Those of us who care passionately about finding wine bargains have a guilty secret: Oregon wine.

 

          It’s not that Oregon wines aren’t outstanding, because they are. And it’s not that they don’t offer value, because they do. But it’s the value that comes from getting a $20-quality wine for $15 — a terrific deal, but not the perfect $10 wine we’re always looking for.

 

          Having said that, it’s difficult to pass up well-made Oregon wine. The state specializes in pinot noir and pinot gris, with a smattering of pinot blanc, riesling, gewürztraminer, and chardonnay. The best Oregon pinot noirs compare favorably with anything made in California’s Russian River Valley or in Burgundy, while Oregon pinot gris may be the best in the world — smoother and less medicinal than Italian pinot grigio, more sophisticated than pinot gris from Alsace and a better value than its California counterparts.

 

          But oh those prices. Eyrie Vineyards, the first Oregon winery to achieve international renown in the mid-1970s, sells its best pinot noirs for about $40 a bottle, and it’s not the most expensive winery in the state. This isn’t much by Napa standards, but it’s still pricey for those of us who don’t go in for barrel tastings. Even the entry-level wines — King Estates’ pinot gris, for example — start at $13 a bottle.

 

          Still, if you’re tired of the same old cabernet and chardonnay, consider Oregon (and if you can’t find what you want locally, remember that Texas is now a direct shipping state, and you can order directly from the winery):

 

          Erath Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc 2003 ($13). If this bottle was a couple of dollars cheaper, it might be the perfect white wine. It’s soft, but not sweet, and with plenty of fruit — wonderful with takeout Chinese as well as roast chicken or turkey.

 

Argyle Winery 1999 Brut Sparkling Wine ($22). Brut means dry, and this champagne-style wine (can’t be called champagne unless it’s made in ) certainly is. It’s well-made, stylish and pairs with food as well as with celebrations.

 

          King Estate Oregon Pinot Noir 2000 ($25). If a $25 wine can be a bargain, this is one. It compares favorably to much more expensive California and French vintages, but in a distinctively Oregonian way, with lots of fruit and smooth tannins.

 


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