Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny

Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I am finding more and more I prefer the Pinot Noirs of Oregon (especially the Willamette Valley) to California. I don’t have a sophisticated enough palate to say why. Can you help me out? In general, what are the differences?

—Rick J., Mesquite, Texas

Dear Rick,

I think your palate is just fine. It’s not about sophistication, it’s about finding the vocabulary to express what you’re tasting.

When it comes to the vocabulary of Oregon Pinot Noirs, I had to ask Wine Spectator senior editor Harvey Steiman to answer your question. He’s our lead taster of wines from Oregon, and he had this to say:

“Oregon vintners aim to produce Pinot Noir of delicacy and transparency. They don't always succeed; some vintages are too ripe, but that’s the general goal. Some California producers aim for the same delicacy as Oregon does, but you’re more likely to find Pinots that are richer and denser from the Golden State.

“In Oregon, virtually all of the better Pinot Noirs come from Willamette Valley, although the grape does well enough in other regions to flesh out less expensive Oregon-appellation blends (and make some distinctive wines with regional specificity). Same goal: light and fragrant.”

I completely agree with Harvey—Oregon Pinot Noirs have a delicacy that I really admire. But I also like the supple, ripe qualities of California Pinot Noirs, the freshness of Pinot Noirs from New Zealand, and the aromatics and longevity of red Burgundy. I don’t think you have to choose just one style or region. I like any good wine.

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.