Interests migrating from WA to OR

Definitely a lot of OR love on this board, with only some for WA. When I moved to Seattle 8 years ago, I focused almost exclusively on WA wines to the exclusion of our fine neighbor to the south. Due to wonderful bottles of Matello PN and Cameron Chard during Thanksgiving in PDX last year, increasing prices on many WA wines (while OR wine increases appear flat or nominal) and what I see as better wines in many instances, I am now focusing almost exclusively on OR to scratch my new world itch.

Obviously PN and Chard are expected to be better in OR than WA (although I’ve really enjoyed some of the PNs from Underwood Mountain in WA), I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Riesling and other varietals that I had always naively assumed were done better in WA (Syrah and Cab Franc to name two). Some have been wineries I’ve discovered on my own, and others thanks to the great discussions on this board.

Although I will still buy from my favorite WA producers as long as prices don’t continue to spiral upwards too precipitously, I am much more intrigued by the value and quality in OR (Willamette, Columbia Gorge and S. Oregon) than WA. Same goes for beer - been really excited by the beers I’ve had recently from Logsden, pFriem, Heater Allen, Upright, Commons and Cascade among others.

Anyone else having a similar shift in focus with respect to new world wines?

Well, you picked a good time (2012 Oregon pinot releases) to scratch that itch!

I started with Oregon before moving to Seattle and burying myself in Washington reds and getting a better feel for what Washington has to offer, so the opposite route.
But… I found myself gravitating back to Oregon for wine as well as beer. I typically find the wines/beers from Oregon to have better balance and freshness and to me that’s what I look for, of course different grape varieties but I think Oregonians (I don’t want this to be a blanket statement but it is) search out more flavor and interest in their food and wine than Washingtonians.

To me I see Washington as more of a hedonists delight, richer food, richer wine as to where Oregon has a more delicate side, more finesse. I don’t see this as regional bias, but the nature of things in the PACNW.
Just depends which you like more, more Pinot please…

I grew up with the OR Pinot movement, but must say I was a drinker not a geek, so never searched out the gems back then. The grass is greener phenomenom and Red Mountain articles got me interested in WA. Full Pull opened and exploration started in earnest. With a full cellar of WA reds, I drank an older OR PN and discovered some great wines in my own back yard. I have gone from hit me with a 2x4 to Oh that was nice, I’ll have another glass, thank you very much.
I have had some WA Cab Franc that is almost as good as an OR PN. [oops.gif]
A lot of my friends still love WA Syrah, so I slip a few bottles to them out of compassion and kindness. grouphug

win win [wink.gif]

Luckily, we don’t have to choose between the two! I have a growing fondness for OR pinot, but I still need some Gramercy, Andrew Will and the likes.

Yes, word from producers and retailers is that 2012 in the WV is great. From what I’ve read, word on this board is not quite in agreement. As I’m not a full-fledged AFWE member, I’ll have to wait and see. With that said, I’ve REALLY enjoyed the 2011s and plan to stock pile those. Same for the 2007s, which are thankfully still available in the marketplace (I recently procured some from Biggio-Hamina that were fantastic - thanks Todd!).

There are WA producers I still really like and will support - aMaurice, Kerloo, Gramercy, Reynvaan, Syncline. My OP was not meant to bash WA or indicate a full retreat. I still think WA produces some very nice Rhone wines in the right hands, but OR is opening my eyes on many fronts.

Per your point Dennis, I’ve yet to try a WA Cab Franc that I enjoyed or that tasted remotely distinctive. I’m not asking for the Loire, but it would be nice to have a locally grown Cab Franc with some character and not bash you over the head with oak, alcohol, fruit or all of the above. Me thinks OR could make that happen. They certainly produce on the whole better Chard and Riesling IMO.

As a transplant, I dare not surmise the reasoning for the difference between OR and WA palates, but I’m all in on OR for at least the foreseeable future. Matello has my full attention. I dig what Biggio-Hamina is doing. I’m a big fan of what Analemma is doing in the Gorge (yes, they source fruit from both sides). I’ve been stockpiling Cameron for years based purely on recs, but recent tastings have made me a true believer. Have enjoyed Patty Green and will continue to seek them out. Will try to get on the Thomas list this year. Will continue to seek out and try many of the board favorites to see what takes.

My cellar is currently 50% WA and 15% OR. Between drinking and gifting WA wines and purchasing OR wines, I’m hoping to reach an equilibrium in the next 1-2 years. In the interim, I will continue to stockpile and drink OR beer! Will be down there in a few weeks and am very much looking forward to it.

Scott, what about Andrew Will cab franc - have you tried that?

Obviously PN and Chard are expected to be better in OR than WA


WA is 71,362 sq miles, Oregon is 98,466 sq miles, so is it the extra 27K square miles? By way of comparison, Italy is about 116,347 sq miles, and it has hundreds of varieties and microclimates. Is there no place in WA that can make decent Chardonnay?

What you guys are talking about seems like it has more to do with winemaking than with the states themselves.

I’ve never found my niche in WA wines; most of my favorites are in CA and OR. Sadly, in the last 2 years, I’ve become more OR centric and only pursue a couple of CA pinots. So, I’ve got quite of bit of CA pinot that I still like (somewhat) but would rather be drinking a more Burgundian style like what I find in OR. It is only a matter of time before the rest of the world realizes this and then prices will go through the roof.

Square mileage has nothing to do with it. Oregon and Washington, despite being adjacent and making up the bulk of the “Pacific Northwest”, are very different states climatically and have wine growing regions located in nearly exact opposite locales. I know zero about WA Chardonnay and barely more than that about OR Chardonnay but comparing the two is almost futile.

I was down at Vinopolis a couple of weeks ago and probably could have put together 2 mixed cases of Oregon Pinot, sub $21 and have all of them would have been different, Chardonnay as well.
I could never do that in Washington, I could never get an Evesham Wood-esque producer out of Washington labeled Cabernet, Syrah, Merlot or Chard for $18.99…
The thing that I have never understood about Washington is why? Where are the really good under $20 variety labeled wines? Sans CSM and a few others, where are they?

Washington has a lot of private label wine, many ‘2nd’ sort of wines, one winemaker making multiple labels with catchy or a heavily marketed concepts, the only thing you can get from most wineries for under $21 in Wa is a ‘red wine’…
Most boutique Wa wineries lowest tier wines are $25-$30 with the main wines being $45-$60 now. Wa wineries have increased in price a lot faster than Oregon in general, which, I think, will hurt them in the end as the middle tier wineries from Washington have raised their prices to keep pace. Now even mediocre, entry level wines from Wa are $30 as where Oregon has maintained it’s value at under/around $20.
This coupled with summer and a higher acid, more food friendly wine make Pinot the better alternative for me at least…

(since I am also a Scott)
I actually like Andrew Will wines.
Also Rasa and Cayuse but most of the WA wines I have tried, and there have been many, were really sweet and gloopy. We did a high end WA tasting at the Cellar Tracker Charleston offline last year and I thought I was going to fall into a diabetic coma. It was the worst case of palate fatigue ever for me.
I keep a few in the cellar but not many. I would love to see some leaner, food friendly wines from the region.

Perhaps not totally “distinctive”, I’ve enjoyed various vintages of Owen Roe “The Keeper” with its new world leanings. Recently tasted a Willful Cabernet Franc (Pam Walden - winemaker), a respectable option using Southern Oregon fruit.

I’m not convinced WA is completely AFWE-averse. It’s just not what I expect.


But Jim, where grapes are grown today doesn’t mean that they can’t be grown elsewhere. The point about size was only to suggest that there is plenty of unexplored area. I was curious about why the OP thought Chardonnay would be that much better in OR, especially since WA is such a large producer of Riesling, which tends to be better in cooler spots. I would agree though, that many WA wines seem to have taken some kind of cue from QC and end up aiming for a bigger and riper style than they need to. Not all though.

I should have said “I would expect PN and Chard to be better in OR than WA.” Has nothing to do with sq miles and I won’t pretend to have a deep understanding of the different growing regions in each state. My opinion is based more on what I have tasted from each state, which admittedly is not a tasting across all different regions and producers, and what I would expect (perhaps incorrectly) is a deeper focus on Chard in OR. Although Chard is the most grown white grape in WA, it seems to be a grape where a winery thinks “I’m starting a winery, gotta have a Chard” rather than a focus on coaxing the most out of the grape. With the WV being more focused on the Burgundy varietals as their calling card, I would expect them to focus more on how to produce the best Chard they can.

Although the WA Chards I’ve had (both low and high end) aren’t quite the buttery, oaky monsters some think of when it comes to new world Chard, they all had a sameness to them and left me thinking “meh.” In my experiences, the OR Chards I’ve had have been more distinctive and interesting although I can’t tell you why. OTOH, I’ve had some WA PNs from Underwood Mountain that were WOTN over established WV PNs in blind tastings.

You’re probably right that winemaking plays a part and could explain the differences I perceive between the two states. Some of the upcoming Chard-focused projects in WA (Charles Smith’s new venture with the former Efeste winemaker among others) should help determine what regions in WA can grow great Chard (if any). I’d like to see what could be done in the Ancient Lakes and Columbia Gorge AVAs as the WA whites I’ve had from those areas have shown the most promise. Lake Chelan could be interesting as well.

Dan & Rich - I have not had the AW or OR Cab Francs, but I do have a few bottles of the AW CF in my cellar. Need to try, although from everything I’ve read about AW probably best to wait a few years (my bottles are 2009 & 2010).

Here is my .02 for the OR vs WA discussion:

Primary growing regions are west of the Cascades Mtns for OR, and east of the Cascasde Mtns for WA. The mountains provide a huge stopping point for rain, so it all dumps between Seattle and Eugene, and there isn’t anything left in the air to drop over the eastern parts of the states.

The predominant growing region in OR is the Willamette Valley, which is simply not warm enough to ripen any red variety besides Pinot Noir consistently. I’ve seen Grenache pulled out of vineyards, and I know of a little bit of Cab Franc planted in the Dundee Hills that only ripens in really hot years. Red varieties besides Pinot Noir just need more heat units to ripen that the Willamette generally has to offer.

If you look at Southern Oregon (Umpqua, Rogue, Applegate valleys), they get enough heat to ripen down there, I just don’t think the general level of winemaking is as high as it could be. They need somebody to go down there and really push the quality bar higher. There are some good wines being made, but nothing that will blow you away, and nothing distinctive enough to give the region a sense of style and place. They haven’t found their flagship identity yet.

I think there are some micro-climates suitable for Pinot Noir in WA, they just haven’t been sought out very much, though I’ve seen some interest in finding places to plant Pinot. The trouble is finding a place cool enough to let it slowly ripen without having the sugars spike before flavors develop.

I’ve only been fortunate enough to try Cayuse a few times and liked what I tried. I’m torn about Rasa - I have quite a few of their bottles in my cellar and have loved many bottles. However, I have also had quite a few bottles that were hot and very alcoholic. At the prices they charge, I’m going to hold off on buying more and see how my other bottles evolve.

Back to my original question - I take it you prefer OR to WA or do you not dabble much in OR?

Interesting and in line with what I’ve read elsewhere on the region. Would like to get down there and taste.

I concur and am interested to see what WA winemakers will pursue outside of those in the Gorge. I think Forgeron’s second label (Blacksmith?) does a decent one under $20 from Underwood.

Big fan of OR, Scott.
Cristom is probably our favorite.