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Willamette question: Wines of place vs. blends

This is just a little philosophical aside, something to think about (no video on this lesson). And this will come up in the videos on the specific AVAs.

In the world of wine, as consumers, we are taught that the more specific the area, the higher quality (and price) of the wine. A single vineyard Cabernet from a specific spot in Napa Valley is worth more than a wine simply labeled as “Napa Valley,” right?

Maybe so.

And the same holds true for Burgundy, of course. A basic “Bourgogne” might set you back $25, but a single vineyard Grand Cru can be $1000.

But I view Willamette Valley a bit differently. I’m not alone in this opinion, but it’s not spoken out loud very often in the wine community.

In Willamette Valley, with such well defined soil types and microclimates, certain vineyards bring certain characteristics to the wines. This is terroir, of course. But these characteristics can be dramatically different, so much so that it’s like have different ingredients when making a dish. As a result, I’m been surprised over the years to run into single vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs that, while interesting and fascinating, didn’t make me want to drink more of them. Meanwhile, a blend of vineyards simply labeled “Willamette Valley,” from the same producer as the single vineyard wine I just set aside, is a wine that I want more and more of.

In other words, don’t dismiss the basic blended wines of a producer just because it’s more available and affordable than the single vineyards. And don’t think the single vineyard wines are the life-defining products of that winery. Plenty of winemakers have told me something similar: “of all my wines, I actually like my basic Willamette Valley Pinot Noir the most.

Just something to think about.

Wine Spectator: Willamette Valley Single Vineyards vs. Blends

Wine Searcher: When Pinot Noir isn’t Pinot Noir (a bit off topic from this lesson, but a fascinating read)