinot has a firm acidity with aromas of cooked cherries and earthy mushrooms, and it expresses hints of braised meat and leathery spice. It’s ideal with a juicy breast of herb-rubbed chicken or a roast salmon.
($30, Whole Foods, Dedham)
Adelsheim, Willamette Valley, 2011
David Adelsheim is one of the last still-active pioneers of the Oregon pinot industry, and his wine remains a benchmark of the finely structured, tart but supple style. This vintage shows an abundance of vibrant raspberry-like fruit, with accents of game, leafy greens and exotic spice.
($30, The Wine & Cheese Cask, Somerville)