Portland is a great gateway for the Pacific Northwest beverage arts culture. Always a smaller gateway when compared to San Francisco or Seattle—but that does not matter. And in many ways it is not just a gateway but a center for the beverage arts that cannot be compared to another center; simply because there is nothing as comparable.
Consider Portland as a staging to Willamette Valley and the northerly wine countries of Northern Oregon also has the highest number of breweries than any other city in the world (40). Portland has the highest per capita consumption of saké in the U.S. Portland also has a very active distilling communities as well—at least 15 distilleries from Whiskey, Vodka, Grappa, Brandy to Gin and more.
Portland gets some credit for coffee and unfortunately the lion’s share goes to Seattle—Portland’s coffee culture is just as intense as Seattle and the best known is Stumptown—a multi-mini coffee and espresso house. There are other producers as well and the excellence and obsession on roasting profile, organic, direct purchase from coffee producers is a hallmark in the City of Roses.
The Willamette Valley is very close to Portland—Willamette is a collection of smaller sub-AVAs:
- Chehelam Mountains
- Dundee Hills
- Eola-Amity Hills
- Ribbon Ridge
The Willamette Valley in terms of scale is a small region producing Pinot Noir with elegance, grace and a bounty of terroir. This is a little valley that could and did. Willamette Valley is a very northerly and westerly region where Pinot Noir has found a great home or a home was found for this very unique signature of Pinot Noir. Have visited, walked the land and with pruner in hand put the theoretical in to practice. Willamette Valley has a very small per acre or hectare production level than other wine regions around the world.
While this is a very northerly and westerly wine grape growing region—challenged by temperature—yields might be low but the promise of challenge does promote excellence in bottle to wine glass. Oregon has worked extremely hard to compete and highlight their wines and Pinot Noir is an especially difficult varietal not only to grow but to serve up to the world of wine drinkers.
Willamette Valley growers are still expanding the current acreage / hectarage but also giving depth and breadth to clonal selection and expression.
The example I point to working hard is the promotion and place for Pinot Noir in Oregon is Oregon Pinot Camp and IPNC International Pinot Noir Celebration.
Oregon wineries are not only growing Pinot Noir but also a wide range of varietals:
Auxerrois, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gamay, Gewürztraminer, Grüner Veltliner, Malbec, Merlot, Müller-Thurgau, Muscat Canelli, Petit Verdot, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Tempranillo, Tocai Friulano, and Viognier—to name a few.
Portland as a base camp is a great place to start a great food, wine, beer, saké and spirits journey. The City of Roses has wondrous expressions in both restaurant, food cart / truck culture—no better pairing than it’s own beverage arts culture and outstanding food.
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