Ask Sid: Difference between pinot noirs from Willamette Valley in Oregon & those from Sonoma Coast/Russian River in California?

August 12th, 2020
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Ask Sid: Difference between pinot noirs from Willamette Valley in Oregon & those from Sonoma Coast/Russian River in California?

Question: I read your Blog dated June 24 about the differences between pinot noirs from the Russian River and the Sonoma Coasts. What would you say the difference is between Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon and Sonoma Coast/Russian River Pinots?  I am planning an event to contrast the OR Pintos from the CA Pinots.

Answer: Will be an interesting comparison. Both Oregon and California are changing rapidly with the benefit of older vines planted in the right spots and the influence of climate change. There are some unique best places being found and developed for pinot noir in both states. For example on the Sonoma Coast quality producers like Littorai are able to achieve just enough rich ripeness (but not too much) to balance out that good fresh underlying acidity. Some don’t reach the same complexity picking grapes too early that are slightly under ripe or too late overripe. Difficult to get everything perfect. Look at the excitement being generated by amazing pinot noirs from Santa Rita Hills. In Oregon you have pinot noirs that are lighter more delicate and fragrant than the denser fuller riper richer ones in California. However there are lots of exceptions to that overly general rule. Good to remember that California has higher temperatures, fewer daylight hours, and a longer growing season while Oregon has cooler temperatures, more daylight hours, but usually a shorter growing season before the Fall rains arrive. Additionally climate change is really affecting Oregon with the last 5 years seeing the warmest increased temperatures on record during the growing season. Over 62% of the grapes grown in Oregon are pinot noir. This presently can be a big benefit for them in achieving perfect phenolic ripeness but also an added pressure to harvest earlier. The best way to explore the fascinating differences between the two states is by tasting the specific bottles you actually open and studying them. Please report back on the findings.

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August 12th, 2020

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