The Napa Valley is recognized as one of the top wine regions in the world. When you are top dog, expect to take some shots from your rivals. Napa Valley wineries had their share of good-natured bashing from Oregon wineries at the 5th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference held in Portland, Oregon, this past weekend.
What we heard along the way
“In Willamette Valley the weather cools rapidly from afternoon winds from the Van Duzer Corridor. Night time temperatures drop dramatically. In the Napa Valley it is hot all the time.”
“The Napa Valley Pinot Noirs from Carneros are too big.”
“Here in the Willamette Valley the winemakers and owners share their knowledge and help one another. In the Napa Valley, it is all corporate.”
“One thing that differentiates the Willamette Valley from the Napa Valley is that each year the growing season in the Willamette is very different. The climate varies significantly year to year. Napa does not have that fluctuation so their wines are always the same.”
“Here in the Willamette Valley you are likely to find a winemaker or family member working the tasting room. That is something you won’t find in the Napa Valley.”
What Oregon wineries should be saying to Napa Valley
After touring several Willamette wineries and tasting as many as 100 wines over the course of the conference, plus our own excursions in Southern Oregon, here is what we think the Oregon wineries should be saying about themselves.
The Willamette Valley wineries are just in their second generation of family ownership. The vineyards are young in comparison to the Napa Valley. They know that much is yet to be learned and accomplished. Farming techniques are continuously being improved, as well as winemaking practices.
38% of Oregon’s vineyard acres are certified sustainable or certified Biodynamic, and that number will grow significantly each year. There is a systemic belief in sustainable practices for all farming in Oregon.
Most of the wineries in Oregon are small, between 1,000 to 10,000 annual case production and family owned, and they want to stay that way.
Southern Oregon wineries will surge within the next five years. This area has many small valleys, microclimates, and soil types. Southern Oregon wineries are making top-notch white and red wines across a broad range of varietals. These are serious wines and very much under the radar of the wine critics. Perhaps more significantly, these wines are priced under $30.
There are huge areas of Oregon that are potential wine growing regions, and the land is less expensive than California vineyard land.
Final Thoughts on Oregon Wines
The Pinot Gris wines I tasted from the Willamette Valley were all excellent. A few wineries are making a Gruner Veltliner and I thought those were excellent as well. I believe we will see a big increase in Gruner from this area in the next few years. As far as the Pinot Noirs, they were all quite enjoyable but I do prefer Pinots from California, especially from Mendocino’s Anderson Valley. The wines in Southern Oregon were very intriguing. We loved the Tempranillo wines from several wineries. The Rhone and Bordeaux style wines are very tasty. Another advantage, and a built-in discount so-to-speak, is that when you buy anything in Oregon, there is no sales tax. A $25 bottle of wine is just that.
We enjoyed our two-week stay very much and hope to return to return to Oregon Wine Country soon.