Five Great Oregon Vineyards Worth Knowing

Looking for a shortcut to finding many of Oregon’s top wines and producers? Get to know the vineyards form which the grapes are sourced.

Unless you live in Oregon, or visit the Willamette Valley, getting a handle on the region’s best wines and producers is akin to controlling rabbits. They’re small, elusive and tend to proliferate rapidly. But there’s a shortcut to many of the top bottles: Know the vineyards for which they’re sourced.

Not many parcels have the production capacity and quality to attract winemakers who seek the best grapes. Their names pop up repeatedly as vineyard designates. When highly rated producers designate a vineyard frequently, it’s a blinking signpost for quality.

Of course, many outstanding vineyards are estate-owned, but here, the focus is on those that are significant sellers of grapes, even if they also provide fruit to an estate winery.

The five vineyards profiled here are a good starting point. They’re geographically divers, well established and. in many respects, still pioneers. Maybe, like Momtazi, they are expanding the reaches of biodynamic farming. Or, perhaps they’ve given rise to substantial plantings in a previously unexplored subregion, like Freedom Hill. Shea has focused almost exclusively on Pinot Noir, while Temperance Hill and Zenith are growing a range of varieties, expanding beyond the Pinot Trilogy. All exemplify the top tier in Oregon viticulture.

Zenith Vineyard

Established: 1995
AVA: Eola-Amity Hills
Elevation: 280–330 feet
Planted: 83 acres
Grapes: 79% Pinot Noir, 8% Pinot Gris, 4% Auxerrois, 4% Chardonnay, 4% Tempranillo, 1% Pinot Blanc
Flavors: These are pretty, ageworthy, finessed wines with great natural acidity
Principal Clients:  Adelsheim, Broadley, Domaine Nicolas-Jay, Grochau, Ponzi, Soter, St. Innocent
Ecology: “We are pragmatic organic. We try to be organic in most vineyard practices. For example, we don’t use herbicides. Rather, we use in-row cultivation.” —Tim Ramey

 

Momtazi Vineyard

Established: 1997
AVA: McMinnville
Elevation: 192–783 feet
Planted: 260 acres
Grapes: 86% Pinot Noir, 8% Pinot Gris, 4% Pinot Blanc, 2% Riesling
Flavors: Dark-fruited, somewhat earthy, with roasted spices
Principal Clients: Brick House, Chapter 24, Fullerton, Jasper Sisco, Joe Dobbes, Kelley Fox, St. Innocent, Willamette Valley Vineyards
Ecology: “We practice holistic farming, employing practices from biodynamic agriculture. We believe that healthy soil and healthy vines will produce superior grapes, without the need for man-made chemicals and poisons.” —Moe Momtazi

 

Temperance Hill Vineyard

Established: 1981
AVA: Eola-Amity Hills
Elevation: 650–890 feet
Planted: 97 acres
Grapes: 89% Pinot Noir, 4% Pinot Gris, 4% Gewürztraminer, 3% Chardonnay
Flavors: Assertive spices and exotic aromatics
Principal Clients: Adelsheim, Antica Terra, Bergström, Brooks, Chapter 24, Division, Elizabeth Chambers, Elk Cove, Evesham Wood,  J.K. Carriere, Lange, Lavinea, Lumos, Nicolas-Jay, Portland Wine Company, Public Road, Raptor Ridge, Sparkman, St. Innocent, Union Wine Company, Walter Scott
Ecology: “Temperance Hill Vineyard is a certified organic site set in and around the caldera of an ancient volcano. It is farmed in accordance with Oregon Tilth organic standards, and Food Alliance and Salmon Safe certified.” —Dai Crisp

 

Freedom Hill Vineyard

Established: 1981
AVA: Willamette Valley
Elevation: 350–600 feet
Planted: 88 acres
Grapes: 76% Pinot Noir, 16% Chardonnay, 7% Pinot Blanc, 1% Tempranillo
Flavors: Dark, muscular, somewhat tannic
Principal Clients: The main clients are Lange, Ken Wright, Patty Green and St. Innocent; others are Cana’s Feast, D’Anu, Devona, Evesham Wood, King Estate, Purple Hands, Stevenson-Barrie and Walter Scott.
Ecology: “We practice integrated pest management as a farming philosophy that limits inputs in response to pests, while coming as close as we can to guaranteeing the wineries clean and solid fruit and predictable tonnage.” —Dan Dusschee

 

About the Author
PAUL GREGUTT
Contributing Editor

Reviews wines from Oregon and Canada.

Paul Gregutt is a Contributing Editor for Wine Enthusiastmagazine, a founding member of the magazine’s Tasting Panel, and reviews the wines of Oregon and Canada. The author of the critically-acclaimed Washington Wines & Wineries—The Essential Guide, he consulted on the Pacific Northwest entries in current versions of The World Atlas of Wine and The Oxford Companion to Wine.

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