Belle Pente, sits stunningly on a slope in the Willamette Valley's Yamhill-Carlton district. Jill and Brian O'Donnell planted the first vineyard here in 1994, which now consists of 12 acres of Pinot Noir, two acres of both Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, and a few rows of Gamay Noir. Both Jill and Brian have a tremendous respect for the earth, choosing to farm organically with some biodynamic practices undertaken as well. They source fruit from other growers in the region but hold them to the same strict, environmentally conscious standards that they maintain. Although Pinot Noir is the dominant grape around here, Belle Pente also produces a round, succulent Pinot Gris in an Alsace mold, emphasizing rich, tropical fruit flavors rather than minerality.
Although wine-growing in Oregon stretches from the California border to Washington, for most wine lovers Oregon means the Willamette Valley, a temperate, ocean-influenced growing area extending from Portland south to Eugene, or roughly a hundred miles. The majority of the state's best producers are grouped around the towns of McMinnville, Carlton, Dundee, and Newberg, as well as near the state capital, Salem.
Oregon's past and future reputation as a world-class growing region rests squarely on Pinot Noir. Hyped in the early 1980s as the New World's answer to red Burgundy, Oregon Pinot Noir has steadily improved since then as local growers have discovered the best sites and done a better job matching clones to microclimates.
Oregon's Pinots typically feature exuberant cherry-berry aromas and flavors; varying degrees of spicy oak; medium body; and reasonable tannin levels. They generally carry moderate alcohol in the 12.5% to 14% range, lower than those of today's typical Pinots from California, although very warm years can bring wines with higher alcohol and more roasted flavors. Rarely austere or tough on release, the best Oregon Pinots gain in complexity with three to five years of bottle aging, and top wines from the most successful vintages can improve in bottle for a decade or more. ""Tender"" might be an apt description of the best Oregon Pinot Noirs.
Oregon Pinot Gris is usually fermented to complete dryness, and few examples see much oak. The top producers make brisk, highly aromatic, light- to medium-bodied wines that emphasize orchard fruits, often with citrus elements as well. These wines are excellent choices with a range of warm-weather fare and go especially well with light, fresh seafood preparations.
Ranges from dry to sweet, but deeply aromatic in all styles
Munster cheese, pork, goose, spicy Asian food
One of the wine world's love-it-or-hate-it grapes, Gewürztraminer is for many wine lovers the signature variety of Alsace. Its highly perfumed aromas of rose petal, smoked meat, lychee, grapefruit, and spices are immediate and captivating, although some examples lack refinement and seem a bit blowzy owing to low acidity and high alcohol. Gewürztraminer is as unlike the steelier, more aristocratic Riesling as a white grape can be. No other region of the world has been able to produce significant quantities of Gewürztraminer that even approach the decadent richness and exotic fruit qualities that the best producers in Alsace achieve. Still, other than late-harvest versions, Gewürztraminer is normally a dry wine in Alsace, despite smelling like a sweet one. Gewürztraminer marries beautifully with rich, fatty dishes like pork and goose or ripe cheeses, as well as with the exotic spices of Moroccan, Indian, and Far Eastern cuisines.