Willamette Valley Pinot Gris: top producers and bottles to know

Willamette Valley Pinot Gris
King Estate buildings and vineyards, to the southwest of Eugene city, Oregon

While it doesn’t enjoy the profile of Willamette Valley’s renowned Pinot Noir or rising star Chardonnay, Pinot Gris remains an important wine for the region’s growers and producers.

The acknowledged founding father of Willamette Valley, the late David Lett of The Eyrie Vineyards, planted varieties based not on a Burgundian model but rather on what made climatic sense. Pinot Gris was a big part of those early calculations. In his 1992 speech entitled ‘The Emergence of Pinot Gris’, Lett joked that the variety was still emerging at the time, recalling the slow sales that Pinot Gris found in the early days at Eyrie.

Scroll down to see Michael Alberty’s selection of 23 top Willamette Valley Pinot Gris wines

He claimed to have bartered much of his annual 25-case production from 1971 to 1981 with regional salmon fishermen, given the tough time he had selling it.

Lett was responsible for America’s first commercial Pinot Gris. Bringing ‘about 160’ cuttings north from the University of California, Davis variety collection, these were among Eyrie’s original vineyard rows. There are now a few Pinot Gris wines coming from Oregon’s more southern wine-growing regions, primarily the Umpqua and Rogue Valleys, but only a handful. It is the Willamette Valley leading the charge.

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