Oregon Wine: Getting to Know Our Neighbors to the South

By Kori ~ March 26th, 2012.

Oregon ranks third in the number of wineries and fourth in wine production in the United States. In its relatively short 40-year history, the Oregon wine industry has evolved into a world-class wine region. Today, Oregon boasts over 400 wineries and 16 AVA’s (American Viticultural Areas). With those AVA’s found in both warm and cool climates, Oregon winemakers are able to produce wines from over 70 different grape varieties.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend three days in Oregon wine country on a media tour hosted by the Oregon Wine Board. We had the pleasure to meet winemakers, visit vineyards, dine at local restaurants, and stay in luxurious accommodations. While I had visited Oregon and written about Oregon wines on a number of occasions, it was a great opportunity to immerse myself in all things Oregon wine and get to know so many key players in the Oregon wine industry. For details about the media tour itself, check out this article by Karl Klooster in the Yamhill Valley News-Register.

As regular readers know, I’ve historically been somewhat of a skeptic when it comes to Oregon wine. Too often, I had found their wines, predominately their beloved Pinot Noir, to be overhyped and overpriced. However, I am happy to report that this visit allowed me to experience some truly wonderful Pinot as well as appreciate the exceptional people, beautiful scenery, and diversity of wines in Oregon wine country.

I’d like to share with you several key takeaways from the visit:

  • Pinot Noir is still the Queen, and She Ages Gracefully – Pinot Noir is the variety that propelled Oregon onto the worldwide wine stage and is still what many people think of when it comes to Oregon wine. We had the opportunity to taste several “older” Pinots from the 1985, 1998, and 1999 vintages, and they are aging quite gracefully.
  • Beyond Pinot Noir – Sometimes thought of as a one-trick pony, Oregon wine is much more than just Pinot Noir. If you haven’t had the opportunity, I highly encourage you to seek out Oregon sparkling wine and Oregon Chardonnay.
  • Outside the Willamette Valley – For many, Oregon wine is synonymous with the Willamette Valley. However, there are exciting things happening elsewhere in the state, including the Columbia Gorge and Southern Oregon. And, I would be remiss without mentioning that a number of the best Walla Walla Valley vineyards are actually on the Oregon side of the AVA.
  • A Leader in Sustainable Viticulture – Oregon has long been committed to sustainable winegrowing and earth-friendly practices. A significant number of the state’s vineyards are certified sustainable, organic, or biodynamic. And now, Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine (OCSW) has been launched as a unifying platform to make identifying those wines easy for consumers.

Also, I would like to give a special mention to two outstanding venues that I highly recommend should your travels take you to Oregon wine country: Nora’s Table in Hood River (amazing food and an Oregon-focused wine list) and The Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg (luxurious accommodations and impeccable customer service).

In their efforts to more actively promote their wine industry, the Oregon Wine Board is putting on a large-scale event in Portland the last weekend of April called Unwine’d, Celebrate Oregon Wine. The concept is similar to Seattle’s annual Taste Washington event. We are making plans to attend Unwine’d, and I encourage those of you who live in the Pacific Northwest to consider attending as well. They expect about 100 Oregon wineries to be pouring their wines, and a dozen different restaurants will serve small bites. This event serves as a kickoff for Oregon Wine Month in May.

Expect to see more coverage of Oregon wines here on Wine Peeps in the future.


Filed under: American Wine, Oregon Wine, Pinot Noir, Wine Travel

Reader's Comments

  1. Vino | March 27th, 2012 at 8:02 am

    Your post is very interesting!

  2. Kori | March 27th, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Thanks so much. Cheers!