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Wine Craft: Drinking On The Oregon Trail

Oregon Trail: A Taste through the Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs

Mario Luna wine on the Oregon trailI was one of the many 80’s babies that went to elementary school and couldn’t wait for computer class just to play the game Oregon Trail. For those who never played that game before, you and your family are east of the Mississippi River to go on the journey west in the mid-1800s. The trip began in Independence, Missouri and 2,200 miles later, it ends in Willamette Valley, Oregon. Along the way, the family encounters situations like crossing rivers, sickness, and broken wagons. I never made it to Oregon, but I was never disappointed playing the game I always died while trying to cross the Big Blue River.)

So why did those families back in the 1800s risk life and limb and starvation out on the open plains to reach oregon? One word: opportunities. The lure of land ownership, wealth from the Gold Rush, and the chance to leave behind a legacy. This week’s Wine Craft pays homage to all that. The star is Willamette Valley, the crown jewel and finish line of the trail. In the video, I take you on a tour of the valley through its six different sub-AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). Hopefully by the end – and maybe with the help of one of the suggested wines below – you’ll understand why so many people are just as willing to journey to Willamette today as they were 200 hundred years ago.

Oh – and if you want to play? Here’s a link to the in-browser version of The Oregon Trail.


The Many Flavors of Willamette Pinot Noir


– Yamhill Carlton: Lots of cherries and blackberry with a touch of spice and silk finish

Try It: Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvee, 2012 – $44 BUY ME


– Eola-Amity Hills: Black raspberries, pepper, cumin with a dense fruit, cedar, and mushroom finish

Try It: St. Innocent Momtazi Hill, 2013 – $42 BUY ME


– Ribbon Ridge: Tart cherry and earthy (similar to Burgundy) and finishes rich and fruity

Try It: Chehalem Ridgecrest Vineyards Ribbon Ridge, 2007 – $30 BUY ME


– Dundee Hills: Raspberry and cherries with an earthy, rose petal, plum, and supple finish

Try It: Willful Dundee Hills, 2013 – $27 BUY ME


– Chehalem Mountains: Intense cherry and raspberries with lively acidity and long finish

Try It: Siduri Chehalem Mountains, 2013 – $35 BUY ME


– McMinnville: Cherry and cranberry with smoke and mineral finish

Try It: Bernardus Gary’s Vineyard, 2011 – $40 BUY ME


Cheers, Mario!


Mario Luna sommelierMario Luna is a Certified Sommelier and owner of Mario Luna Somm, a company dedicated to “Developing the Sommelier in You” through online wine courses, blogs, and other user-friendly content. He lives in Las Vegas where, in addition to working on the famous Las Vegas Strip, he serves as a consultant for large-scale wine events, specialty shops, and all kinds of wine tastings. You can contact Mario through or check out his online wine courses.



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