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Willamette Valley Vineyards
October 18, 2022 | Willamette Valley Vineyards

Harvest 2022 at Willamette Valley Vineyards

With pickers gathering clusters in the vineyards and bins of fruit making their way to our Salem Hills production facility, Willamette Valley Vineyards is bringing in the biggest vintage in the company’s history.

Not only is the fruit plentiful, the quality of the fruit is indicating an excellent vintage for 2022.

Oregon Wine Enthusiasts gathered around several bins of Pinot Noir grapes at Bernau Estate Vineyards for the first pick of the 2022 harvest. These Pinot Noir grapes will eventually make sparkling wines to be sold at Domaine Willamette.
Oregon Wine Enthusiasts gathered around several bins of Pinot Noir grapes at Bernau Estate Vineyards for the first pick of the 2022 harvest. These Pinot Noir grapes will eventually make sparkling wines to be sold at Domaine Willamette.

“The grapes are looking and tasting amazing and I am really excited for the quality of wine we will produce,” said Assistant Winemaker Brandon Shelby.

Harvest is an exciting time every year, but this year we are delighted with the results. Following a late frost in April and a cool spring, our vineyards experienced ideal growing conditions this summer and vineyard crews began harvesting fruit in late September. 

Harvest started with early picks of Pinot Noir at our Bernau Estate Vineyard in Oregon's Dundee Hills. The first pick was dedicated to sparkling wines. These wine grapes have higher acidity levels that give our sparkling wines the structure to age for years and the ability to remain bright after secondary fermentation.

Bernau Estate Vineyard’s lower elevation at 280 to 300 feet off the valley floor allows for the fruit to ripen earlier than higher elevation sites such as Elton Vineyard, Tualatin Estate Vineyard, Loeza Vineyard and finally the Estate in the Salem Hills, where the grapes will ripen towards the end of the growing season. 

The Estate Vineyard is traditionally one of the last sites to be harvested due to the cooler weather in the Salem Hills as well as the vineyard’s ability to let the fruit hang a bit longer for sugar and flavor development.

Willamette Valley Vineyards Viticulturist, Clay Wesson cutting a bunch of grapes at the Beanau Estate Vineyards
Viticulturist, Clay Wesson

Flowering took place in the vineyard in mid-July, a signal to the vineyard crew that the 2022 harvest would take place later than previous vintages. Healthy vine development continued through the summer and a warm, first half of October gave the vineyard crew great weather for picking. The warmer dry weather also allowed for planting cover crops, which help preserve overall vine health and sustain future yields.

“It was a nervous start to the year due to the freeze in April that burned some primary buds,” said Clay Wesson, Willamette’s Viticulturist. “As the year progressed and the warmer weather came in, new shoots grew around the damaged buds, allowing for the growth necessary for the grapes to develop. This is turning out to be a great vintage.” 

Brandon is celebrating his 19th harvest at Willamette this year. He said harvest appeals to him in almost all aspects, including receiving grapes for the sparkling wine program, watching fermentation and pressing off our Pinot Noir before laying it to rest in the barrel.

“Still, it’s always an amazing feeling when we finally get the last of the grapes in the door for the vintage,” he said.


Time Posted: Oct 18, 2022 at 10:02 AM Permalink to Harvest 2022 at Willamette Valley Vineyards Permalink
Willamette Valley Vineyards

Orphaned Owls Find a Safe Home in Our Estate Vineyards

Showing dark eyes peeking from buff-colored faces, four orphaned juvenile owls recently found new homes in our vineyards as part of an 11-year partnership with Cascades Raptor Center of Eugene, Oregon.

The birds represented the 66th, 67th, 68th and 69th orphaned juvenile owls that Cascades Raptor Center has released in our vineyards to help further the center's work to protect and rehabilitate bird populations that are at risk of going extinct.

The owls took up residence in nesting boxes at Willamette Valley Vineyards in the Salem Hills and at Domaine Willamette, our new sparkling winery that is opening soon at Bernau Estate Vineyard in the Dundee Hills.

A juvenile owl seen through the opening of an nesting owl box located at the Estate Vineyards in the Salem Hills
A juvenile owl as seen through the opening of a nesting owl box.

The center rehabilitates owls found on farms and other locations. Once the birds are able to fly and feed themselves, the center finds locations where they can be released. At our vineyards, the birds are released into nesting boxes, or "condos," where they have a safe place to live and find food that sustains them. The boxes are partitioned so that two birds can keep each other company in a single box.

Rehabilitated barn owls and kestrels provide the vines with natural protection from gophers and voles, the primary pests in our vineyards and the birds' main source of nutrition. The birds help create a balanced ecosystem by controlling the pest populations.

Facilities Coordinator Randy Hillyer approaching an owl nesting box.
Facilities Coordinator Randy Hillyer approaching an owl nesting box. 

Joe Perez, a Founding Owner at Willamette and one of our long-standing American Wine Society and Oregon Wine Enthusiast members, volunteered in 2011 to build nesting boxes for barn owls and kestrels at our Estate Vineyards. This year, we moved one of his boxes to Domaine Willamette to begin the practice of releasing birds at Bernau Estate.

Through the years, Joe has maintained the annual tradition of placing barn owls into the nesting boxes. Over a decade later, these birds are now a regular part of our vineyard management and stewardship efforts.

Joe Perez, one of Willamette Valley Vineyards founding Owners holding an Owl at the Estate Vineyard in the Salem Hills.
Joe Perez, one of Willamette Valley Vineyards' founding Owners, holds an orphaned juvenile owl at the Estate Vineyard. 

"Not many people can say they’ve handled 96 owls in their lifetime," he said when asked about his ongoing commitment to releasing barn owls and kestrels. "It’s something that I find a great passion in.”

Establishing partnerships with organizations such as Willamette Valley Vineyards is a practical way to help the birds, as well as highlight their importance in sustainability efforts, said Julie Collins, deputy director at Cascades Raptor Center.

“Having partnerships with businesses like Willamette has many positive results for us," she said. "We are provided safe, appropriate habitats to release the birds while building lasting connections. The birds then play a critical role in the Earth's ecological balance."

Since the winery's founding in 1983, stewardship of the land has been a key principle in our winemaking and farming practices. Founder and CEO Jim Bernau believes Pinot Noir made with consideration for the environment, employees and community simply tastes better.

“Having partnerships with businesses like Willamette has many positive results for us," she said. "We are provided safe, appropriate habitats to release the birds while building lasting connections. The birds then play a critical role in the Earth's ecological balance."

Since the winery's founding in 1983, stewardship of the land has been a key principle in our winemaking and farming practices. Founder and CEO Jim Bernau believes Pinot Noir made with consideration for the environment, employees and community simply tastes better.

Founder and CEO Jim Bernau holding an owl at the Estate Vineyard located in Turner, Oregon.
Founder and CEO Jim Bernau holding an owl at the Estate Vineyard located in Turner, Oregon.
Time Posted: Jul 26, 2022 at 3:29 PM Permalink to Orphaned Owls Find a Safe Home in Our Estate Vineyards Permalink
Willamette Valley Vineyards

Avoiding Heat Damage to Shipped Wines

The summer heat wave moving through the country earlier this year made one of Senior Winery Ambassador Duska Jensen’s customers nervous about receiving wine for an important family gathering in the southern United States. Duska helped the customer receive her shipment with special temperature-controlled shipping and avoided sending bottles damaged in the heat.

Warm temperatures, while welcome in the vineyard, are not always desirable when it comes to sending wine to customers. A wine that sits in temperatures above 90 degrees for an extended period can suffer damage if the cork expands due to the heat and starts to break free of the bottle because that exposes the wine to oxygen, Duska said.

“In extreme cases, the cork can pop out fully, creating a messy and wasted wine delivery for the
customer,” she added.

Instead, we encourage customers who are experiencing hot summer weather (or freezing temperatures in the winter) to call the winery and ask a Winery Ambassador about having their shipments sent with temperature control. Shipping this way provides consistent temperatures for the wine’s journey and lets our team and carrier know that the delivery needs to be handled with extra care.

Talking to a Winery Ambassador about temperature-controlled shipping is important because timing and location affect which shipping option is right for the customer.

Willamette Valley Vineyards Winery Ambassador, Duska
Willamette Valley Vineyards Senior Winery Ambassador, Duska Jensen

“Shipping with temperature control is tricky to track, so it will be ideal for you to have a point of
contact to communicate with in case you have questions about your shipment,” Duska said.
“Our Winery Ambassador team specializes in keeping you informed about new releases and
knowing your wine preferences so we can make sure you are aware of special offers, including
discounted temperature-controlled shipping.”

To start a conversation, simply call the Estate at (503) 588-9463 and ask to speak with a Winery Ambassador. Your Winery Ambassador is someone you can reach out to for wine recommendations, as well as help with shipping. You might ask for their thoughts on the best wines for summer sipping, what wine pairs well with BBQ ribs and which rosé wine – our Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir or Bernau Estate Brut Rosé – best suits your upcoming summer soirée.

Temperature-Controlled Shipping FAQ

Question: Will my wine arrive chilled?
Answer: Temperature-controlled shipping, also known as FedEx Cold Chain Shipping, does not mean that wines arrive cold. Instead, this shipping method provides consistent temperatures for the wines from the time they leave our winery until they reach the carrier’s hub. The last leg of the journey – from the carrier’s hub to your home – is not temperature controlled but lasts a short time.

A crucial step in the process is having someone over the age of 21 available to receive the shipment when it arrives to avoid delays. If you anticipate being at the office on the day of your wine delivery and not at home to receive and sign for the wine, then we recommend having the shipment delivered directly to your place of work if possible.

Three Bottles of wine wrapped in Willamette Valley Vineyards wrapping paper and boxed up being prepared to ship out.
Three bottles are wrapped and ready to be shipped.

Q: How much does it cost to ship with temperature control?
A: Temperature-controlled shipping can cost $35 to $50 and is dependent on your order.

Q: I live in Oregon. Should I choose temperature-controlled shipping?
A: We don’t typically recommend temperature-controlled shipping for our customers in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada and northern California, as those shipments typically take just two days. Additionally, Oklahoma customers are unable to receive shipments via FedEx, but other carriers are available. Calling the winery and asking to speak to a Winery Ambassador will help you select the right shipping option for your situation.

Time Posted: Jun 24, 2022 at 12:52 PM Permalink to Avoiding Heat Damage to Shipped Wines Permalink
Willamette Valley Vineyards

Celebrating Women In Wine

In honor of National Women In Wine Day, we'd like to introduce you to three women who have been instrumental in building Domaine Willamette, home of our méthode traditionelle sparkling winery that opens later this year at Bernau Estate Vineyard in the Dundee Hills.

Crystal Ashley

Willamette Valley Vineyards: You’ve been successful at moving up in the company. How did it happen?

Crystal Ashely: First, I am very fortunate to have an amazing mother. She has provided me with opportunity, support, tough love and a realistic outlook for success.

Coming from a background in athletics, I have enjoyed being rewarded for my performance within the company. It has been ingrained in me to do my absolute best and good things will happen. Willamette Valley Vineyards provided me with an environment to be successful.

Crystal Ashley started her career at Willamette in 2015 as a Winery Ambassador and she grew in the role until she became Winery Ambassador Manager. Crystal didn’t stop there, however. She was recently named General Manager of Domaine Willamette.

WVV: What are you looking forward to in your new position as General Manager of Domaine Willamette?

CA: It’s a dream come true. Domaine Willamette is going to be breathtaking, and I feel grateful that I get to see all the final stages and touches on the property. Getting ready to open a new winery comes with the help of so many amazing people, a vision and a lot of checklists ­— and I mean a lot of checklists!

Domaine Willamette will offer visitors unforgettable bubble experiences, beautiful wine, aspects of Biodynamics and so much opportunity and success for employees. Wine brings out the best in people and I get to be a part of it.

WVV: What can the wine industry do to build a more diverse, inclusive and successful industry?

CA: I think exposure and knowledge are very powerful. We need to keep spreading the word about the opportunities available. In my experience, the wine industry is very welcoming, but women may not know of the opportunities within the industry.

WVV: What advice do you have for women starting out in the wine industry?

CA: Believe in yourself! You are valuable and your ideas and opinions are valuable. Make sure you share them. Don't let opportunities pass you by. At Willamette, no idea goes unheard and that is the way it should be.

Jan Green Bernau

Jan Green Bernau first started working at Willamette as a consultant in 2008, helping to launch staff training and development tools. She eventually took the reins of our human resources department and has served in various positions since then. She is currently the Project and Staff Development Manager, overseeing construction at Domaine Willamette.

Willamette Valley Vineyards: Tell us about what it’s been like to build out our new winery.

Jan Bernau: It's a huge project and the most challenging of my career. It’s also been exciting to learn about Biodynamic farming, a primary focus at Domaine Willamette.

Covid-19 caused a lot of stress in the construction world, supply chain and work crew availability. Costs have gone up, scheduling takes longer and, in some cases, we've had to pivot to different finishes and materials to keep things on schedule.

WVV: Who are some leading women in your life and how have they influenced you and your career choices?

JB: My mother was one of the original "women's libbers" who fought for women's rights, walking door to door to encourage women to register to vote and making sure we volunteered in our community to make things better for women and children. And Robin Jaqua, a Jungian depth psychologist changed my life and inspired me to study Jungian Depth Psychology in Zurich, Switzerland.

WVV: What kinds of things do you think the wine industry can do to build a more diverse, inclusive and successful industry?

JB: Support legislation allowing more people to migrate here legally and safely. Encourage young girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) studies, agriculture and the wine industry.

WVV: What advice do you have for women starting out in the wine industry?

JB: Don't feel like you must do things like your male counterparts. It's OK to use your own wisdom, intuition, empathy and people skills to make a difference. 

Arial view of Domaine Willamette under construction.

Shawn Bradshaw

Willamette Valley Vineyards: Talk to us about Domaine Willamette. What are some of the challenges and what are you looking forward to when it opens later this year?

Shawn Bradshaw: I have a project management background and Domaine Willamette is one of the most exciting projects I’ve worked on. There are millions of moving parts and people to keep track of, which can be challenging, but we keep it moving along. Our success comes from the amount of progress made every single week.

Shawn Bradshaw started her career at Willamette in May 2021 as a project coordinator working on the Domaine Willamette build. She is new to the wine industry and says it’s been exciting and eye-opening to learn about the complexities of winemaking.

I’m most looking forward to our guests having options when they visit Domaine Willamette. They can stop in at the wine shop to have a quick taste, buy some wine and be on their way. Or they can continue up through the vineyards and have a seated tasting and a bite to eat while enjoying the beautiful views of the Willamette Valley. In the garden there is a massive pond and many pathways for guests to roam and enjoy their wine.

WVV: What has your experience been as a woman new to the wine industry?

SB: I have felt empowered to make critical decisions for Willamette. I see ways that the wine industry can create more spaces where everyone feels welcome to have a seat at the table.

At Willamette, our wine is not made for one type of person. That’s why we are focusing on creating an environment at Domaine Willamette where anyone can experience and enjoy our wine.

WVV: Do you have any advice for women starting careers in the wine world?

SB: Always know there is more to learn and so many opportunities to follow your passion. It’s important to stay curious and always be looking for new areas of professional growth. 

Artists rendering of Domaine Willamette, set to open late Summer 2022.

Time Posted: Mar 24, 2022 at 2:21 PM Permalink to Celebrating Women In Wine Permalink
Willamette Valley Vineyards
January 28, 2022 | Willamette Valley Vineyards

Pairing Wine and Chocolate

You love wine and you love chocolate.
But how do you pair one with the other?

We asked Winery Ambassador Veronica Ball to help us fine tune our pairing skills.


1. Look for local wines and regional food from the same areas.
The wines we make are sourced from fruit grown in the Willamette and Rogue valleys. Local chocolates from these areas may be studded with marionberries, herbs, hazelnuts, smoked sea salt or even rose petals.

2. Get to know your wine.
“It’s important to find balance in the wine,” she said. “This includes aroma, taste, texture and overall impressions of the sip.” Consider the wine's look, smell and taste. Note your own personal discovery and flavors you identify on the palate.

“Think about your overall impression of the wine. Does it wrap you up in a warm blanket and make you feel cozy? Or does the wine poke at your and feel slightly sharp and rough?”

The host of our upcoming Wine & Chocolate Virtual Tasting, Willamette Valley Vineyards Winery Ambassador, Veronica Ball
The host of our upcoming Wine & Chocolate Virtual Tasting, Willamette Valley Vineyards Winery Ambassador, Veronica Ball

3. Match “mirroring” flavors and try them.
“Mirroring flavors of the wine and food causes a perfect picture to form between the chocolate and wine, almost fusing the flavors together without one overpowering the other,” Veronica advised.
Consider a rich and spicy Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a bar of chili infused dark chocolate. Or white chocolate served with a chilled Rose.


Winery Ambassadors sample wine and chocolate at the Estate to find the best pairings.
Winery Ambassadors sample wine and chocolate at the Estate to find the best pairings.

4. Pair contrasting flavors and try those.
“A contrasting pairing is also fun because the food will make the wine possibly change and pop with new flavors, or the food will be elevated and change to contrast with the wine, but in a positive way,” Veronica said.

Perhaps that creamy milk chocolate will show off the brightness of a dry sparkling wine. Or a semi-sweet Riesling will deepen the flavors of a salty dark chocolate.

5. Some wines don’t need a pairing.
“Some wines do not need food in order to shine, but can simply be enjoyed on their own,” she suggested.  “We don’t want to mess with the star of the show.”

Our Recommendations

Find inspiration in our Wine & Chocolate Collection that pairs our classic Oregon wine with local artisan chocolates. This collection is available for a limited time.

Shop Wine & Chocolate Collection

Veronica will lead us in a complimentary virtual tasting of this collection on Wednesday, February 9th at 4 pm. Order your Wine & Chocolate Collection by February 1st to receive it in time for the tasting.

Reserve Your Tasting


Time Posted: Jan 28, 2022 at 10:59 AM Permalink to Pairing Wine and Chocolate Permalink
Willamette Valley Vineyards
January 6, 2022 | Willamette Valley Vineyards

Wishing You A Happy New Year


 2021 | Year In Review


We know you have a lot of great choices when it comes to selecting wines, so we want to thank you for your support of Willamette Valley Vineyards. Your support enables us to continue our mission in telling the Oregon story through wine, while using sustainable growing and winemaking practices. We look forward to sharing new wines, locations and experiences with you in 2022 as we open our Domaine Willamette sparkling wine facility in the Dundee Hills and Tasting Room & Restaurants in Lake Oswego, on the Vancouver Waterfront and in Happy Valley. Wishing you and yours health and happiness in 2022.



Founder of Willamette Valley Vineyards, Jim Bernau

March | Executive of the Year

Our Founder and CEO Jim Bernau is recognized as Portland Business Journal's 2021 Executive of the Year for finding innovative ways to lead the winery and care for each other, our community and environment.

Women take part in a celebration paying tribute to women in the wine industry

March | Willamette's Women in Wine

In honor of International Women's Day on March 8th we celebrate our Willamette women in wine. In an industry that is still traditionally male dominated, we are honored to have 56% of our staff and 63% of our leadership team made up of passionate women dedicated to shaping the Oregon wine industry. 


Image of a bud breaking in the Estate Vineyard

April | Bud Break in Estate Vineyard

Leading up to the appearance of first buds on the vines, our vineyard team prunes nearly 500 acres of vineyards, the most acres in our company's history. Meanwhile, planning begins at Jory Claim, our new estate vineyard in the Salem Hills, ready to be planted in 2022.


An image of an autonomous robot designed to shine UV-S light to combat powdery mildew from damaging wine grapes.

May | UV-C Robot Deployed

Using an autonomous robot to apply a special band of ultraviolet light treatment to the vines, Willamette is the first farmer to combat powdery mildew from damaging wine grapes by replacing the use of organic sulfur with sustainable UV-C light. We see this as a remarkable opportunity for our industry to grow high-quality wine grapes and do it in a very natural, sustainable way.


An image of a cluster of grapes during the 2021 record breaking heat wave.

June | Northwest Heat Wave

Record-breaking high temperatures hit the Northwest, but our new berries on the vine are still small and hard — not plump and delicate like they are later in the growing season. The vines and grape clusters make it through with no stress or damage.


An image of Winery Owners walking through the Estate Vineyard

July | Preferred Stock Offering Provides Ownership Opportunity & Launches Expansion

We invite wine enthusiasts to become Owners through our Preferred Stock Offering and be part of Oregon wine history as we open Domaine Willamette in the Dundee Hills and four Tasting Room & Restaurants in the next two years. Locations include Lake Oswego, Vancouver Waterfront, Happy Valley and Bend.

Image of Bravo's Top Chef Finale at the Estate Vineyard

July | Bravo's Top Chef Finale Airs

Bravo's Top Chef wraps up Season 18 with a finale filmed at our Estate in the Salem Hills, where the cast and crew toast the conclusion with glasses of our 2017 Bernau Estate Traditionnelle Champenoise Brut (Photo by David Moir/Bravo).

Image of a Willamette Valley Vineyard

July | EU Grants Willamette Valley Geographic Protection

The Willamette Valley is given Protected Geographical Indication status and protection by the European Union, making it the second American wine producing region to attain PGI status. This status ensures the legal protection of Willamette Valley wines from counterfeit or imitation products and attaches a cache for EU retailers and consumers, who recognize it as a stamp of quality and assurance of provenance.



A photo of a bin of grapes during the 2021 Harvest

September | Harvest Starts

Though we experienced a dry winter and warm summer, cooler temperatures come at the perfect moment to give our fruit longer hang time on the vine and allow for more flavor, aroma, color and tannin development. The cooler nights also help retain natural acidities in the grapes. With slightly below-average yields and no disease pressure this season, we have the makings of a very high-quality vintage.

Salem Health ICU and Emergency Department staff members receiving complimentary meals from Winery Chef DJ MacIntyre and his team

September | Meals for Frontline Workers

Salem Health ICU and Emergency Department staff members receive complimentary meals from Winery Chef DJ MacIntyre and his team in an effort to encourage those on the frontlines during the Covid-19 Delta variant surge.


A drone photo of the Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate Tasting Room

October | Top Philanthropic Company

The Portland Business Journal ranks our winery as one of the top 10 philanthropic companies of our size for 2020. Our charity partners include Self Enhancement Inc., Oregon State University Foundation and Oregon Environmental Council.

Chef DJ MacIntyre

October | Best Winery and Chef

Willamette Valley Vineyards and Chef DJ MacIntyre are named through the Statesman Journal's Best of Mid-Valley program as Best Winery and Best Chef for 2021.


Bravo's Top Chef Season 14 winner Brooke Williamson

November | Brooke Williamson Cooking Class

Brooke Williamson, a celebrated chef who won Bravo's Top Chef Season 14 and was a guest judge on Top Chef Season 18's finale filmed at the Estate, joins our Wine Club Members for a private virtual cooking class.


A zoomed up image of the brand new Clonal Blending System located at the Estate Vineyard

December | Blending Experience Opens

We debut our Pinot Noir Clonal Blending Experience, giving users the controls to be a winemaker, crafting and tasting custom blends with guidance from a Winery Ambassador. This unique system was invented by Research & Development Manager David Markel for Roth Barrel Room at the Estate.

Image of the Gold Coin currently being found throughout the Northwest and in states across the country in bottles purchased directly from us, local grocers, wine shops and restaurants.


December | Charitable Adventure to Find Golden Coins

Golden Coins are being found throughout the Northwest and in states across the country in bottles purchased directly from us, local grocers, wine shops and restaurants. Lucky winners of our 500 Golden Coins receive a $50 donation to their local food banks, a credit of $100 toward a wine experience at the Estate and entry into a drawing for a chance to win an Oregon wine country getaway for two.

Time Posted: Jan 6, 2022 at 9:47 AM Permalink to Wishing You A Happy New Year Permalink
Willamette Valley Vineyards
November 16, 2021 | Willamette Valley Vineyards

And that’s a wrap on Harvest Season 2021

Harvest is a time we look forward to every year and this year our vineyard crews led by Vineyard Manager Efren Loeza delivered exceptionally clean, ripe fruit to the winemaking team to transform into our beautiful wines. Our winemaking team more than doubles for two months and we have crews working around the clock to process all the grapes from our estate and partner vineyards.

Effren Loeza assisting his team harvesting Pinot Noir Grapes during the 2021 Harvest

Miguel Calderon (left) and Vineyard Manager Efren Loeza (right) during harvest at Tualatin Estate Vineyard.

Starting early in the morning in late August we kicked off harvest season with the harvesting of Pinot Noir for our sparkling wines and then quickly moved into whites, rosés and then reds. We had an unseasonably warm and dry growing season that then quickly cooled down in late September. This slowed down the ripening in the final stretch to build flavors and tannins in the grapes while retaining natural acidities and moderating alcohol levels. Think of the difference of how slow cooking builds a lot of flavor over flash frying. This will result in concentrated color, richness and structure in the red wines from 2021 and aromatic, flavorful and balanced for the whites and rosés. 

Director of Winemaking & Vineyards, Greg Urmini stands over a bin of grapes following the 2021 harvest at Elton Vineyard

Greg Urmini, Director of Winemaking & Vineyards

Our Director of Winemaking & Vineyards, Greg Urmini, shared “the grapes for the Bernau Estate Méthode Champenoise Brut and Rosé, White Pinot Noir and Maison Bleue arrived first and tasted fantastic! We then received fruit for our Pambrun, Pinot Gris and our Pinot and Chardonnay wines. The team is really happy with the overall quality of the fruit. The phenolic maturity in the seeds and skins were optimal while the brix and acids were perfectly aligned for each varietal to express its typicity and capture the site of each vineyard.” 

We had a full house in the cellar with bins of fruit everywhere you looked but everything fermented nicely and quickly so we were able to make room for the remainder of the fruit as it arrived, according to Urmini. The team strengthened our arms with twice daily ‘punch downs’ in each fermentation vessel to assure the proper extraction was achieved to fully develop the flavors and colors we want in our red wines. 

The rains in October came at an opportune time for us to do some work in the cellar and catch our breath in the vineyards before harvest came to a successful end in mid-October. Our attention then turned to fermenting, pressing and barreling down our wines before topping and running chemistries on our 2021 wines as they initiate their malolactic fermentation, the conversion of malic acid into lactic acid within a wine to soften the acidity. 

We're very happy with the incredible color and taste in this year's harvest and can't wait for you to try our new vintages. Willamette will start bottling our first 2021 wines in December and you will be able to find the 2021 Whole Cluster Rose’ of Pinot Noir beginning in February 2022 as our first release of the year.  


Time Posted: Nov 16, 2021 at 11:12 AM Permalink to And that’s a wrap on Harvest Season 2021 Permalink
Willamette Valley Vineyards

What is an AVA and Why is it Important to Wine?

AVA stands for American Viticultural Area and is a defined wine grape-growing region. There are 257 AVAs in 34 states and 18 AVAs in Oregon. Oregon’s northerly latitude means grapes get extra sunlight to grow and crisp, cool nights to help grapes retain their acidity. Oregon’s wine pioneers thought that combination meant Oregon grapes would naturally achieve mature, balanced flavors and full varietal character according to Oregon Wine and they were right. Today the suitability of Oregon for great wine is unquestioned.

Each AVA is unique in its geographic location, climate soil and topography. When an AVA is designated on the wine bottle’s label, 85 percent of the grapes used to make the wine must be sourced from that AVA. If a wine label states Oregon, an Oregon county or an AVA wholly within Oregon, 100% of the grapes must be from Oregon and 95% from that appellation of origin.

Willamette Valley Vineyards has three Tasting Rooms and six estate vineyards in the Willamette Valley AVA. 

Map of Willamette Valley AVAs from Willamette Wine Association
Map of Willamette Valley AVAs from Willamette Valley Wineries Association

Willamette Valley AVA 

The Willamette Valley AVA is the largest AVA in Oregon and was named the Wine Region of the Year in 2016 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. In July 2021, the Willamette Valley wine region was formally recognized by the European Union through Protected Geographical Indication Status. This milestone recognizes the quality of Willamette Valley wine and protects the Willamette Valley name from misuse and fraudulent labeling around the world. Only two regions in the US have this distinction – Napa Valley and now the Willamette Valley.

This AVA is more than 100 miles long and spans 60 miles at its widest point from the Coast Range to the West and the Cascade mountains to the East, the Columbia River to the North and just South of Eugene. The major cities within the AVA are Portland, Salem (the state Capitol), Eugene, Corvallis, McMinnville and Newberg.

Willamette Valley AVA is home to Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate Tasting Room in the Salem Hills, our McMinnville Tasting Room in quaint downtown McMinnville and our Tualatin Estate Tasting Room in Forest Grove and the region is also home to most of Oregon’s wineries – 676 wineries call this AVA home to be exact!


Climate: Known for having a mild climate with cool and wet winters, and dry and warm summers.

Soil: The Willamette Valley is an old volcanic and sedimentary seabed that has been overlaid with gravel, silt, rock and boulders brought by the Missoula Floods from Montana and Washington between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago.

Our Estate Vineyard is planted on an old west-to-southwest facing volcanic flow. The soil type is typically a clay loam, which is permeable to roots, retentive of moisture and runs five to seven feet deep. Because this soil is so old, estimated to be 10 to 14 million years old, rainwater has percolated through this now acidic soil, breaking down the basalt, allowing the roots to tap down. Wines from this vineyard exude a sense of place and display complexity, elegance and balance.


You are only a little over an hour away from the coast at any of these major cities located in the Willamette Valley AVA:

- Salem
- McMinnville
- Forest Grove
- Eugene
- Portland

Willamette Valley Sub-Appellations

The Willamette Valley has nine smaller AVAs that have distinctive climate, soil, elevation or other features that make them perfectly suited for wine production: Eola-Amity Hills, Laurelwood, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, Tualatin Hills, Van Duzer Corridor and Yamhill-Carlton District.

Our Elton Vineyard is in the Eola-Amity Hills sub-AVA, Tualatin Estate Vineyard and Loeza Vineyard are both in the Tualatin Hills sub-AVA, and Bernau Estate Vineyard is in the Dundee Hills sub-AVA.

Salem - Home of Our Estate Tasting RoomWVV Estate in Salem Hills

In addition to being the center of the Willamette Valley and Oregon Wine Country, Salem is a big city with a small-town feel. From the nearby walking trail system starting at downtown’s Riverfront Park or hiking at Silver Falls State Park aka the “crown jewel” of Oregon State Parks there are lots of family-friendly activities to partake in.

Where to Eat and Drink:

Basil & Board - Award-winning Italian pizzeria and wine cafe
Wild Pear - Airy lunch destination
Willamette Valley Vineyards - Thoughtfully prepared pairings menu by award-winning Winery Chef DJ MacIntyre featuring fresh local ingredients to enjoy with our classic Oregon wines

Where to Stay:

Willamette Valley Vineyards Winery Suite - Wake up to sweeping vineyard views from your own private suite on-site
Grand Hotel - A polished downtown hotel two blocks from Riverfront City Park and five blocks from the Oregon State Capitol


Where to Eat & Drink:

McMenamins Hotel Oregon - Offering a rooftop bar with spectacular views of downtown

Nick’s Italian Café - Homey Italian mainstay featuring pasta, wood-fired pizza & a brick-walled bar with a pool table

Willamette Valley Vineyards McMinnville Tasting Room - Enjoy a flight of your favorite Willamette wines on Third Street

Where to Stay:

Atticus Hotel A boutique luxury lifestyle hotel in Historic Downtown

Douglas on ThirdBeautiful apartment units with full kitchens and all the comforts of hotel amenities located in downtown McMinnville

McMinnville - The Heart of Oregon Wine Country

Willamette Valley Vineyards tasting room in Mcminnville“Oregon’s Favorite Main Street” is also known as Downtown McMinnville’s tree-lined Third Street with quaint restaurants, cool coffee shops, winery tasting rooms and boutiques. You’ll also want to visit the world-class Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum where you can see the original Spruce Goose.

Forest Grove - Home of Our Tualatin Estate Tasting RoomTualatin Estate Vineyards

Forest Grove is located west of Portland surrounded by many farms that are open to culinary enthusiasts wanting access to the freshest and finest ingredients including America’s first successful craft sake’ producer, Saké One, where you can enjoy premium Japanese and American saké in their Tasting Room. 


Where to Eat & Drink:

Biscuitology - Biscuit centric southern country style cafe
Ridgewalker Brewing Company - An array of classic comfort bar fare & a focus on beer on tap in a rustic setting with modern decor.
Urban Decanter - Wine bar and wood-fired oven bistro
Zesti Food Carts - 30 spot food cart pod in a garden setting

Where to Stay:

McMenamins Grand Lodge -  A former Masonic & Eastern Star property peppered with unique rooms, restaurants, a spa, free live music and events

Top Chef Fan? Check out our itinerary inspired by Season 18 of Top Chef Portland for more fun places to go around the state! 

ABCs of Oregon’s AVAs, Oregon Wine Press

Time Posted: Aug 4, 2021 at 4:12 PM Permalink to What is an AVA and Why is it Important to Wine? Permalink
Willamette Valley Vineyards

Natural Cork, Plastic or Aluminum Screw Caps – Which is Best?

Since the winery's founding in 1983, Founder Jim Bernau has made stewardship of the land a key principle in our winemaking and farming practices. As a native Oregonian, the importance of sustainable farming practices is integrally woven into Willamette Valley Vineyard’s mission. That’s why we insist on using natural cork enclosers in all our wines and why our winery was the first in the world to use cork certified through the Rainforest Alliance to Forest Stewardship Council® standards.

Natural corks in wine glass

What makes natural cork more sustainable than a plastic or aluminum screw cap? The millions of acres of cork tree forests pull carbon from the air and pump out oxygen, helping to offset our carbon footprint.  The bark from just one tree can be harvested several times over the years, meaning the tree is never cut down but continues to sequester carbon throughout its long life.

What about the wine itself – does the enclosure really matter? Simply put, yes. While there are a multitude of factors, natural cork seals in the bottle quicker than plastic or aluminum screw caps. That means natural cork provides an aging advantage and significantly reduces the chance of anerobic, off-aromas developing in the wine.

Stripping the natural cork layer of bark from the cork tree at a farm in Portugal.
{Winemaker Joe Ibrahim visits cork forests in Portugal and helps to gently peel the bark from the tree trunk.}

Are there negative impacts of alternate enclosures?
With the entrance of alternate enclosures, the cork forests and the communities that farm them are under threat of wine producers and consumers who are turning to unsustainable enclosures like plastic.

Not only are these trees losing their financial caretakers, but many species, like the now endangered Iberian Lynx, are now losing their homes.


Why don’t all wine producers use natural cork? A big factor is price. High quality natural corks are double the price of plastic or aluminum alternatives. We have long put an emphasis on choosing what is right for the environment, as well as our consumer.

In 2010, we were honored with the Rainforest Alliance’s prestigious Sustainable Standard-Setter Award. Tensie Whelan, President of the Rainforest Alliance, commended us for our long-time leadership in agriculture and forestry: "Willamette Valley Vineyards’ efforts to provide sustainable livelihoods, conserve biodiversity and minimize environmental impacts have solidified Willamette Valley Vineyards as a leader of sustainable agriculture and forestry. Willamette Valley Vineyards has long been at the forefront of environmental conservation through the pursuit of FSC-certified cork, waste management near riparian zones, and investment in alternative fuels."

Winemaker Joe Ibrahim on a visit to a cork tree farm in Portugal.
Winemaker Joe Ibrahim on a visit to a cork tree farm in Portugal.

Want to learn more about natural cork? Willamette Valley Vineyards created the Cork ReHarvest natural cork recycling program. This program was responsible for placing receptacles in all Whole Foods nationwide and other select retailers to collect cork and turn them into products like shoe footbeds, insulation and more! 

Patrick Spencer, the past Sustainability Coordinator for Willamette Valley Vineyards, helped turned this program into the Cork Forest Conservation Alliance (CFCA) in 2008. You can watch his Ted Talk here.

Time Posted: Apr 15, 2021 at 2:46 PM Permalink to Natural Cork, Plastic or Aluminum Screw Caps – Which is Best? Permalink
Willamette Valley Vineyards

Celebrating 41 Harvests and The First Crop from Loeza Vineyard

It is hard to imagine, but Efren Loeza has been in the vineyard longer than the winery’s Founder, Jim Bernau. Efren came by this unique distinction through Willamette Valley Vineyards’ merger with Tualatin Estate Vineyard in 1997.

Efren began at Tualatin Estate Vineyard in 1979 at the age of 17 and has worked in the vineyard ever since. Even more surprising, the person who taught Efren his first lessons in vine care, Jose Ortiz, is still working at Tualatin Estate. Jose learned his skills from pioneering viticulturist, the late David Foster.

Efren came to Oregon from Michoacán, Mexico with his father Marcos, uncle Juan and three friends when he was 16 years old. He worked on a strawberry farm during the day, an onion warehouse at night and worked seasonally with blueberries and cucumbers, too. They all lived in the same cabin on the farm and at night they entertained themselves by listening to the radio and playing cards or dominoes. On Friday nights the cabins would all get together and have potlucks.

Efren has 11 brothers who all ended up coming to the United States to work and two sisters who went to California. His brother Miguel is now in his 30th year as the Foreman at Tualatin Estate Vineyards.

Originally hired by Foster to work at Tualatin Estate Vineyard, he told Efren “if you do good work, you could work here for 20-30 years.” He also told Efren “you ask too many questions, but because you do, you will run this place someday.” Efren worked with Foster for 14 years and is very proud to follow in his footsteps managing the vineyards.

When asked about his favorite memory of working at the winery Efren said it was when Founder Jim Bernau showed up at Tualatin Estate and asked him his name and if he liked working there. Jim told him he wanted to keep people who loved working there, like him. In 1997, Willamette Valley Vineyards merged with Tualatin Estate and true to his word, Jim kept Efren and the staff. 

His least favorite thing to do is “dropping the fruit” from the vines. It makes him sad to have a vine with 35-40 clusters on it and cut half of the fruit that is lagging in ripeness or size. The process of thinning out the grape clusters is called green harvesting — removing the fruit that it still green when the rest of the fruit has turned color. This allows the vine to put its energy into a smaller crop of the remaining fruit is healthier, resulting in more flavor and concentration. Each vineyard and grape varietal has different amounts of fruit that has to be dropped depending on the winemaker’s preference and varietal being grown.

During harvest Efren sometimes doesn’t sleep well as he worries about the vines and the grapes. “If the weather app shows a week of sunshine, I can sleep that week. If it is a week of rain, I don’t sleep so well,” says Efren.

As Vineyard Manager for all of our vines from Tualatin Estate in Forest Grove to the Estate Vineyard in Turner, Efren has more than 500 acres under his supervision.

When asked about some of his proudest moments working at the winery he lists winning the Oregon Wine Board’s first Vineyard Excellence Award in 2016 and being recognized as Employee of the Year by his fellow employees. He’s also proud of designing many of our vineyards including the row design, trellis and vine layout — something a lot of vineyards have to hire outside consultants to do. He is very devoted to the land — Efren’s careful vineyard practices and stewardship of the land have earned LIVE and Salmon-Safe certifications for all of our estate vineyards.

In honor of Efren’s contributions to the winery and the Oregon wine industry, we planted Loeza Vineyard in his family’s name in 2015. The 39-acre vineyard is located in Gaston and is planted with Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. In 2020, we harvested the first crop from Loeza Vineyard for our estate wines.

Time Posted: Apr 2, 2021 at 11:30 AM Permalink to Celebrating 41 Harvests and The First Crop from Loeza Vineyard Permalink
Founded in 1983 by Oregon native Jim Bernau with the dream of creating world-class Pinot Noir,
Willamette Valley Vineyards has grown from a bold idea into one of the region’s leading wineries, earning the title “One of America’s Great Pinot Noir Producers” from Wine Enthusiast Magazine


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