The Whites of Willamette Valley

Written by Tracy McKean

Tracy McKean is a lover of white wines and has been a writer/publisher of regional city magazines, parenting magazines and involved in winetasting.com

April 24, 2021

I have a confession to make. I love a good red wine but unfortunately, red wine doesn’t like me. This puts me in an awkward situation when wine tasting because most winery tastings only offer $40 flights which includes both 2 tastings of white and 3-5 tastings of reds, especially when you are in a wine region, such as the Willamette Valley, known for award winning pinot noirs.

The good news is that where there is pinot noir, there is usually other pinots, pinot blanc pinot gris. For decades Oregon’s white wine reputation depended almost exclusively on pinot gris. pinot gris is now the second most planted variety in the state. However, pinot gris is a harder sell to consumers than the more popular chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. Fortunately, growing conditions for chardonnay are similar to pinot noir as is the case of the Burgundy region of France. The Willamette Valley chardonnays, especially those from the Dundee and the Eola-Amity Hills area have their unique signature flavor veering away from the buttery California chardonnay for a cooler weather acidity, more floral accents and different stone mineral components. Vintners have also made stunning progress with a variety of white grapes including riesling, viognier and vermentino just to mention a few. These six wineries offer award winning white wines for you to discover and savor.

Argyle Winery Tasting House Sparkling Wines, Chardonnay and Rieslings

In addition to pinot noir, Argyle Winery is known for award-winning chardonnays, rieslings and exceptional Sparkling wines that captures the essence of Willamette Valley. Argyle Winery is the only American Winery to earn recognition in Wine Spectator’s “Top 100 Wines of the World” in three categories: red, white and sparkling. The busy “urban” tasting room is in the heart of Dundee and offers tastings that are white wine only friendly. Staff is knowledgeable and attentive. Indoor and outdoor seating available. Tasting fees range $30-$50 with the fee being able to be applied to purchase of wine. When in Dundee, don’t miss a visit to Argyle Tasting Room. Open Daily.  Reservations required. 691 Highway 99W, Dundee. www.argylewinery.com

Bethel Heights Vineyard Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Rose

This superb vineyard located in the heart of the Eola-Amity Hills is a peaceful oasis. Overlooking 75 acres of vineyards that allows you to interact directly with the family behind this 40 plus year old family vineyard known for their pinot noirs, chardonnays, pinot gris and pinot noir rosé. Open Daily. Tastings are held indoors in the main room, outside on the patio or the highlight, private tastings (Weds. – Sun.) in the library with food parings with local, seasonal, fresh ingredients through four small plates from the Bethel Heights Kitchen for $95 per person. Reservations required. 6060 Bethel Heights Road, Salem. www.bethelheights.com

Brooks Winery Riesling

With over two dozen rieslings produced here white wine lovers have a plenty of options from sample from. Voted as Wine & Spirits Magazine Top 100 Wineries of the Year, Brooks Winery provides ample opportunities to experience the small-lot winemaking and biodynamic practices with a long list of events running all year long and a tasting room experience including sumptuous food offerings, you will remember for years. They even have a concierge! Open daily. Tasting fee of $40 can be applied to wine purchases. Reservations required. 21101 SE Cherry Blossom Lane, Amity. www.brookswine.com

Domaine Drouhin Oregon Chardonnay

An elegant French inspired winery, associated with Maison Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy, has you feeling as if you are strolling through vineyards in Beaune. The location and grounds are stunning! The French chateau deck overlooks the Willamette Valley. You can sample the Oregon chardonnays along with the Burgundy Chablis as well as their signature chocolate line, Ranger Chocolate. Open Daily. Reservations required. 6750 NE Breyman Orchids Road, Dayton. www.domaindrouhin.com

Illahe Vineyards Pinot Gris, Viognier, Tempranillo, Rose, Sparkling

With all of the big-name wineries in the Willamette Valley it was really nice to discover this off-the-beaten-path, small-lot, back to basics yet organic and biodynamic producer. Beautiful setting with a breathtaking view of the vineyards below. The wine is solid and refreshing. The sparkling rose is amazing! Open Thurs-Sun. Tasting fee of $25 per person can be applied to a purchase of $100+. Reservations required. 3275 Ballard Road, Dallas. www.Illahevineyards.com

Sokol Blosser Winery Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and More

Located in the Dundee Hills appellation and producing outstanding wine for 50 years you will find plenty of white wine options to choose from as you sip and enjoy the beautiful property and modern Scandinavian designed tasting room. This winery is now the sixth-largest producer in the state and offers different wine tasting flights catering to those of us who only dabble in white or rose. Plus, they have nice snacks. Open Thurs-Mon. Tasting deposit fee of $40 can be applied to purchases. Reservations required. 5000 NE Sokol Blosser Lane, Dayton. www.sokolblosser.com

 

As you explore the Willamette Valley please remember that tastings can be done outside and weather conditions can turn a warm day cold quickly, so dress appropriately. When visiting wineries always check ahead for required reservations that have become important since Covid-19. Most importantly, enjoy the Willamette Valley’s white wine diversity.

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