Vino File: Willamette wines

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

You might not have realized it at the time, but you've probably visited - virtually, at least - the Willamette Valley. The rainy region in western Oregon is recreated in some of the scenes from the "Oregon Trail" computer game.

Nowadays, though, you should think of it for other reasons: As Oregon's premier wine-producing region.

Faye Muncie, owner of Hausfrau Haven wine shop in German Village, helped Alive get up to speed on this domestic-wine-producing powerhouse.

"There are no mass-produced wines in this region - it's too small," Muncie said. "So everything is kind of handmade. And 20 bucks is inexpensive for Willamette wine."

Still, the valley encompasses more than two-thirds of Oregon's wineries, and its maritime climate is well-suited for growing the pinot noir grapes the region is known for, according to the Willamette Valley Winery Association.

Here, we take a closer look at three pinot products from this valley.

Belle Vallee Pinot Noir (2007)

Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cost: $20

Flavors: Earthy, mushroom flavors with berry fruits and cola tastes at the core

Pairs well with: Lamb, grilled salmon or hard cheeses

Faye Muncie's advice: "It's a good wine, and pinot noir is the main variety in the Willamette Valley."

Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Gris (2008)

Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cost: $20

Flavors: Tropical fruit and mineral tastes with a clean, refreshing finish since it's aged in stainless steel

Pairs well with: Light appetizers or chicken- and fish-based dishes; great solo

Faye Muncie's advice: "The nicest thing about a pinot gris are the aromatics. Tropical fruit flavors, melons, citrusy. And it's the perfect porch wine."

St. Innocent Freedom Hill Pinot Blanc (2007)

Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cost: $22

Flavors: Stone fruits, like peaches and apricots; medium-bodied, with a long finish

Pairs well with: Chicken, fish or light pastas

Faye Muncie's advice: "This would be a good salad wine. It's hard to find wine to go with salad."