Oregon Wine Region

The Oregon wine region, sometimes referred to as Oregon wine country, consists of a number of American Viticulture Areas (AVA) including the Willamette Valley, Umpqua, Rogue and Illinois Valleys and sections of Walla Walla and the Columbia Gorge which is shared with Washington.

Because of its mostly rainy climate coupled with limited hours of sunshine, cooler temperatures and regular frosts in the autumn, wine making in Oregon presents a challenge to the growers. Due to the large variation in weather conditions from year to year, vintage quality varies considerably. Some years bring about a high alcohol, less than optimal acidity fruit while others, attributable to dry winters and wet spring times, produce lower alcohol and varying taste profiles. Additionally, and due to late season rain following intense summer heat, other years produce concentrated flavors and smooth tannins.

With its well deserved, but hard-earned reputation, nothing surpasses the Oregon Pinot Noir. As far back as 1979, it came in second or third in the French Olympiad competition, against the powerhouse from Burgundy. Luckily, the Pinot Noir is an early ripening grape, with the Willamette Valley, just south of Portland, being the main production region.

The Oregon wine region was, for many years, known chiefly for the Pinot Noir, but the region's wineries have also diversified into new reds, while producing better than ever whites. In good years, the Pinot Noir produces smoky, earthy wines, but a fast rising and favorable contender is the Pinot Gris.

Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel grow exclusively in the warmer and sunnier Rogue Valley and Walla Walla areas with other rising stars from this region including the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. They owe their existence, in part, to the efforts of several risk taking winemakers who have the benefit of select warmer microclimates.

In the southern regions, Zinfandel and Tempranillo are artfully managed. Even the touted Syrah is gaining a start, encouraged by the regions meticulous caretakers of the vine, who now have more than thirty years of knowledge under their belts. From a small area on the south side of the Columbia River, has come the first major Syrah from the previously unheralded region.

Experiments continue with Riesling and Gew├╝rztraminer, with a bit of Sauvignon Blanc and even the little-known Muller-Thurgau. The Grenache, Lemberger, Sangiovese and even Nebbiolo are starting to emerge.

With more than three hundred wineries along with five hundred vineries covering in excess of thirteen thousand acres, the region has grown from its humble roots, when only twenty years ago, there were just forty-seven wineries. Oregon is now the fourth large wine producing area in the United States, making sales of over two hundred million dollars annually. Anticipate grand things in the future.