Willamette Valley Vineyards
Jim Bernau founded Willamette Valley Vineyards in 1983, planting Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay
in the heart of the Willamette Valley in Turner, Oregon. He cleared the blackberry vines and remnants
of a plum orchard himself and remembers watering the fledgling vines with a garden hose by
hand. Initially he sold his grapes to Dick Erath. The winery quickly grew into Oregon’s leading producer
of wines selling at $15 and above only three years after its first release of Pinot Noir. Today,
Willamette Valley Vineyards is the third largest Oregon Winery by brand and production releasing an
estimated 111,700 cases of wine each year. About half of the production is Pinot Noir. The winery now
has over 4,500 owners, a result of the nation’s first successful self underwritten public offering (1989,
Nasdaq WVVI). Jim Bernau was named Purveyor of the Year in 2007 by the Oregon Restaurant Association
for his tireless lobbying for the Oregon hospitality industry.
The Estate Vineyard consists of 50 acres planted to Pommard and Wädenswil clones. The winery and
underground cellar are carved into the top of an ancient volcanic flow. In 1997, Willamette Valley
Vineyards purchased Tualatin Estate, near Forest Grove and plantings there have been increased using
new rootstocks and Dijon clones of Pinot Noir. Both the Estate and Tualatin Vineyards are certified
Salmon Safe and LIVE.
The current winemaker is Forrest Klaffke who was brought in from California by then winemaker Dean
Cox. Forrest was promoted to winemaker several years later after Joe Dobbes, the winemaker who
followed Cox, started his own Oregon winery in late 2001. Forrest has now worked in wineries for
over 28 years. He spends a considerable amount of time attending to every detail in the vineyards.
Vineyard Manager Efren Loeza began his career at Tualatin in 1979 at 17 years of age and has worked
in the vineyard and in the cellar there ever since. Efren resides on the estate in the farmhouse built by
the original owners of the property. He now has nearly 300 acres under his supervision.
This is an innovative and progressive winery. In 2005, they were the first winery to include resveratrol
levels on their wine labels. More recently, they became the first winery to use cork stoppers harvested
from forestlands certified by the Rainforest Alliance to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The
company has launched a cork recycling initiative with Amorim and also take anyone’s bottles and recycle
them. In the past they made their own fuel and now use bio-fuel from a potato chip plant.
2006 Willamette Valley Vineyards Oregon Riesling
11.5% alc., 21,000 cases, $12. Stainless steel
Again, some Alsatian influence with petrol in the nose along with pineapple scents. Light and
tangy, with lively acid. A skosh sweet with a long finish. Perfectly fine.
2006 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris
13.5% alc., 21,000 cases, $15. 7% Pinot Blanc, 1%
Auxerrois, 1% Muscat. Stainless steel fermented.
An Alsatian-styled Pinot Gris reminiscent of a fine Tokay
Pinot Gris. A rich and potent nose of tropical fruits including banana and pears. Tropical flavors follow
in step with attractive minerality and excellent acidity. Quite good.
2005 Willamette Valley Vineyards Oregon Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 16,731 cases, $25. Fermented in 10 ton stainless
steel fermenters (the winery has more than 100 of them!),
aged in 20% new French oak. Multiple clones including
Dijon 113, 114, 115, 667 and 777, Pommard and Wädenswil.
Aged 11 months in 20% new oak.
A lighter style of Pinot Noir
loyal to its varietal character. Scents of red cherries and
toasted nuts with a hint of oak are followed by simple but satisfying
cherry flavors which lead to a soft landing at the finish.
Nicely balanced. Not extraordinary, but perfectly fine at the dinner table. Remarkable quality for a wine
produced in such large quantity.
2005 Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 1,958 cases, $40. This
wine is composed of the finest barrel lots from Estate vineyards. Dijon 667, 777, Pommard and Wädenswil
clones. Fermented in stainless steel and aged in 35% new French oak.
This wine is dominated by
oak as many reserve type bottlings are. The tart cherry fruit is embellished by plenty of earth and mineral
notes. The texture is soft and pleasing but the finish retains some astringency. Tasted twice.
Willamette Valley Vineyards address is 8800 Enchanted Way SE, Turner. The phone is 503-588-
9463. The wines are widely distributed on the United States and sold on the winery’s website at
www.WillametteValleyVineyards.com. A tasting room is open from 11-6 daily. Tours are by appointment.
The winery also offers a Whole Cluster Pinot Noir ($19) and a Signature Cuvée Pinot Noir (sold