Pinot Noir is known to be a notoriously fickle grape for winemaking, but when growing conditions are just right, this grape can express a range of flavors and produce world-class wines. Oregon’s Willamette Valley is among the few regions that are known for producing top-notch Pinot Noir, in part due to cooling breezes from the Pacific Ocean, as well as its prime blend of mineral-rich soil and an elongated growing season.
Unlike California Pinot Noirs, Pinots from Willamette are light in color with deep raspberry and cherry notes and have a clean and delicate palate. With such distinct and in-demand qualities, finding a “bargain” pinot from the region can be a daunting task.
We asked six sommeliers and wine pros to share their favorite bargain Pinot Noirs to help narrow down the options. Here are their suggestions:
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The Best Bargain Oregon Pinot Noirs
- Adelsheim Vineyards Breaking Ground
- Elk Cove Vineyards Estate Willamette Valley
- Soléna Estate Grande Cuvée
- Tavola Pinot Noir
- Evolution Pinot Noir
- Ayres Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
- Stoller Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
- Primarius Pinot Noir
- O.P.P. (Other People’s Pinot)
“Willamette has led the way in Oregon winemaking with the highest standards and sustainable practices. There are plenty of producers that come to my mind, but these are a few of my favorites that should retail for around $30: The 2015 Adelsheim Vineyards Breaking Ground Pinot Noir from the Chehalem Mountains showcases a great texture with plenty of fruitiness and spices. The 2020 Elk Cove Vineyards Estate Willamette Valley is a very well-balanced, full-body pinot with lots of red fruits and violet notes. Lastly, the 2020 Soléna Estate Grande Cuvée is another full-bodied wine that showcases lots of dark fruit and leather notes.” —Nial Rhys Harris Garcia, beverage director and sommelier, The Conrad Hotel, Washington, D.C.
”Winemaker Sarah Cabot hit a sweet spot with Primarius Pinot Noir. At $21.99 it’s a great example of what Pinot Noir can do because it sits in between a juicy California pinot and a classic Bourgogne. A sure fire crowd pleaser.” —Kilolo Strobert, owner, Fermented Grapes, Brooklyn
“One of my favorite estates for Pinot Noir is Winderlea in Willamette Valley, specifically Dundee Hills, where Vitis vinifera was first planted and overlooks the Willamette River. Willamette [produces] world-class, domestic Pinot Noir that goes toe to toe with premier cuvées in Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuit. The Cascade Mountains & Coast Range provide protection because, after all, Pinot Noir is a delicate and temperamental grape to grow. It’s a region with limited production from several parcels carved up much like Burgundy within Winderlea as well as Shea Vineyard and McMinnville outside of Dundee Hills — all with biodynamic farming. Unlike many domestic New World pinots, the oak is refined and softer from French oak barrels that aren’t completely new for 10 months and a year in bottle before release. $55 to $65 is a steal for a wine with only about 500 cases produced in this bottling.” —Nicole Erica, freelance sommelier, Wine Culture with Nicole, Baltimore
“Let’s talk about boxed wine: Evolution Pinot Noir from Sokol Blosser! Yes, it’s available in bottle and box, but it’s so affordable, just for the larger format. Sokol Blosser has always produced great quality Pinot Noirs, and this lower-entry label is a perfect bargain buy.” —Matthew Demma, sommelier, Washington, D.C.
“I have a few in mind, but one stands out in particular: Ayres Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. The current vintage is 2021, and at $26 a bottle, it’s a solid, well-made expression of Willamette Pinot Noir. I especially love the finesse and elegance with Ayers vintage after vintage – brambly fruit, tart cherry, and floral, with vibrant acidity. It’s a great value for the consumer, and for a sommelier, it’s a versatile food-pairing wine for your list that you can feel good placing for around $50. Since 2006, winemaker Brad McLeroy, has crafted the wines at Ayers and is passionate and congenial. Perhaps having worked in both retail and distribution has led him to produce exceptional wines at great prices.” —Jayme Henderson, sommelier, The Storm Cellar, Hotchkiss, Colo.
“Let me be clear: Pinot Noir does not come cheap. It is a complex and difficult grape to grow, and for that, prices can be high. This Stoller Family Estate flagship wine is a great value for an estate Dundee Hills Pinot Noir. It is made from all the different Pinot Noir clones and blocks on their property. The wine spends one year in neutral oak to retain the bright cherry bomb characteristic. Perfumed red fruits (dark cherry) plus baking spices and earthiness, for all the classic Pinot Noir markers.” —Brianne Cohen, sommelier and wine educator, Los Angeles
“We’ve been lucky enough this past year to host a handful of recipients from the Urban Grape Wine Studies Award for People of Color. One of the big aspects of their time with us is helping introduce us to BIPOC wine producers. André Hueston Mack is a former sommelier who was able to use the relationships he built selling wine to now source grapes from those same friends to make really affordable and delicious wine out of Oregon. His O.P.P. (Other People’s Pinot) retails for around $20, and for the money really cannot be beat.” —Laura Staley, wine director, Row 34, Boston