With over 19,000 acres of Pinot Noir planted, Oregon’s Willamette Valley has become one of the United States’ premiere growing regions for the red grape from Burgundy since it was first planted there in the 1960s. That is more than double the amount of all other varieties combined growing there, highlighting the fact that this 100-mile-long region between the Cascade Mountains and the Coast Range is prime Pinot Noir country. In fact, more than 80 percent of all the Pinot Noir cultivated in the state is grown in the Willamette Valley, which is home to over 700 wineries.
To the west, the Coast Range shelters vineyards running along the Willamette River from frigid Pacific air and rainstorms, while on the opposite side the Cascade Mountains provide a barrier to the arid, desert-like climate of eastern Oregon. Temperate summers with cool nights, sunny autumns, and a combination of volcanic and sedimentary soils offer perfect conditions for ripening grapes with complex flavors and vivid acidity. Thanks to the number of French families who have put down roots here, Willamette has been called the Burgundy of the Pacific Northwest, producing New World versions of Pinot Noir that have been likened by many to those from their home region. Concentrated yet elegant, these will pair well with roast or fried chicken, grilled pork, risotto with mushrooms, or pan seared veal chops.
Ken Wright and his family founded Ken Wright Cellars in 1994 in downtown Carlton, and since that time he has been very involved in town planning for this historic community. He currently makes 13 different single vineyard bottlings in the northern Willamette Valley. The 2018 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir is ruby colored with aromas of blueberry, dried herbs, cinnamon, and freshly picked black cherry. It has flavors of cranberry, pomegranate, and red raspberry with pleasant touches of creosote and licorice. Drink now or through 2033.