The Oregon wine industry and the Willamette Valley have come to be synonymous with American Pinot Noir. It didn't all start there though.
To find the birthplace of the modern Oregon wine industry you'll need to travel south on I-5 from what has come to be known as Oregon Pinot country until you get to the town of Roseburg. The Umpqua Valley is far more rustic and rough hewn than the Willamette Valley which now boasts several James Beard award winning restaurants but Oregon's modern day wine industry and the first Oregon Pinot Noir took root here in the Umpqua Valley before anything in the Willamette. If you've been to the Umpqua you were struck with it's natural beauty almost immediately. As a wine region it's still developing an identity however.
In 1961 Richard Sommer planted Oregon's first post-prohibition vinifera grapes and founded the state's oldest estate winery in Hillcrest Vineyards in the Umpqua. As the story goes he found that site looking to plant Riesling specifically but over four years he would plant a myriad of grape varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon and the state's first Pinot Noir on a former egg farm near Roseburg. His first vintage came to market in 1964, with his first Pinot Noir appearing commercially in 1967. (There is an incredibly indepth look at Richard Sommer on the Prince of Pinot site here.) Sommer died in 2009 at the age of 79.
In 2003 Dyson DeMara and his wife Susan purchased HillCrest from Sommer with the intent of carrying on Sommer's pioneering spirit. DeMara has an extensive background in winemaking with stints at California originals Pine Ridge and Mondavi. The HillCrest winery under DeMara is producing very small lots of hard to come by wines. The wines are not available in any retail market; you have to get them directly from HillCrest.
2008 Massimo, Cabernet Sauvignon Easily the best Umpqua wine I've had to date. It's aromatically effusive with dried fig, graphite and crushed stone aromas. Elegance and balance as well as a definitive old-world style are the signature of this Cabernet. Fruit takes a back seat to minerality and floral elements. The wine comes from a 13 acre parcel of old-vine Cabernet original planted by Sommer in 1964. The wine was fermented in concrete and aged four years in French oak, largely neutral barrels. It makes a case for the Umpqua Valley, Oregon Cabernet and old vines all at the same time. Fantastic wine and I'd love to see more Northwest Cabernet done in a style like this. $65