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Oregon Pinot and Food
Copyright 2003 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed May 27, 2003. For more information go to

Every time I open another bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir - a wine-related activity that I don't always perform as often as I should - I whack myself on the forehead for not doing it more often.

Few wine enthusiasts would argue that Pinot Noir is one of the most "noble" grapes, with potential to make the world's greatest red wines, at its best showing a delicate, nuanced style that's distinctly different from such robust red grapes as Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah.

And most of those same enthusiasts would likely acknowledge that Burgundy is the place to be for memorable Pinot. Burgundy boasts the heritage, the tradition, the grapes, the climate and the soil; they've been making great Pinot for centuries, and have had plenty of time to get it right.

But all the vine-growing world seeks to emulate this success, and especially in recent years, pockets of potential greatness have appeared in climes as varied as California (where Sonoma, Carneros and the Central Coast northward from Santa Barbara all stake credible claims) and New Zealand, particularly cooler-climate regions like Central Otago. And, getting to the point of today's sermon, Oregon, of course.

Oregon's Willamette ("Will-AM-it") Valley, an attractive agricultural region that spreads out within an easy drive to the south of Portland, has emerged in recent times as a wine-producing name to be reckoned with. I find a consistent earthy, herbaceous quality in many of its Pinots that reminds me of Burgundy, nicely balanced with a fresh, clean cherrylike fruit that speaks of the New World. While some of its more sought-after bottlings have been driven up to Burgundy-level prices, many quality Oregon Pinots remain affordable.

What's more, Oregon Pinot fully lives up to Pinot Noir's famous affinity with a range of foods. This makes it a particularly attractive choice in a restaurant situation, where it can be tough to come up with a single wine that will go will with both your steak and your partner's fish...or whatever.


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