With all of the press Oregon has received for pinot noir, one would think it’s the only grape grown in the state. Not even close. There are several wine regions in Oregon and a diverse selection of grapes—syrah, pinot blanc, cabernet sauvignon. The Willamette Valley is the largest and best-known growing region, but Oregon, like Washington, has a huge Columbia Valley growing region as well, and the Rogue Valley, just south of Willamette, is hot enough to grow cabernet and syrah. And don’t forget to try the outstanding whites being produced in this new mecca for wine lovers.
Available at France 44 Wines and Spirits, 4351 France Ave. S., Mpls., 612-925-3252
Argyle Brut Sparkling 2005 (Dundee), $29.99
65% pinot noir, 35% chardonnay
This vintage sparkler is made to drink now or cellar for that special occasion. It smells like a freshly made loaf of bread and has bright pear and apple fruit flavors. It would be a treat with grilled fish or any fruit dessert.
Raptor Ridge Pinot Gris 2006 (Willamette Valley), $19.99
This bright, silky wine has lots of melon and key lime fruit, and it has a beautiful acid to balance it out. It’s not sweet but is lush. Try it with halibut or with your next spicy Thai meal. Annie Shull, the winery’s owner, is a hometown girl from the Como neighborhood.
A to Z Wineworks Chardonnay 2006 (Newberg), $15.99
A great chardonnay from a very good year, this wine is rich with pear and lime fruit and followed with a bit of honey on the back of the palate. It also has a cool mineral component. I love the “no oak” style that, in my opinion, lets chardonnay show off how good it can be when it’s not over-vinified. Have it with a friend who says she doesn’t like chardonnay anymore.
Andrew Rich Tabula Rasa 2006 (Columbia Valley), $21.99
Syrah, grenache, mourvedre, counoise
This Rhone–style blend is bold and spicy. It has dark blackberry and cherry fruit backed by a nice long, full finish. It opened up quite a bit in the two hours it took my wife and me to drink it, getting softer and better as time went on. So, decant it before you serve it with an olive tapenade and lots of stinky blue cheese.
Castle Rock Pinot Noir 2007 (Willamette Valley), $14.99
This wine is elegant and silky with cherry and flowers on the nose. The darker fruit stands out right away, but it finishes with a soft vanilla tone and a bit of oak. This is a great value in the often expensive pinot world. Try it with lamb or make it your new red wine to enjoy with grilled salmon.