As a winemaker, I often get the chance to chat with wine lovers about vineyards, wines
and the passion that drives me to make Oregon Pinot Noir. The passion runs deep, so deep I often have to stop myself from boring those around me. I am very keen on explaining the essence of what makes Oregon wines amazing. My favorite example is Oregon Pinot Noir. It is a great grape variety for Oregon because it expresses the place where it is grown.
In some areas it is salt, spring water, olives, apples, pork, or a vast array of other ingredients that define a place. For some reason, those ingredients in those locations are the best they can be. The best quality products share a common theme: they express a sense of place. These products distill a specific place, an environment, and climate. The French have a word for this concept, Terroir. In the Willamette Valley, the Terroir is expressed exceptionally well in Pinot Noir.
As a grape vine ages, its roots dig deeper into the soil taking trace elements, nutrients, and water. The very earth itself is being refined and distilled in the vine. Above ground, the plant is subject to a different environment. In the beginning of the growing season, the buds swell and burst sending out shoots and leaves. Then the plant forces flowers and more leaves. These leaves are constantly reaching for and absorbing sunlight to fuel growth. Like little factories the vines work to provide the right environment for reproduction, or grapes. All of the vine’s work, its power, its’ energy is focused into its children, grapes. At the right moment these grapes are harvested and begin the process of becoming wine.
Pinot Noir is fickle, stubborn, and temperamental. It is difficult to make and even more difficult to make well. Some places don’t match the needs of Pinot Noir and the resulting wine is of poor quality. In special places the resulting wine is transcendent. The Terroir that is expressed tastes and smells lovely and is prized all over the world as something uniquely pleasurable. This is why so many places around the world have tried to grow Pinot Noir. Oregon has the right combination of what the vines need to make perfect Pinot Noir grapes.
Winemaker John Lyon