Willamette Valley: The New Burgundy

Bethel Heights Vineyards | Courtesy Bethel Heights Vineyards

Our worldwide wine tour’s next stop is Oregon’s Willamette Valley, aka “The New Burgundy.” The Willamette Valley is becoming a great wine region because it has the magic combination of exceptional soils, climate and wine producers who blend talent, dedication and resources to get the most out of the grapes. Along with the quality of the wines, another reason for the comparison to the holy wine grail of Burgundy is because the signature grapes are the same: mainly Pinot Noir, but increasingly Chardonnay.

Willamette stars | Lou Phillips

As a bonus, Willamette Valley is among the few top wine regions where some of the best producers’ wines fall into the middle of the pack pricewise. This is probably because these typically family owned, legacy wineries bought land at a fraction of today’s prices and were in the game before the accolades started pouring in. Perhaps more importantly, these folks seem to have a respect and humility rarely seen in the wine world and have held pricing in check. 

Mags of Ken Wright | Lou Phillips

Some worthy of highlight are The Eyrie Vineyards, Argyle Winery, Christom Vineyards, Ponzi Vineyards and Ken Wright Cellars, all of whom consistently overdeliver at all price points. Their base-level bottles offer class and complexity at $30 or less and their upper-tier offerings are world-class stunners at values compared to other elite wines.

In the end, Willamette Valley is one of the few regions that compares with France’s Burgundy at delivering world-class Pinot Noir. Because of a more reliable climate, these Oregon wines bring the yummy far more consistently, as well as more affordably, than their French counterparts.

This may be the last of the good old days for prices that don’t break the bank because French and California wine companies are gobbling up vineyards and wineries, which has already raised prices. Stick with Willamette Valley and ask your wine purveyor for his/her suggestions — you can’t go wrong. 

Lou Phillips is a Level 3 Advanced Sommelier and his consulting business wineprowest.com based in North Lake Tahoe assists in the selling, buying and managing wine collections. He may be reached at (775) 544-3435 or lou@wineprowest.com. Visit TheTahoeWeekly.com for more wine columns.

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Lou Phillips
Lou is a Level 3 Sommelier based on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, who loves traveling the wine world doing research for his writing. He also consults for collectors and businesses buying and selling fine wine and creating special events.