Lifestyle

Why Oregon Wine Producers Are Seeing Pink

Already known for Burgundian-style Pinot Noir, producers are lightening things up with rosés made from the same grape.

You probably know Oregon for its world-class Pinot Noir wines, which attract many a Burgundy drinker (and a few producers from there, too). But as of late, the state also has stepped onto the stage with a lighter version of the grape, producing multidimensional rosés that deliver both freshness and complexity.

“Oregon Pinot Noir is an exceptional candidate for rosé [as it] lends itself incredibly well to a subtle but lively fruit characteristic [and] vibrant lighter red-berry aromas,” says Vince Vidrine, winemaker at Irvine & Roberts Vineyard in Ashland. He recognized its other dimension, adding the grape has “a tendency to contribute fascinating savory and earthy notes.”

The first Pinot Noir was planted in Willamette Valley in 1965; today with nine sub appellations and 23,525 planted acres, it is the largest of the state’s AVAs. It remains a stalwart mainstay of winemaking.

“Oregon’s Willamette Valley produces some of the world’s best Pinot Noirs. It was a natural progression to produce a Pinot Noir rosé that would be equally regarded,” says Melissa Burr, vice president of winemaking at Stoller Family Estates in the Dundee Hills American Viticultural Area (AVA), a subregion of the valley.

Burr is not alone in her pride-of-place declaration. Nate Klostermann, winemaker at Argyle in Dundee, calls the valley “a fantastic place” for rosé, where Pinot Noir “develops wonderfully complex, floral and spicy aromatics while highlighting its well-defined core and energetic length.”

Drink the lighter versions all summer long, and with their earthy notes, many can be enjoyed with a range of dishes from barbecue to pasta, and well into the fall. Look for these recommendations for your dog days drinking or your early fall follies.

Shallow Seas rosé 2020, Willamette Valley. So named for the ancient former seabed in the underlying geology (they say you can see fossilized shells and shark’s teeth in the vineyard soils). Light copper in color, austere and lean, this shows off tangy strawberry and fresh watermelon notes. A little menthol and savory notes on the nose follow onto the palate. “Produced and bottled by real nice winemakers” says the label. I agree!

30A rosé 2020, Willamette Valley. Confusingly named for Florida Coastal Highway 30A, this is marine + saline all the way. Breezy, fresh strawberry, watermelon, a little savory and creamy. Good food wine: I had this with a shrimp composed salad.

Irvine & Roberts 2020 rosé of Pinot Noir, Rogue Valley. Wild strawberry and tangelo with touches of shortbread, tropical kiwi fruit. A juicy palate with clear acidity finishes on a high note of honeydew and lemon zest (provided by Vince Vidrine).

Raptor Ridge rosé of Pinot Noir 2019, Willamette Valley. Fewer than 700 cases made, this is more savory than fruity, more garden palate (tart rhubarb with some cranberry and currant) than orchard. Some nice charred complexity here. My tasting notes say BACON in all caps—did I mean it had smoky notes or drink this with bacon? Either way, enjoy it.

Domaine Divio rosé of Pinot Noir 2020, Willamette Valley. Bright Jolly Rancher strawberry pink. Fans of strawberry rhubarb pie will like the interplay between tart and sweet, ripe fruit. Not too complex and very good with pizza.

Yamhill Valley Vineyards rosé of Pinot Noir 2019, McMinnville AVA. From one of Oregon’s many estate-grown, family-owned wineries. Darker wild salmon in color, and expressive of pink grapefruit, raspberry and baby wild strawberries. True Pinot echoes with its slightly brambly, earthy aspect.

Domaine de Broglie Pinot Noir rosé 2020, Dundee Hills. Francis Ford Coppola’s venture into Oregon, named for physicist Louis de Broglie and so reflected on the bottle label with sound waves. Light, fresh, super-clean color with just a tinge of pink. Medium bodied driven by creamy raspberry and a nice citric acidity.

Underwood rosé 2019. Light pink in color, this delivers a raspberry and grapefruit splash with lychee, kiwi tropical fruit tones. Clean and fresh. Easy to open screw-cap bottle lets you take it on the go.

Gochau Cellars “GC” Pinot Noir rosé 2020, Amity. Wild salmon hue. Clean, raspberry directness with a little earth-dusted cherry. Good with Indian food. A sister sparkling wine, “Joyride” (2020) showed a little more fruit depth with fresh-picked wild strawberries. Good on its own or with light seafood dishes like shrimp on pasta.

Dobbes Family Estate rosé 2020, Willamette Valley. Cherry all the way with ripe raspberry along for the ride in this Pinot Noir, Syrah and Grenache blend from Rogue Valley. Great with BBQ or consider for Thanksgiving.

Chehalem Winery rosé 2020, Willamette Valley. Bracing acidity, super-dry and fresh with pink grapefruit pith and baby strawberry. Zesty, snappy, tense and very well made.

Sokol Blossom Pinot Noir rosé 2020, Dundee Hills. Grapefruit goodness and tart currant. Fresh and refreshing! Snappy, fun and flowerful (a word made up just to describe this wine!) without being flowery or fluffy. Super zippy—did I say that already?

Acclara sparkling rosé, Willamette Valley. Dry, pét-nat style expressing delicate dried strawberries. Light on its feet, this is a “three B” drink-all-day wine: for the beach, a baby or bridal shower.

Stoller Family Estate Pinot Noir rosé 2020, Willamette Valley. Multi-dimensional fruit bowl: orchard (red apple skin), pithy pink grapefruit and tropical fruit (guava). Nice interplay of sweet and tart, driven by strong acid streak.

Acrobat rosé 2020, Oregon (multi AVA), Blended from Willamette Valley, Umpqua Valley and Rogue Valley AVAs, this very dry wine expresses ripe, tropical fruit that gives a perception of slight sweetness tempered by the tartness of young red berries. A little more weight on the palate requires some light snacks with this wine.

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