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Northwest Wines: Oregon remains focused on pinot noir

It’s been more than a half-century since pinot noir was planted in the Willamette Valley and launched Oregon’s modern wine industry.

Some 50 years later, pinot noir remains the grape of choice for the majority of Oregon winemakers. In fact, the suave red grape most commonly associated with France’s Burgundy region dominates the landscape, with more than 60 percent of the state’s acreage dedicated to it.

And while the heart of the Oregon pinot noir industry is focused on the northern Willamette Valley, pinot noir also is grown in other areas of Oregon, including the Umpqua Valley, Rogue Valley and Columbia Gorge.

Here are several delicious examples of pinot noir we’ve tasted recently. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.

Argyle Winery 2013 Artisan Series Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $40: This reserve-level red comes with a dark and brooding nose of currant, plum and cherry with truffle-like earthiness and molasses. The drink offers more ripe red fruit with strawberry, pie cherry filling and sweet herbs. Its round and delicious structure brings a juicy finish of cranberry and raspberry. (13.5% alc.)

Panther Creek Cellars 2013 Fir Crest Vineyard Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, $45: Aromatics lead with intense hints of dark cherry, black currant, exotic spices and minty chocolate chip. Inside are dense black cherry flavors, supported by moderate tannins, pomegranate acidity and a farewell of saddle leather, cocoa powder and Montmorency cherry. (13.1% alc.)

Sharecropper’s Wine Co. 2014 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $21: The 2014 fruit-forward vintage helped allows for a darker expression of pinot noir. Black cherry, Marionberry, bittersweet chocolate, toast and earthy aromas lead to delicious and dense flavors of black currant and dried cherry, backed by boysenberry, pomegranate and caramel. (14.1% alc.)

Archery Summit 2013 Red Hills Estate Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $85: This begins with complex aromas of boysenberry, strawberry-rhubarb jam, red currant and moist earth. On the palate, bright flavors of strawberry, Montmorency cherry, cranberry and milk chocolate are backed by juicy acidity that lifts that fruit and sets the table for a finish of plum, pomegranate and fresh leather. (13% alc.)

La Crema Winery 2013 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $30: This offers something for everyone with its aromas of dark cherry, dusty blueberry, dried strawberry and vanilla, backed by touches of brown sugar, saddle leather, coffee and pomegranate. On the palate are opulent flavors of black currant, plum and blueberry that lead to a chocolaty mouth feel. Its long finish of pomegranate and cherry picks up a pinch of fresh herbs. (13.5% alc.)

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2013 Pishon Bloc Pinot Noir, Umpqua Valley, $34: Mouthwatering aromas of dark strawberry, cherry juice, red currant and cranberry give way to a remarkably creamy and elegant entry with black cherry and more strawberry. Yet there’s complexity as Montmorency cherry acidity and plum skin tannins create a gradual rise to the body. Notes of young leather and caramel in the finish give it pleasing breadth. (13.6% alc.)

Ponzi Vineyards 2014 Tavola Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $25: The nose offers strawberry/rhubarb compote, boysenberry and cola with a dusting of baking spices and a pinch of fresh mint. On the palate, it’s rich and graceful leading with flavors of dark strawberry and cherries. Elegant tannins and plum juice arrive on the midpoint as cranberry and cocoa powder combine for pleasing length. (13.7% alc.)

Elk Cove Vineyards 2013 Five Mountain Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $60: This starts with a nose of cordial cherry, strawberry/rhubarb compote, cranberry and fresh caramel. Its structure is smooth and supple with a pleasing approach of Bing cherry, plum and pomegranate. Support from milk chocolate hints at the 10 months in 40 percent new French oak barrels as mild tannins make for a silky finish. (13% alc.)

Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at