The Best Willamette Valley Pinot Noir | Wine Enthusiast
Wine bottle illustration Displaying 0 results for
Suggested Searches
Articles & Content

The Best Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs to Drink Right Now

When you buy something through our link, we may earn a small commission. Wine Enthusiast does not accept money for editorial wine reviews. Read more about our policy.

Ask the average drinker in the United States about where the best American wine is made, and they might cite the states of California, Washington or New York. Oenophiles, of course, have long known that Oregon—and its Willamette Valley AVA, in particular—is a world-class destination for quality vino. But although Oregon vineyards can produce everything from excellent Chardonnay to stellar Pinot Gris and Riesling, Pinot Noir reigns supreme in Willamette Valley.

“Over the past several decades, Willamette Valley has become known as one of the very best places to grow and make Pinot Noir in the U.S.,” says Jim Gordon, senior tasting editor at Wine Enthusiast. “It’s often compared to Burgundy more than to California.”

It’s also a fantastic place to visit. Wine Enthusiast’s resident Oregon wine reviewer Michael Alberty recently shared some of the best Willamette Valley wineries to pop into when he’s in the area.

As for those sticking closer to home, a great bottle of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is a fantastic way to take your palate on a trip without ever setting foot in an airport. Whether you’re new to drinking from the region or have several bottles stashed in your cellar, here are some great picks—plus important intel about the area.

Where Is Willamette Valley?

Oregon’s largest AVA stretches over 100 miles, from the Columbia River in the north to the city of Eugene in the South. It was established in December 1983 and encompasses six smaller appellations, including Chehalem Mountains AVA, Dundee Hills AVA, McMinnville AVA, Ribbon Ridge AVA, Yamhill-Carlton District AVA and Eola-Amity Hills AVA. Today, there are more than 700 wineries in Willamette Valley.

Why Is Willamette Valley So Good for Pinot Noir?

The main reason that Willamette Valley produces such excellent Pinot Noir is the climate. The region is exposed to the Pacific Ocean and has a high latitude, helping it maintain a cooler, moderate climate compared to California’s warmer weather. The region is often compared to Burgundy, which is also well known for its Pinot Noir.

“Pinot Noir loves a cool climate,” says Gordon. Willamette Valley “doesn’t have as many hot and dry days as many parts of California. It has a colder winter. It has rainfall more like a continental climate in Burgundy, where you have some rain throughout the summer, so they don’t need irrigation as much as California usually.”

Michael Alberty, Wine Enthusiast writer at large and reviewer for Washington, Oregon and Canada, adds that the “diversity of soil types” in the large region also contributes to great wine. He agrees that climate, however, is a major influence.

“The climate is such that in many vintages, the grapes are in a race to ripen in time and that existence on the margins is what originally attracted pioneers like David Lett of the Eyrie Vineyards,” Alberty says.

“French wineries from Burgundy, including Domaine Drouhin and Louis Jadot, have invested in wineries in Willamette Valley beginning in the 80s,” adds Gordon. “So, there’s a lot of French influence now there, too.”

What Does Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Taste Like?

This can be difficult to generalize. Climates vary between appellations, plus every individual winemaker makes different choices, all of which can impact a wine’s final flavor. That said, with Willamette Valley Pinot Noir drinkers can typically expect “ripe fruit while still achieving elevated acidity,” Alberty says.

Many of these wines deliver complex flavors of fresh red fruits, oak and even earthy notes. “The Pinot Noirs of Willamette Valley are considered generally more delicate, more silky and not so much blatant fruit flavors, but more savory and earthy, with other interesting characteristics,” Gordon adds.

red wine glass

From the Shop

Find Your Wine a Home

Our selection of red wine glasses is the best way to enjoy the wine’s subtle aromas and bright flavors.

Best Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Bottles

Holocene 2022 Memorialis Pinot Noir (Yamhill-Carlton)

The Memorialis asks a rather provocative question—is the best Pinot Noir in Oregon being made in Milton-Freewater? 100% whole cluster fermented, this aromatic set of briary and brambly red fruit makes me want to dab it on my pulse points. Leathery tannins and crisp acidity join forces with tangy flavors of raspberries and rooibos tea with a lemon wedge. Enjoy 2024–2037. 97 points. Cellar Selection. — Michael Alberty

$69.95 Avalon Wine

Elk Cove 2021 Reserve Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley)

The Reserve is composed of the nine best barrels from Elk Cove’s estate plantings. It will require decanting in the short run and patience in the long run. Beautiful boysenberry, tangerine and anise-laced Thai basil aromas lead to flavors like tangy cranberry, raspberry and cinnamon. Drink 2025–2038. 96 points. Cellar Selection. — M.A.

$100 Elk Cove

Élevée Winegrowers 2021 Departure Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley)

Wherever this wine is departing to, I’m on board. A dazzling aromatic set of crushed pomegranate seeds, strawberries and sweet pea flowers starts the journey off right. Then, a lightning bolt of acidity propels sweet red cherry and bergamot tea flavors that last for a good long while. You need to be on this Pinot train. 96 points. Editor’s Choice. — M.A.

$100 Elevee Wines

Harper Voit 2019 Antiquum Vineyard Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley)

This wine is pure magic. It begins with a wondrous combination of electric currents of acidity and leathery tannins. The aromatic set is an umami showcase of raspberries, ginger, grilled tofu and seaweed salinity. Boysenberry, orange pith and sesame seed oil flavors demand an order of tuna belly sashimi. Drink now–2034. 95 points. — M.A.

$75 Harper Voit

Winderlea 2021 Winderlea Vineyard Pinot Noir (Dundee Hills)

This estate wine smells like a walk down a country lane in summer, with a bit of dust, earth and straw complementing wild blackberry and lavender aromas. Tart cherry juice and raspberry flavors unite with cinnamon and black tea notes, all supported by jangly acidity and silky tannins. 95 points. Editor’s Choice. — M.A.

$80 Winderlea

St. Innocent 2019 Temperance Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir (Eola-Amity Hills)

This wine is a testament to what happens when you match fruit from a great vineyard with a skilled winemaking hand. Raspberries, lilacs and blueberry honey form an aromatic Justice League, followed by similar flavors of raspberries, cacao nibs and lavender tea. The wine’s acidity is still kicking, which is what you will be doing to yourself if you don’t buy some. 95 points. Editor’s Choice. — M.A.

$55 St. Innocent Winery

LucidWild 2021 Chosen LucidWild Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir (Dundee Hills)

Bella Vida Vineyard in the Dundee Hills was recently renamed LucidWild. The new owner’s Chosen Pinot Noir represents the best barrels, blocks and clones of their vineyard. The wine’s aromas of strawberries, Stargazer lilies and vanilla make for a nice perfume. The Chosen is balanced, with bright raspberry, mineral and jasmine tea flavors. The texture is as smooth as percale sheets. 95 points. Editor’s Choice. — M.A.

$310 LucidWild Estate

Walnut Ridge 2022 Vieilles Vignes Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley)

The Vieilles Vignes offers dark raspberry and citrus aromas that are accompanied by notes of wet modeling clay and crunchy dried oak leaves. Velvety tannins and brisk acidity support flavors like Bing cherries, sweet tea and roasted portobello mushrooms. This would make a nice pairing for cassoulet or rabbit stew. 94 points. Editor’s Choice. — M.A.

$50 Vino Shipper

Evening Land 2022 Summum Pinot Noir (Eola-Amity Hills)

The newest Summum is a showstopper. Fresh, floral aromas of mainland roses and tropical plumeria flowers join together with tart red raspberry and roasted pork shoulder notes. A crisp mouthfeel and texture showcase flavors like Rainier cherries, lime and bittersweet dark chocolate. Pour this with grilled portobello mushrooms and Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.” 96. points. Editor’s Choice. — M.A.

$100 Evening Land Vineyards


Where Can You Buy Willamette Valley Pinot Noir?

The West Coast of the U.S. has the best selection when it comes to finding boutique bottles, but most of the U.S. and even other countries now stock up on Oregon wines. You can also buy them online from a winery’s website or other online wine retailers.

What Is the Difference Between California and Oregon Pinot Noir?

There are a lot of factors involved that determine differences between the two, but Willamette Valley tends to produce higher acid Pinot Noir with moderate alcohol, which can be difficult to create in the warmer climate of California, Alberty says.

What States Makes the Best Pinot Noir?

In addition to Oregon, California is well-known for its Pinot Noir. Notable Pinot Noir-producing areas include the Anderson Valley, Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands and Santa Rita Hills

Why You Should Trust Us

All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.