Founder, Jim Bernau, purchased the Estate site in 1983 and cleared away the old pioneer plum orchard hidden in scotch broom and blackberry vines. He planted Pinot Noir (Pommard and Wadenswil clones), Chardonnay (Dijon and Espiguette) and Pinot Gris. In the beginning he hand watered the vines with thousands of feet of hose.
Numerous classes at UC Davis, and seminars from here to France, sharpened Jim’s viticultural skills and in 1989 he was ready to build his dream--a world class winery in the Willamette Valley-and make cool-climate varietals, especially Pinot Noir, in sufficient quantities to be served and sold in the best restaurants and bottle shops in the world.
A combination of determination and extraordinary people has brought Willamette Valley Vineyards from an idea to one of the region’s leading wineries, earning the title ”One of America’s Great Pinot Noir Producers,” from Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
Our approach is to grow, by hand, the highest quality fruit using careful canopy management, and to achieve wines that are truly expressive of the varietal and the place where they are grown. Since we ferment and barrel each vineyard lot separately (sometimes as small as two barrels) we can save the best barrels for single vineyard bottlings and Signature Cuvee.
Our stylistic emphasis is on pure varietal fruit characters, with attention to depth, richness of mouthfeel, and balance. The wines are truly a collaborative effort of the entire vineyard and winemaking staff.
The winery and underground cellar are carved into the top of an ancient volcanic flow, the soil red from its oxidized iron content and well-drained. This unique terroir is similar to the red clay soil found in the Grand Cru Pinot Noir vineyards of Romanee-st-Vivant in Burgundy, where the ”soil gives France’s most perfumed, satiny, expensive wine” (Hugh Johnson, World Atlas of Wine).