Pinot Meunier Archives - Please The Palate
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Of course when you think about the Willamette Valley in Oregon, you likely think of it as a land of Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir definitely reigns in the region and as a likely partner, Chardonnay is also planted and well-regarded in the Willamette Valley. But, the Willamette Valley is far more diverse than you might think it is and there are a number of producers who are working with other grape varieties and these grapes are well-suited to the region. I explored some of these grapes in my column in the Napa Valley Register, which you can read here.
Say ‘Napa’ and people think Cabernet Sauvignon. Say ‘Burgundy’ and people think Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Say ‘Piedmont’ and people think Nebbiolo. Say ‘Oregon’ and people think Pinot Noir.
It is easy to think of the Willamette Valley in Oregon as one large Pinot Noir-producing region. After all, of the 24,436 acres* of vineyards, 16,536 acres* are planted to Pinot Noir. At the same time Pinot Noir was planted in the 1970s, Chardonnay was also planted. The Willamette Valley shares the same latitude as Burgundy, so it makes sense that if Pinot Noir is suited for the Willamette Valley, so is Chardonnay. However, there are only 1,941 acres* planted to Chardonnay.
When I tasted the Irvine & Roberts Pinot Meunier last month, I was smitten and selected it as the Please The Palate Wine of the Week. But, I loved their Chardonnays and the Pinot Noirs, as well as the story of owners Dionne and Doug Irvine, which I wrote about in the Napa Valley Register and am sharing here. When thinking about wines from Oregon, the Willamette Valley is what first comes to mind. But located in Oregon’s southernmost grape-growing region in Oregon, near the California border, is the Rogue Valley.
There are three grapes grown in Champagne but most people are aware of two of the grapes - Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The third grape is Pinot Meunier, a grape that gets less acclaim. I have tasted a few Champagnes that are predominantly, or exclusively, Pinot Meunier, but I had never had a still red wine made from 100% Pinot Meunier until now. And that is why the Irvine & Roberts 2016 Pinot Meunier from the Rouge Valley in Oregon is the Please The Palate pick of the week. Pinot Meunier is a clonal mutation of the Pinot group, which means that it is related to Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and others. Pinot Meunier is considered a quiet workhorse in Champagne and is not as challenging to grow as Pinot Noir. It is also a rather "ugly duckling" in the vineyard. The vines can look sickly at first glance as the underside of the vines' leaves are covered with a white fur. This is what inspired the name, Meunier, which is French for "miller".