Mining Oregon’s Willamette Valley for Good Pinot Noir Priced at or Less Than $30
Only 6% of Americans spend $21+ for a bottle of wine according to data gathered by Morning Consult
in 2018. Those looking to buy domestic Pinot Noir that are not pinotphiles probably expect to pay
more that $21, but not more than $30.
Among the top 25 Oregon wineries, the average retail bottle price is $26.04 for Willamette Valley AVA
Pinot Noir, and $14.30 for an Oregon AVA Pinot Noir. This would indicate that there is still a plethora of
affordable under $30 Pinot Noir in Oregon. Consumers should be alerted, however, that higher prices
for Oregon wine may be coming. Oregon’s beer and wine taxes have not kept up with inflation and the
state has not increased taxes on wine in 32 years. Oregon’s governor and the Oregon Health
Authority are trying to raise $830 million in new sin taxes beginning in 2019 to cover the state’s rising
Here are reviews of a representative sampling of currently released Willamette Valley designated and
Oregon designated Pinot Noirs with an SRP of $30 or less from the 2015-2017 vintages. The 2015
vintage started early after a mild, wet winter. It was followed by a dry and hot summer (hottest on
record) leading to picking in late August. September was the coldest September on record. This
caused harvest to be drawn out until early October. 2016 was the year of “earliest ever.” A warm
winter was followed by early bud break, early bloom, early veraison and early harvest -all early
records. The 2017 vintage had a cooler than normal spring, but ideal weather after flowering creating
a healthy fruit set. Summer was dry and hot (but not as hot as the preceding three vintages) leading
to a “normal” Oregon harvest. Of the three vintages, I am partial to 2016.
2016 Chehalem Three Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.49, TA 0.62, 3,974 cases,
$30, screw cap. Released April 2018. 100% estategrown:
20% Corral Creek Vineyard, 12% Stoller
Vineyard and 68% Ridgecrest Vineyard. Harvest Brix
21.3º-25.2º. 100% de-stemmed, 4-8 days premaceration,
14-20 days total fermentation. Aged 11 months in
French oak barrels, 29% new, 29% 1-year-old and 49% neutral.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass.
Nicely perfumed with aromas of cherry, dusty rose and baking
spices. Light to mid weight in extraction, with juicy flavors of red
cherry and berry complimented by a deft touch of oak. The wine aims to please with easygoing
tannins and an aromatic finish of note. Always a dependable value in Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
2016 Petites Secondes Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $25. Grown, produced and bottled
by the Drouhin Family, Dayton, Oregon.
garnet color in the glass. Scents of black cherry,
brown spices, toast and underbrush. Velvety in the
mouth, with pleasing mid weight flavors of black cherry
and savory herbs. Well-balanced, with a subtle oak backdrop and
well-mannered tannins. A lovely wine for this price.
2016 Beacon Hill Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 140 cases, $28, screw cap.
A blend of grapes from estate owned, LIVE certified, La Colina and Beacon Hill vineyards.
Aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the
glass. Inviting aromas of dark pie cherries, burnt tobacco and seasoned oak. Mid weight
plus in extraction with mouth-filling ripe black fruits accented with a hint of smoky oak.
Hearty for an Oregon Pinot Noir, but nicely balanced and welcoming.
2016 Spindrift Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.59, $22, screw
cap. Sourced from seven small vineyards in the Willamette Valley, all dry farmed and many
over 15 years of age. Clones are Pommard, Wädenswil, 115, 777 and 667. Aged in French
oak barrels for over 10 months.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. I was drawn into
the glass in this wine by the aromas of cherry, strawberry, rose petal, and sandalwood.
Light to mid weight in style, with a generous black cherry core of fruit that shows good
vigor and intensity. A solid wine with a delightful cherry-embossed finish.
2017 Stoller Family Estate Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.58,
18,500 cases, $30, screw cap. A mosaic of Pinot Noir
grapes from the estate vineyard including Pommard,
Wädenswil, 777, 848, 667, 115 and 114 clones.
Primarily native yeast fermentation before aging in
French oak barrels, 15% new, 85% neutral, for almost a year.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Nicely composed
perfume of cherry, rose petal and woodsy spices. Well-bred,
middleweight flavors of dark red cherry and dark raspberry with
an attractive savory herb thread in the background. Suave
tannins and some cherry delight on the finish.
2017 Chemistry Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.54, TA 0.56, $15, screw
cap. Produced and bottled by Chehalem, Dayton, Oregon. Sourced from premier sites in
the Willamette Valley. Aged in French oak barrels, 15% new, 85% neutral.
garnet color in the glass. Aromas of red cranberry, baking spice and a hint of straw. Light
to mid weight essence of juicy red cherry with a slightly confected tone. Silky in the mouth
with easygoing tannins and a short, but pleasing finish. A friendly Pinot Noir.
2015 Coeur de Terre Oregon Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.64, TA 0.61, RS 0 g/L, 2,588
cases, $22, screw cap. 60% from Coeur de Terre Estate Vineyard. Harvest Brix
22.8º-24.2º Multiple clones including 113, 114, 115, 667, 777, Wädenswil and Coury. Soils
range from sedimentary, to metamorphic to volcanic in origin.
Moderately light garnet
color in the glass. Spiced cherry and fertile earth aromas lead to a middleweight styled
wine offering cherry, plum and spice flavors backed by spirited acidity. T lip-smacking
finish has good length.
2017 Failla Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.59, 2,000 cases, $28.
Native fermentation, 30% whole cluster, aged 11 months on lees in French oak barrels,
15% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Deep
and intoxicating aromas of black cherry, black raspberry and dark rose petal. Full-bodied
core of black cherry and boysenberry fruits offering an intense attack and expansive mouth
feel. A modest oak accent is evident as is a savory herbal thread. Fruit-forward, with
healthy tannins and a long, sweet, fruit-driven and somewhat astringent finish. The aggressive tannins
need time or decanting to ameliorate.
2017 Flaneur Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.51, 2,170 cases,
$28. 68% La Belle Promenade Vineyard (Chehalem Mountains) and 32% Flanerie
Vineyard (Ribbon Ridge). Mixed Pinot Noir clones. The wine was fermented in a variety of
stainless steel tanks and one large oak vessel. 36% whole cluster. Native yeast
fermentation, and aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 11% new.
garnet color in the glass. Initially, reserved aromas of red berry, red cherry and earthy
flora unchanged over time in the glass. Mid weight flavors of dark red and purple berries backed by
mild, silky tannins. The slightest oak is complimentary. This wine underwent a significant
transformation when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle offering
more giving fruit aromas, and more charm on the palate. Unusual for Willamette Valley AVA wines, but
this one needs decanting.
2016 Fullerton Three Otters Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.60, TA
0.53, $22, screw cap. Harvest Brix 22.9º-25.2º. Pommard, Wädenswil, 113, 114, 115, 667
and 777. Aged in French oak barrels, 5% new.
Moderately light ruby red color in the
glass. Intriguing perfume of black cherry, nut oil, grilling spices and burnt tobacco. Very
silky in the mouth with a stylish core of black cherry fruit underlain with a long kiss of oak.
A satisfying wine with some finishing persistence.
2015 Torii Mor Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., pH 3.71, TA 0.58, RS 0.2 g/L,
7, 313 cases, $28, screw cap. Grapes sourced from 10 vineyards in the Willamette Valley
including the Olson Estate Vineyard. 100% de-stemmed, fermented 13-19 days and aged
9 months in mostly French oak barrels with some Hungarian oak barrels, 20% new.
Pommard, Wädenswil, 115, 777, 667, 114, 113 and Coury clones.
Light ruby red color in
the glass. Lovely perfume of red cherry, strawberry and oak spice. Light to mid weight in
style, featuring spiced cherry and berry flavors. Nicely balanced and elegantly composed.
2015 Et Fille Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
12.1% alc., $28. A blend of several vineyards with
sedimentary, volcanic and loess soils. Pommard, Wädenswil and Dijon 777 clones.
garnet color in the glass. The scents of black cherry, pine and fertile earth lead to a middleweight
crafted wine featuring flavors of dark red berries and blueberries. The wine has satisfying length in the
mouth and finishes with juicy acidity.
2017 Evolution Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., RS 4 g/L, 21,100 cases, $20. Produced by
Sokol Blosser Winery. 100% Willamette Valley AVA grapes. Fermented with proprietary yeasts and
both fermented and aged in stainless steel. A small amount of oak staves was submerged in the
stainless steel tanks for 2-3 months during aging to develop structure, enhance mouthfeel and
stabilize the color.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of confected black cherry, cola,
spice and sandalwood. This wine delivers a lot of black cherry flavor in a mid weight style with
matched tannins. Slight oak and savory herbs ply the background. A good everyday Pinot.
2015 H Wines Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., pH 3.65, 814 cases, $26, screw cap.
Elevee, Lazy River, Mt. Richmond, Bayliss-Bower, Le Chenaie, Bieze and Manuela vineyards. Aged
17 months in French oak barrels, 15% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. The nose offers
aromas of cherry, spice, weathered wood and matchstick. Sleek in the mouth, with mid weight flavors
of black cherry, black raspberry and gracious oak. Gentle tannins and a short, satisfying finish.
2016 Pike Road Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.54, 8,163 cases, $20.
screw cap. Offered by the Elk Cove family who have farmed in Oregon for five generations. This wine
is produced from non-estate, family-owned vineyards in the Willamette Valley. Produced with the
same care as Elk Cove Estate wines - hand-harvested grapes, sorted into small fermenters, aged 10
months in French oak barrels and bottled with state of the art equipment at the Elk Cove Estate.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Shy, but pleasant aromas of blackberry and cassis. Mid weight
plus in extraction, featuring flavors that echo the aromas. The wine packs a lot of fruit, but lacks a bit
of zip and zing. The velvety texture is appealing, but the finish is brief. A fruit lovers style.
2017 Samuel Robert Winery Vintner’s Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., $16.
This label is produced by Samuel and Bryn Coelho. Samuel is the son of celebrated Oregon
winemakers Dave and Deolinda Coehlo. The wine is sold online in 6 and 12 packs but can be found
at Total Wine & More. Post fermentation extended maceration. Aged in French oak barrels.
garnet color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of strawberry, red cherry, bark and earthy flora. Lighter
weighted flavors of strawberry and red cherry. Silky in the mouth, with aggressive tannins that stick
out on the dry, crisp and red cherry driven finish.
2017 Stoller Family Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.51, TA 0.57, 4,700
cases, $25, screw cap. Sourced from a collection of premier sites in the Willamette Valley and
showcasing a myriad of Pinot Noir clones. Aged one year in French oak barrels, 15% new and 85%
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Muted aromas of purple grape, spice and potpourri.
Straightforward flavors of red and purple berry with innocuous tannins, integrated oak and a short
finish. Fine, but nothing stands out.
2017 Day Vin De Days Rouge Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., sold out. 94% Pinot Noir,
3% Gamay Noir and 3% Cabernet Franc. Spontaneous co-fermentation, 50% whole cluster, stainless
Moderately light ruby red color in the glass. Aromas of red berries, grape must, and red
rose petal. Light in weight, with both red and purple fruit flavors lifted with spirited acidity. Somewhat
drab, but pleasant, with minimal tannins and a short, thin, dry finish. Less likable over time.