Situated to the southwest of Portland, Oregon, the Willamette Valley produces arguably the best Pinot Noir in the United States. Smaller wineries are proving year after year that their goods can stand up to some of Burguny's best. Almost half of Willamette's vineyards are planted with Pinot Noir. Chardonnay takes second place, but will soon be overtaken by the other Pinot -- Pinot Gris. Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer are also planted in lesser quantities.
Willamette Valley stretches 100 miles long between the Coastal and Cascade Mountains, from Washington County along the Columbia River all the way down to Eugene. The dominant soil type is a volcanic soil, which imbues Pinot Noir with a subtle ash on the palate. Winters are moderate and the summers are warm, but the wineries are very careful about when they pick their grapes. They must wait long enough for the grapes to fully ripen, but they have to make sure they pick the grapes before the autumn rains arrive.
Applications have been submitted to divide portions of the Willamette Valley into 6 separate AVAs. The applications are still under review, but expect some changes in the near future.