In the new century, more excellent producers arrived, like Big Farm, Antica Terra, J. Christopher, Walter Scott and Day Wines. All are making superb, distinctive wines that reflect their Willamette terroirs while respecting the Burgundian ideal: pinot noir as a wine of grace and finesse.
Yet pinot noir is not the sole narrative of the Willamette Valley. After a few false starts with chardonnay, the quality in the last decade has gotten better and better, especially in wines with a lean, minerally, energetic style.
Burgundians have flocked to Oregon in the wake of Drouhin’s success. Dominique Lafon of Domaine des Comtes Lafon in Meursault is working with Larry Stone, a pioneering American sommelier who planted 66 acres in 2013 in the Eola-Amity Hills region. Their operation, Lingua Franca, now sells elegant pinot noirs and chardonnays from purchased grapes and, this year, an excellent rosé from the vineyard’s first crop.
There’s also Alexandrine Roy of Domaine Marc Roy of Gevrey-Chambertin, working with Phelps Creek Vineyards in the Columbia Gorge area; and Jean-Nicolas Méo of Méo-Camuzet in Vosnes-Romanée, who bought land in the Willamette with Jay Boberg, a music entrepreneur. The first vintage of Nicolas-Jay was 2014.
Jacques Lardière, the longtime technical director at Louis Jadot, the Burgundy house, is now overseeing Jadot’s new Résonance operation, and Louis-Michel Liger-Belair of Comte Liger-Belair is the consulting winemaker for Chapter 24 Vineyards.
Oregon has established itself so well that a thriving wine counterculture has arisen, which, if not exactly rebelling against the dominance of pinot noir, is seeking to offer alternatives that are delicious and cheaper.
Gamay, or gamay noir as it is habitually called in Oregon, is one possibility. I’ve tried wonderful gamays from new wave négociants like Division, Bow & Arrow and The Color Collector, a start-up that made only 100 cases in 2015, its first commercial vintage. But precious little gamay is currently available in Oregon, and with the…