Pinot Noir might be notoriously difficult to grow, but it still manages to thrive in cool climates all over the world. When done right, Pinot Noir produces lighter-bodied wines of elegance and complexity.
Some of the best examples hail from Oregon, which might be surprising considering it was just barely 50 years ago that the first Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs were released. Today, the state is home to almost 800 wineries, and this red grape continues to be the star of the wine scene.
As one might imagine, it wasn’t easy to cull through a list of so many excellent bottles. But here are some top picks you will definitely want to have on your shelf.
Oregon Pinot Noirs to Look for
Patricia Green Cellars 2017 Notorious Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley); $85, 97 points. This is the only wine among the winery’s vast portfolio that is aged in 100% new French oak. Its green label also sets it apart from the rest, and it’s priced as a reserve (from a winery whose every bottle could be called a reserve without a quibble). It’s a stunning wine, vibrant with rich red and black berry fruit, cherry, orange peel, root beer, toast, chocolate and on it goes. Just a splendid bottle in every possible way. Editors’ Choice. —Paul Gregutt
Adelsheim 2015 Bryan Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir (Chehalem Mountains); $85, 94 points. This high altitude site hits it out of the park in 2015. Complex from the first sniff on through, it’s layered with sage, lemon verbena, black fruits and a luscious streak of toffee. It’s the sort of wine that immediately grabs your attention and keeps you captivated through a lingering finish. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
Bergström 2017 Winery Block Pinot Noir (Chehalem Mountains); $85, 94 points. Produced in a single French oak foudre, this is perfumed with an olfactory stew of exotic spices. It leads into a lush palate with blueberries, plums and sassafras highlights. The tannins are quite astringent, but proportionate. Drink now and over the next three to five years. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
Domaine Divio 2017 Pinot Noir (Ribbon Ridge); $48, 94 points. This is a vibrant, energetic, almost electric wine, with brilliant raspberry fruit in abundance alongside accents of sea breeze and seashell. It spent given 14 months in 45% new French oak. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
Walter Scott 2017 Sojourner Vineyard Pinot Noir (Eola-Amity Hills); $55, 94 points. This is a barrel selection—18 out of 44 made—and a standout among the numerous single vineyard cuvées. Dark and juicy, it’s loaded with black cherry and carries a streak of iron, while layering in lemon rind, orange peel and grapefruit highlights. At the moment, it’s drinking the best of all the winery’s 2017s. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
Styring 2015 Signature Pinot Noir (Ribbon Ridge); $35, 93 points. Another terrific vintage for Styring starts off with this well-priced wine powered by black fruits and baking spices. It’s layered and smooth, with flavors flowing into buttery tannins that are ripe and polished. Just a hint of stem adds texture and detail, with a finishing whiff of sandalwood. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
Drouhin Oregon Roserock 2016 Pinot Noir (Eola-Amity Hills); $35, 92 points. A superb value, this is a dark, supple, even sensuous wine with deep fruit flavors of blueberry and cassis. Notes of dried Mediterranean herbs and a dark dive into baker’s chocolate contribute to a complex weave of flavors. There’s real polish and power here, though this is among the winery’s lowest priced Pinots. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
Le Cadeau 2017 Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley); $38, 91 points. This red label cuvée is made exclusively from estate-grown fruit. It competes successfully with Le Cadeau’s pricier cuvées, offering exceptional value. Strawberry jam, raspberry pie and a light suggestion of graham cracker combine in a flavorful, full-bodied wine. Tannins add a touch of black tea to the finish. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
Lachini 2015 The Grape Republic Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley); $25, 91 points. Designed for immediate drinking pleasure, this delicious wine delivers complex flavors of berry, root beer and sandalwood, with further details of smoky tea. It’s moving gently along the aging curve and rests currently in a prime spot for drinking—smooth and rich, with fruit just now beginning to trend into secondary flavors. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
Lange 2016 Classiqué Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley); $25, 91 points. It would be hard to find a better Oregon Pinot Noir at this price. With a lovely, silky mouthfeel, even at such a young age, it brings expressive strawberry and cherry fruit to a full-bodied midpalate. Details of spice and mint add interest and texture, and if you put this in a blind tasting with wines costing more than twice as much, it may well emerge as the favorite. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
A to Z 2016 Pinot Noir (Oregon); $20, 90 points. It’s beyond impressive that a wine sourced from 50 vineyards scattered throughout the state can be this good. It’s all of Oregon in a single bottle, rounded in feel, lightly spiced and showing fresh cranberry and cherry flavors. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.