Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Wine >
Aug 9, 2007 02:21 PM

Willamette Valley

What are the best reds under $20 from this region?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Wines from this region have steadily increased in price over the past years.

    The only quality under $20 from this region that comes to mind is Rex Hill. Otherwise, expect to pay (in CA) around $25 and up

    1. The ones you like the most!

      Seriously, it's a matter of individual taste, more than anything else. I might love (e.g.) Benton Lane Pinot Noir, while someone else might think it's not heavy-bodied enough . . .

      8 Replies
        1. re: drewames03

          My OWN personal favorite reds from Willamette are produced from Pinot Noir.

          Benton Lane has, over the years, made many vintages of very delicious, medium-light to medium bodied Pinot Noirs that started out around $12 and have steadily creeped upward in price -- its WSRP is now $25. (Think Saintsbury Garnet in terms of general style, if you are familiar with that wine, as opposed to their "regular" Carneros bottling.)

          I can't think of ANY wines I'd suggest that are UNDER $20 . . .

          1. re: zin1953

            Yes, emphasis on YOUR taste. Sheesh. Blanket statements such as "I can't think of ANY wines I'd suggest that are UNDER $20" don't serve this board or the OP well if people are asking for and being open to suggestions.

            1. re: vinosnob

              zin1953 can make his own response to this, but my own familiarity with Willamette Pinot is also that there are very few, if any, under $20 that are commendable to those with a discerning palate. I recommended a couple, elsewhere in this topic, but that is in the context of trying to help someone whose palate I don't know and who is likely to have a less experienced comparative perspective. vin1953 brings some serious credentials to these discussions but his experience puts him in a place where he isjust being honest. I'd modify the statement to say that "for an experienced Pinot taster, I wouldn't really suggest anything from the Willamette ValleyI think they'd really like for under $20" either. Better?

              1. re: Midlife

                agree. as i referenced below, the willamette red wines, at present, get remarkably better above $20 in the red category. the OP referenced "red" and not just pinot. although the region is known for its pinot, i think the willamette is making some very good syrah as well.

                that being said, the wines referenced below are very acceptable for $18, but go to $26 and it's eons beyond.

                perhaps zin1953 wasn't saying that there wouldn't be any under $20s anywhere; i read it as zin1953 was referencing the willamette region specifically and credentialed or not, it is a point well made and founded.

              2. re: vinosnob


                When Benton Lane was $12-13, it was one of the all-time great deals. Now, it's $25 and the deal isn't so great.

                Once can only speak truthfully from one's own experience. Prior to making the above post which -- for some unknown reason -- seems to have rankled you, I ran searches on winery websites for about 10 minutes just to see if I was perhaps forgetting about some wine that was under $20. Ten minutes is not by any means an exhaustive, thorough search; I am not claiming that it is. But the fact remains, between my memory and my web search, I couldn't find anything that was under $20 WSRP.

                Now, most of the table wines I drink, including many out of my cellar, are wines that I pay/paid under $20 for. (There is a substantial portion of my cellar, perhaps 35-40%, that cost more.) But just as I spend -- willingly spend -- more than $20 for good bottles of Champagne, Porto, Madeira, and Sherry, so too do I willingly spend more than $20 to buy some good Pinot from the Willamette Valley.

                The situation is not too dissimilar to Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It is certainly possible to find Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon under $20. But are they really that good? In the year 2007, I'd venture to say -- as a blanket statement -- the sub-$20 Napa Cabernets are probably not as good as those which sell for, let's arbitrarily say $25-65. (At some point, the price goes through the roof, and the price no longer reflects absolute quality but rather perceived scarcity and status.)

                But the wineries of the Willamette Valley are much than the Napa Valley stalwarts like Beaulieu, Beringer, Charles Krug, or Louis M. Martini. Costs are higher, and Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (generally) has lower yields than Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown on the Napa Valley floor. Thus, it is exceedingly difficult to produce red wines in Willamette with a winery suggested retail price of under $20.

                Just my 2¢ -- probably worth far less . . . .

                1. re: zin1953

                  The issue I’m simply trying to raise is that zin says there isn’t “ANY wine”.

                  Again, I don’t think a post like that reflects the spirit of this board nor is it helpful to the OP. Obviously, everyone has their personal tastes (especially with something as subjective as wine), but the board serves a wine-enthused community and the purpose is the exchange of information.

                  The irony is that if you actually read my original post, I’m agreeing with what everyone has said i.e. finding a decent wine under $20 is difficult and you would be better off spending a few more dollars to have a wider variety of quality juice.

                  1. re: vinosnob

                    vinosnob: >>> The issue I’m simply trying to raise is that zin says there isn’t “ANY wine”. <<<

                    zin1953: >>> I can't think of ANY wines I'd suggest that are UNDER $20 . . . <<<

                    At no time did I say there aren't any wines under $20. I said I can't think of any I'd recommend. To my way of thinking, that's two very different things.

                    Sorry if that doesn't make any sense . . .

        2. There is a Pinot, called A to Z , which is a blend of juice from something like 16 vineyard sources. It's a good value for under $20. Domaine Drouhin (one of the best there) makes an entry level label called Cloudline, that is also a good value under $20. Wllakenzie Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is generally just over $20 but is a good example of Oregon Pinot at a reasonable price. Just know that most typical Oregon Pinots are lighter in style than most Californians.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Midlife

            we're drinking the '05 CLOUDLINE right now. not bad. not as good as the '04. IMHO, the quality of the willamettes get extraordinarily better from just over $20 to $40. it's a better good price range for this area, but here are a couple others worth trying:

            - ANDREW RICH 2004 TABULA RASA RED (screwcap) $18.00

            just over $20, but worth it:
            - ANDREW RICH 2004 SYRAH $22
            - J. DAAN 2005 PINOT NOIR $22

            1. re: revets2

              thanks guys. $20 was just a price point. i have no problem going over $20, but i would ideally like to keep it around $20. i am inexperienced with oregon wines, especially pinot.

            2. re: Midlife

              I don't think Cloudline is related to Domaine Drouhin.

              1. re: The Chowfather AKA sobe

                Au contraire - Cloudline is produced by Drouhin's importer/distributor with Veronique Drouhin-Boss as consulting winemaker.


                1. re: Frodnesor

                  Not sure I'm ready to concede.
                  Midlife said "Domaine Drouhin (one of the best there) makes an entry level label called Cloudline"

                  Cloudline is a new winery from Oregon's Willamette Valley, owned by prominent wine importer Dreyfus Ashby. The first vintage of the wine was made for Cloudline at Domaine Drouhin by Veronique Drouhin-Boss in Oregon. Dreyfus Ashby imports and distributes Joseph Drouhin and Domaine Drouhin wines.

                  The company leaned heavily on their connections with Oregon growers and winemakers and had the final blend supervised by Veronique Drouhin-Boss, the force behind Domaine Drouhin Oregon. But the Cloudline folks want to make it clear that this is not a second label of DDO, and anyone familiar with both wines would agree they are unrelated


                  1. re: The Chowfather AKA sobe

                    Fair nuff. I only saw your post saying there was no relation (which there is), not the original post calling Cloudline a label of DDO. Though I suspect there are some DDO grapes (among others) going in there.

            3. Unfortunately for you out-of-staters the best under $20 pinots sell out quickly in the oregon (mainly Portland) market and then you're all left with A to Z. Sorry bout that. You'll just have to visit. Pappas (Boedecker's 2nd label), Sass, JK Carrier's Provacateur (at $24) are good ones to look out for, but I don't know if you can find them outside Portland. As to the Willamette Valley Syrah option, I only know of one winery making syrah from all Willamette Valley fruit and that is Cristom. Most syrah comes from Southern Oregon or Eastern OR/WA where it's hot enough to ripen. Abacela makes some good southern oregon syrah, their 03 upmqua Cuvee is marked down to about $15 now if you can track some down.

              3 Replies
              1. re: nagrom

                Unfortunately, wine prices throughout North America are spiralling upwards at an alarming rate. I live in BC, a region unfamiliar to many who live anywhere else because of the small-scale production. Used to be I could buy decent BC wines for under $20. Now, especially with reds, that has become increasingly hard to do. The province's draconian liquor taxes do not help matters.

                I have family in the Willamette Valley, and I have gone tasting/touring in the area a few times now. My overwhelming impression is that the best Oregon wines, heck, even decent Oregon wines, are more than $20. I like the Pinots produced by Ken Wright, Domaine Serene, and Cristom; all eclipse $20 (and most from those wineries eclipse $40). Oregon is catching up to California, or so it seems. Domaine Serene, who aspire to make expensive wines from what I can tell, just released Oregon's first $200 wine, called Monogram.

                I may be wrong, but the inflation rate for wine prices in Oregon in the past 10 years seems to have surpassed even California. I think Washington State actually has better buys than either Oregon or California, but there too prices are on the steady upward march.

                Now, why can our friends in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and most of the rest of Europe enjoy good quality wines for under $10 US while the same prospect seems nearly unattainable in North America? Supply and demand, I assume? (smaller supply in North America?) Less history of fine wine here, therefore higher tolerance for premium prices? No state subsidies for wineries? Who knows?

                1. re: nagrom

                  indeed. BOEDECKER makes terrific wine and i am happy to hear of a second label.

                  CRISTOM is not the only syrah from northern oregon. excellent syrah grapes from the columbia which has a drier microclimate than the willamette are being used by ANDREW RICH, DOMINIO IV, and J. DAAN. they're terrific. VAN DEUZER makes a syrah from the willamette. ELEMENTAL CELLARS also has a single vineyard willamette syrah grown in in yamhill county. the vineyard, deux vert, apparently has a terrific microclimate for syrah. but overall, agree, willamette is too cool for the ripening requirement for good syrah.

                  1. re: revets2

                    Greetings from Portland. Willamette Valley is a vast area and so hard to generalize. A number of microclimates as described above, the premier pinot region being Yamhill County. When the OP asked about a red, how could I imagine anything but pinot as the best example of what we offer? Unfortunately for out-of-staters as a fellow resident alluded to, most of the sub-$20 pinots are gobbled up locally, and for some of the smaller wineries, sold on-site by the case.

                    Come visit and get some for yourself!

                    (It's spelled "Van Duzer", a significant historical OR person.)

                2. A to Z Pinot Noir is great as well as Adelsheim Pinot Noir - it's closer to $25 though but REALLY worth it.