Tasty Pinots from Oregon

5 mins read

By Celia Strong

Well, it seems that the holiday season is creeping up on us. Again. And that means we have to start thinking about appropriate wines for all the occasions that come over the next couple of months. 

The good news is that we get to try more new wines, and even get an extra glass or two (or bottle or two). 

Every year, it’s always a big, stressful decision. If we have choices ready for us, maybe some of that stress can be gone. 

For our wines this week, we’re going to Oregon, the Land of Pinots. That means mostly Pinot Noir, which is always an excellent choice for holiday meals. But, we will also discuss Pinot Gris, which is also an excellent choice, just for different reasons. And, for some of our meals, rosé wines from Pinot Noir. Hopefully, we remember some tidbits from previous holiday lessons and we can quickly review. 

Pinot Noir is a noble variety. It produces all the great red wines of France’s Burgundy region. 

Pinot Noir grapes, though, can be difficult to grow. They are susceptible to vineyard diseases and like to ripen in cooler climates where they can hang on their vines longer and develop more flavors.  

Oregon has soils and climates that are very close to those in Burgundy, so it is a perfect source for good Pinot Noir wines. Unfortunately, Oregon producers and their customers are aware of the quality of these wines which means, for the most part, they can be more expensive. 

Oregon Pinot Noirs are known for their cranberry and earth characteristics. But, they are also known for their black cherries, red cherries, strawberries, currants, plums, roses, black pepper, coffee and truffles. The cranberry is indicative of their slightly higher levels of acidity, compared to California Pinot Noirs, and the earthiness always makes them go so well with foods. 

Pinot Gris is one of the other Pinot grapes. Even though it is barely grown in Burgundy, it is one of Oregon’s most planted white varieties.

Being related to Pinot Noir, it, too, does really well in this state’s soils and climates. 

These wines are labeled as Pinot Gris because with these soils and climates they resemble the wines of Alsace more than those of Italy, where they’re called Pinot Grigio. 

These wines are, generally, medium to full bodied, rich, smooth, dry but not astringent, with floral and mineral characteristics with apple, pear, light lemon, milk and cream notes, too. 

Firesteed Wine Estates produces terrific versions of both these varieties. With its first vintage in 1993, Firesteed has sought to make premium quality wines that are still affordable. 

Pinot family grapes being what they are, Firesteed growers and winemakers have learned to adapt to the needs of their grapes and wines. The Oregon winery had the first sustainability program to be certified by the International Office of Biological Control.  

Firesteed makes several Pinot Noir wines, including an Oregon appellation. It also produces a Willamette Valley appellation. 

For this wine, they select grapes from several vineyards in Willamette. The wine is brimming with red fruit and baking spices aromas and flavors, along with cedar and earth notes. It is bold and beautifully balanced. And, it is aged in French oak barrels for about 18 months. For $8.99. (No, not a typo!)

Firesteed Pinot Gris is a secret gem. 

Also blended with grapes from several vineyards, this wine is medium bodied with true varietal aromas and flavors. Baked apples, pears and pear blossoms, melons, jasmine flowers and minerality bulge out of your glass. It bulges with texture, which makes it pair exceptionally well with food, and finishes with a bright acidity. For $9.99. 

Only one question remains. What happened to expensive Oregon Pinot Noirs? Especially when they are from the Willamette Valley and not just generic Oregon grapes? Do we really care? Here are two wonderful and affordable Oregon wines that we can drink as often as we please. Guess Firesteed did their job. And we win. 


Celia Strong works at Bill’s Liquor & Fine Wines on Lady’s Island.

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