I cannot count the times a tasting room visitor questions why Walla Walla does not have any Pinot Noir. That question became greater in numbers when the movie "Sideways" came out. Even though I enjoyed the movie, I have some issues with it. Sure, it made Pinot Noir sales climb, but I felt at a risk? Newbie Pinot Noir buyers didn't know what they were buying. A huge possibility they were bringing home grocery store "Pinot-Plonk and being left with a poor impression of Pinot Noir. Not all Pinot Noir is created equal.
When asked why we don't grow Pinot Noir, my reply has been, "Why should the Walla Walla Valley have Pinot Noir?" I'm not sure if that is the correct answer or not, but that is how I feel. Why should the Walla Walla Valley have a Pinot Noir when Oregon's Willamette Valley excels with that perplexing little grape. It is a grape that can be difficult for a vineyardist to grow and difficult for a winemaker to ferment.
The persnickity Pinot is thriving well with our neighbors, the Willamette Valley of Oregon and the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. Oregon is the new promise land for Pinot Noir and is producing some of the finest in the world. No other area in the world, except Burgundy, France, has a climate as ideal for producing this elegant and often complex red wine.
The Walla Walla Pinot Noir for auction was three bottles of 2000 from Woodward Canyon and the only Pinot Noir from the Walla Walla Valley. In 2003, a devastating freeze wiped out the Pinot Noir vineyard. It has since been replanted with Syrah. The local Syrah is a grape that the Walla Walla wineries can be proud of with it's many awards and favorable press.
Will we ever see any Pinot Noir in the Valley? Probably. Someone is going produce a Pinot Noir to distinguish their winery from others. In the mean time, Walla Walla produces plenty of outstanding and world class wines. We need to let our neighbor Oregon have some bragging rights, don't we? Walla Walla can't do everything great (she says with a malipert and smug tone).