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 from 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 diverse, 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.