Regularly described as being the grape varietal responsible for producing the world's most romantic wines, Pinot Noir has long been associated with elegance and a broad range of flavors The name means 'black pine' in French, and this is due to the fact that the fruit of this particular varietal is especially dark in color, and hangs in a conical shape, like that of a pine cone. Despite being grown today in almost every wine producing country, Pinot Noir is a notoriously difficult grape variety to cultivate. This is because it is especially susceptible to various forms of mold and mildew, and thrives best in steady, cooler climates. However, the quality of the fruit has ensured that wineries and vintners have persevered with the varietal, and new technologies and methods have overcome many of the problems it presents. Alongside this, the wide popularity and enthusiasm for this grape has ensured it will remain a firm favorite amongst wine drinkers for many years to come. The beautiful wine region of Willamette Valley is located in Oregon, one of the main wine producing states of the USA. As in much of Oregon, Willamette Valley benefits enormously from the long, hot summers the state enjoys, and the mineral rich soils which typify the wine regions found there. Willamette Valley has built up a powerful reputation over the past few decades as one of the New World's leading producers of high quality, flavorful and characterful Pinot Noir wines, as the grapes of the Pinot Noir vine thrive particularly well in the region's climatic conditions. Willamette Valley is a fascinating wine region, and is a fine representative for the state of Oregon. Innovative techniques and wine making methods are fairly commonplace there, and the overall produce of the region seems to get better each year.
Although the relatively warm Umpqua Valley south of Portland was the site of the very first winery of the resurgence, early growers concentrated their efforts on the cooler Willamette Valley, to the southwest. The Pinot Noirs of the Willamette Valley have consistently shown well in comparative tastings with the Pinot Noirs of Burgundy; so much so that there is now considerable French investment in the region. Pinot Gris is another successful variety, producing fresh, crisp wines that are excellent with seafood. Chardonnay was disappointing for a time, with climate-related leaness and acidity, but has dramatically improved with the introduction of Dijon clones. Plantings of Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Blanc produce fine examples of these less commercially popular, but delicious varieties.