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Oregon wine

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Oregon wine

Wine region
Official name State of Oregon
Type U.S. state
Years of wine industry 1965–present
Country  USA
Sub-regions Columbia Valley AVA, Dundee Hills AVA, Elkton Oregon AVA, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, McMinnville AVA, Red Hill Douglas County, Oregon AVA, Ribbon Ridge AVA, Rogue Valley AVA, Snake River Valley AVA, Southern Oregon AVA, Umpqua Valley AVA, Walla Walla Valley AVA, Willamette Valley AVA, Yamhill-Carlton District AVA
Climate region I-III
Total area 98,466 square miles (255,026 km2)
Size of planted vineyards Over 20,000 acres (8,094 ha) (2012)[1]
Grapes produced Baco noir, Barbera, Black Muscat, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmine, Chardonnay, Chenin blanc, Dolcetto, Early Muscat, Gamay noir, Gewurztraminer, Grenache, Huxelrebe, Leon Millot, Malbec, Marechal Foch, Melon, Merlot, Muller Thurgau, Muscat Canelli, Petit Verdot, Pinot blanc, Pinot gris, Pinot Meunier, Pinot noir, Riesling, Sangiovese, Sauvignon blanc, Scheurebe, Semillon, Syrah, Viognier, Zinfandel[2]
No. of wineries Over 400 (2012)[1]
Comments Unless otherwise indicated, all data as of 2005

The state of Oregon in the United States has established an international reputation for its production of wine. Oregon has several different growing regions within the state's borders which are well-suited to the cultivation of grapes; additional regions straddle the border between Oregon and the states of Washington and Idaho. Wine making dates back to pioneer times in the 1840s, with commercial production beginning in the 1960s.

Pinot noir and Pinot gris are the top two grapes grown, with over 16,000 tons (14,515 metric tons) harvested in 2005. As of 2005, Oregon wine makers produced over 1.5 million cases combined.

With 303 wineries in Oregon, a tourism industry has developed around wine tasting. Much of the tourism focuses on the wineries and tasting rooms in and around the Yamhill Valley southwest of Portland. In 2004, enotourism contributed an estimated USD $92 million to the state economy, excluding winery and tasting room sales.


Wine has been produced in Oregon since the Oregon Territory was settled in the 1840s; however, winemaking has only been a significant industry in the state since the 1960s. Grapes were first planted in the Oregon Territory in 1847. Valley View,the first recorded winery, was established by Peter Britt in the late 1850s in Jacksonville. Throughout the 19th century, there was experimentation with various varietals by immigrants to the state. In 1904, an Oregon winemaker won a prize at the St. Louis World's Fair. Wine production stopped in the United States during Prohibition. As in other states, the Oregon wine industry lay dormant for thirty years after Prohibition was repealed.[3][4]

David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards.

The Oregon wine industry started to rebuild in the 1960s, when California winemakers opened several vineyards in the state.[4] By 1970, there were five commercial wineries, with 35 recorded acres (14 ha).[1][3]

This included the planting of Eyrie Vineyards entered a 1975 Pinot noir in the Wine Olympics; the wine was rated among the top Pinots in the world, thus gaining the region its first international recognition.[3][4]

The accolades continued into the 1980s, and the Oregon wine industry continued to add both wineries and vineyards. The state industry continued to market itself, establishing the first of several AVAs (American Viticulture Areas) in the state. The state also grew strong ties with the Burgundy region of France, as Oregon's governor paid an official visit to Burgundy and a leading French winemaking family bought land in Dundee.[3][4]

In the early 1990s, the wine industry was threatened by a Phylloxera infestation in the state, but winemakers quickly turned to the use of resistant rootstocks to prevent any serious damage. The state legislature enacted several new laws designed to promote winemaking and wine distribution. The state found a newfound focus on "green" winemaking, leading the global wine industry into more environmentally friendly practices. Several new AVAs were established. By 2005, there were 314 wineries and 519 vineyards in operation in Oregon.[3][4] By 2009, the number of wineries in the state has increased to 453 and remains the 3rd largest wine producer in the country [5]

Varieties of wine

Like other wines produced in the United States, Oregon wines are marketed as varietals. Oregon law requires that wines produced in the state must be identified by the grape variety from which it was made, and for most varietals it must contain at least 90% of that variety. The exceptions to the 90% law are the following varietals: Red and White Bordeaux varietals, Red and White Rhône varietals, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Zinfandel and Tannat. For these wines, they follow the Federal guidelines of 75%.[6] Oregon law has long forbidden use of place names, except as appellations of origin. Oregon is most famous for its Pinot noir, which is produced throughout the state. Pinot noirs from the Willamette Valley have received much critical acclaim from wine connoisseurs and critics, and Oregon is regarded as one of the premier Pinot-producing regions in the world.[7]

In 2005, the top five varieties produced in Oregon were:

  • Pinot noir 7,974 acres (3,227 ha), 12,086 short tons (10,964 t)
  • Pinot gris 1,184 acres (479 ha), 4,317 short tons (3,916 t)
  • Chardonnay 842 acres (341 ha), 1,568 short tons (1,422 t)
  • Merlot 550 acres (220 ha), 675 short tons (612 t)
  • Riesling 524 acres (212 ha), 1,000 short tons (907 t)

Other varieties with significant production in Oregon include Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot blanc, Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon, and Syrah. V. vinifera based wines produced in smaller quantities include Arneis, Baco noir, Cabernet franc, Chenin blanc, Dolcetto, Gamay noir, Grenache, Marechal Foch, Malbec, Muscat, Nebbiolo, Petite Syrah, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Viognier, and Zinfandel. The state also produces sparkling wine, late harvest wine, ice wine, and dessert wine.[8]

Facts and figures

Oregon wine statistics 1995–2005[9]
Year Vinyard area # Wineries
Grapes crushed,
tons (US)
Sales, cases
1995 7,100 acres (29 km2) 92 14,280 short tons (12,955 t) 734,437
1996 7,500 acres (30 km2) 94 15,191 short tons (13,781 t) 741,953
1997 7,800 acres (32 km2) 94 18,669 short tons (16,936 t) 827,312
1998 9,000 acres (36 km²) 103 13,265 short tons (12,034 t) 894,386
1999 9,800 acres (40 km2) 102 16,523 short tons (14,989 t) 777,890
2000 10,500 acres (42 km2) 122 17,663 short tons (16,024 t) 991,770
2001 11,100 acres (45 km2) 131 22,163 short tons (20,106 t) 1,082,058
2002 12,100 acres (49 km2) 150 20,905 short tons (18,965 t) 1,073,177
2003 13,400 acres (54 km2) 170 21,860 short tons (19,831 t) 1,199,086
2004 13,700 acres (55 km2) 193 18,620 short tons (16,892 t) 1,286,128
2005 14,100 acres (57 km2) 215 23,450 short tons (21,273 t) 1,591,330

As of the 2005 wine growing season, the state of Oregon has 303 bonded wineries, 384 wine brands, and 734 vineyards growing Vitis vinifera, composing a total of 14,100 acres (57 km2) of which 11,800 acres (48 km2) were harvested in 2005. Out of all US wine growing regions, Oregon ranked third in number of wineries and fourth in production. Nearly 1.6 million cases of Oregon wine were sold in 2005. The retail value of these cases was $184.7 million, a 24% increase over the previous vintage.[10]

The industry has had a significant economic impact on the state. The industry contributed a total of US$1.4 billion to the Oregon economy. Of that figure, over US$800 million is directly provided by wineries and vineyards via sales, wages, and spending. It is estimated that the industry contributed 8,479 wine-related jobs and US$203 million in wages. Exports to other states in 2004 were US$64.1 million.[11]

Oregon produces wine on a much smaller scale than the California wine industry. Oregon's leading producer, King Estate, ships only 175,000 cases per year and most produce under 35,000 cases. The state features many small wineries which produce less than 5,000 cases per year.[4][12] In contrast, E & J Gallo Winery, the United States' largest winery, produced 65 million cases of wine in 2002.[13] The majority of wineries in the state operate their own vineyards, although some purchase grapes on the market. Oregon contains a significant number of independent vineyards.[4]

The Oregon wine industry focuses on the higher-priced segments of the wine market. Oregon growers receive a higher average return per ton and a higher average revenue per case than do growers in other wine-producing regions in the United States. Despite producing a much smaller volume of wine, Oregon winery revenues per capita are comparable to those of New York and Washington.[11]

Major wine-producing regions

There are, loosely speaking, three main wine producing regions with a major presence in the state of Oregon, as defined by non-overlapping Columbia River and includes territory in both Oregon and Washington; however, this AVA is considered to be an Oregon AVA. Portions of the Walla Walla Valley AVA, an area which is primarily in Washington (along with the Columbia Valley AVA which contains it), descend into Oregon in the Milton-Freewater area. The Southern Oregon AVA was recently created as the union of two Southern Oregon winegrowing regions long considered distinct, the Rogue Valley and the Umpqua Valley. Several other smaller AVAs are found within some of these larger regions.[14] The Snake River Valley AVA, which straddles Oregon's border with Idaho along the Snake River, is the first AVA to include a part of Eastern Oregon.[15]

Willamette Valley

The Willamette River Valley.

The Willamette Valley AVA is the wine growing region which encompasses the Willamette Valley. It stretches from the Columbia River in the north to just south of Eugene in the south, where the Willamette Valley ends; and from the Oregon Coast Range in the West to the Cascade Mountains in the East. At 5,200 square miles (13,500 km2), it is the largest AVA in the state, and contains most of the state's wineries; approximately 200 as of 2006.[16]

The climate of Willamette Valley is mild year-round, with cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers; extreme temperatures are uncommon. Most rainfall occurs outside the growing season and the valley gets relatively little snow.[17] Not all parts of the Valley are suitable for viticulture, and most wineries and vineyards are found west of the Willamette River, with the largest concentration in Yamhill County.[18]

The region is best known for its Pinot noir, and also produces large amounts of Pinot gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay. The region also produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau, Sémillon, and Zinfandel grapes, but in far smaller quantities.

The region is divided into six subordinate AVAs: Chehalem Mountains AVA, Dundee Hills AVA, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, McMinnville AVA, Ribbon Ridge AVA, and the Yamhill-Carlton District AVA. In addition, many wine connoisseurs further divide the Willamette Valley into northern and southern regions approximately at the latitude of Salem.

Southern Oregon

Umpqua River with tributaries
Rogue River and Tributaries

The Southern Oregon AVA is an AVA which was formed as the union of two existing AVAs—the Rogue Valley AVA and the Umpqua Valley AVA. (A small strip of connecting territory is included in the Southern Oregon AVA to make it a contiguous region; however, this strip passes through mountains regions not suitable for vineyards.) This AVA was established in 2004 to allow the two principal regions in Southern Oregon to jointly market themselves.[19] As the Rogue Valley and Umpqua Valley regions produce different grapes and different varietals, they are examined separately.

Umpqua Valley AVA

The Umpqua Valley AVA contains the drainage basin of the Umpqua River, excluding mountainous regions.[20] The Umpqua Valley has a warmer climate than the Willamette Valley, but is cooler than the Rogue Valley to the south. It is the oldest post-prohibition wine region in Oregon. Grapes grown here include Tempranillo, Baco noir, Pinot noir, Pinot gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, and a host of lesser known Vitis vinifera. The region includes two sub-AVAs, the Red Hill Douglas County, Oregon AVA, a single vineyard AVA, as well as the Elkton, Oregon AVA, which was established in early 2013.[21]

Rogue Valley AVA

The Rogue Valley AVA includes the drainage basin of the Rogue River and several tributaries, including the Illinois River, the Applegate River, and Bear Creek. Most wineries in the region are found along one of these three tributaries, rather than along the Rogue River itself. The region is 70 miles (110 km) wide by 60 miles (100 km) long (although much of the land within the AVA is not suitable for grape cultivation); there are currently 32 wineries with only 1,100 acres (4 km2) planted. The three valleys differ greatly in terroir, with the easternmost Bear Creek valley being warmest and driest, and the westernmost Illinois River valley being coolest and wettest.[22] Each river valley has a unique climate and grows different varieties of grapes. Overall, however, this region is the warmest and driest of Oregon's wine-growing regions.[23] The region has one sub-AVA, the Applegate Valley AVA.[24]

Columbia Gorge

The Columbia River (shown here in Hood River County, Oregon) is at the heart of the Columbia Gorge AVA
Valley of the North Fork of the Walla Walla River above Milton-Freewater in Oregon

The [26] The region has nearly 40 vineyards, growing a wide variety of grapes, including Syrah, Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot gris, Riesling, and Sangiovese.[27]

Walla Walla Valley

Portions of northeastern Oregon (in the vicinity of Milton-Freewater) are part of the Walla Walla Valley AVA, which was established in 1984. This appellation, which is part of the Columbia Valley AVA, lies primarily within Washington state. This region has nearly 100 wineries and 1,200 acres (5 km2) planted. Wines grown in the valley include Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Sangiovese and a few exotic varietals including Counoise, Carmenère, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo and Barbera.[28][29]

A new AVA, The Rocks District of Milton–Freewater, was established in 2015.[30]

Snake River Valley

A new viticultural area along the Snake River was established on April 9, 2007. Principally located in Idaho, the area also encompasses two large counties in Eastern Oregon, Baker County and Malheur County.[15] The region's climate is unique among AVAs in Oregon; the average temperature is relatively cool and rainfall is low, creating a shorter growing season. Current production is led by hardy grapes such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Chardonnay. The climate also lends itself extremely well to the production of ice wine.[31] However, the AVA is quite large and warmer microclimates within the area can also support different types of grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.[32]

Yamhill County

Name Establishment Notes
Maysara Winery[33] 1997 Former abandoned wheat farm
Yamhill Valley Vineyards[34] 1983 The oldest winery in the McMinnville AVA
Coleman Vineyard[35] 1991
Coeur De Terre Vineyard[36] 1998 Specializes in estate grown Pinot Noir
Youngberg Hill Vineyards[37] 1989
Brittan Vineyards[38] 2004 Pinot Noir
Durant Vineyards[39] 1973 Dundee Hills AVA. Proprietors: Ken and Penny Durant.


Pinot noir grapes at Chehalem Ridgecrest Vineyard, Newberg.

With the continuing improvement in the region's winemaking reputation, enotourism in Oregon has become a significant industry in its own right. On-site sales are becoming an increasingly important part of the business of Oregon winemaking, and other businesses which cater to wine tourists, such as lodging, fine restaurants, art gallerys, have been appearing in places like Dundee, many of which have long been rural farming communities. Wine festivals and tastings are commonplace. It is estimated that enotourism contributed USD $92 million to the state economy in 2004, excluding sales at wineries and tasting rooms. There are approximately 1.48 million visits to Oregon wineries each year, 49% by Oregonians and 51% from out of state visitors. Major events which draw significant numbers of tourists to wine country include the International Pinot Noir Celebration and the Oregon Pinot Camp.[11]

Facilities for wine tourists in Oregon are considered underdeveloped compared to wine regions in California, especially premium growing regions like the Napa Valley AVA. Only 5% of overnight leisure trips in the state involve visits to wineries, a much smaller figure than comparable Californian growing regions which range from 10% to 25%.[11] Oregon lacks many accommodations found in wine growing regions in other states such as luxury hotels, resorts, and other attractions suitable for well-heeled tourists. As of August 2006, a resort hotel is being planned in Dundee, which would be located near notable wineries such as Domaine Drouhin Oregon. A local developer and businessman has proposed construction of a 50-room hotel, spa and restaurant in the Dundee Hills region, but has met with opposition from many notable vintners, including David Lett, who fear that such a development would dramatically alter the landscape of the region. Concern has also been raised by vintners that the proposed site is on prime growing land that should be used for wine production rather than a resort hotel.[40]

The increase in winery-related tourism, as well as the presence of a casino in the Willamette Valley, has greatly impacted the region's transportation infrastructure. Oregon Route 99W, the highway which runs through the heart of Willamette Valley wine country (and which is the main street in towns such as Newberg and Dundee), is plagued with frequent traffic jams. Plans to construct a freeway bypass around Newberg and Dundee (avoiding the prime growing areas in the hills) are in motion,[41] but are highly controversial. Currently, construction of the highway project is unfunded, and the Oregon Department of Transportation has proposed making the new bypass a toll road, highly unusual for Oregon. Tolls have also been proposed on the existing route of OR 99W, in addition to the new bypass.[42] This proposal has proven to be highly controversial, with many local residents opposing the plan, primarily due to potential negative effects on businesses located on 99W and a general aversion to tolling existing roads.[43]


Recognition for quality

Oregon wines have won several major awards, and/or been praised by notable wine critics.

Other recognition

  • In 2006, seven Oregon wines made Wine Spectator's annual Top 100 Wines list.[46] Producers on the list included: Shea, Argyle, Archery Summit, Lemelson, Ken Wright, Elk Cove, and Benton Lane.
  • Oregon wines have continued to appear on Wine Spectator's annual Top 100 Wines list. For example, the 2009 list included the King Estate 2008 Signature Pinot gris and the 1999 Argyle Extended Tirage.[47] The 2011 list had 2009 Pinot noirs from Sineann and Rex Hill wineries.[48]

Notable wineries and vineyards

This is a list of notable operating and defunct wineries and vineyards in the state of Oregon in the United States, including those in the Southern Oregon AVA and Willamette Valley AVA. Included are wineries and vineyards owned or operated by larger wineries not based in Oregon.

Name Location Established Notes
Bethel Heights Vineyard Salem 1977
Bridgeview Vineyard and Winery Cave Junction 1986
Cooper Mountain Vineyards Beaverton 1978
Domaine Drouhin Dundee 1988
Eyrie Vineyards McMinnville (winery)
Dundee (vineyards)
HillCrest Vineyards Roseburg, Oregon (winery)
Umpqua Valley (vineyards)
King Estate Lorane 1991 Produces Pinot gris.[49]
Oak Knoll Winery Hillsboro 1970
WillaKenzie Estate Yamhill 1994
Sokol Blosser Winery Dundee 1971 Produces Pinot noir.[50]
Willamette Valley Vineyards Turner 1983 Additional winery and vineyard in Forest Grove.
Valley View Winery Applegate Valley 1976

See also


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^ Appellation America (2007). "Oregon: Appellation Description". Retrieved Nov. 16, 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g
  4. ^ a b c d e f g
  5. ^ Number of U.S. Wineries Continues to Grow, Reaches 6,223 from
  6. ^ OLCC Statutes, 845-010-0915.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b c d
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^ Wine Spectator’s Top 100 At A Glance. Wine Spectator. Retrieved December 4, 2007.
  47. ^ Wine Spectator’s Top 100 of 2009 At A Glance. Wine Spectator. Retrieved March 21, 2009.
  48. ^ Wine Spectator’s Top 100 of 2011 At A Glance. Wine Spectator. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  49. ^ Comiskey, P. "Oregon Pinot gris Puts Some Flash in the Glass," Los Angeles Times, February 6, 2008.
  50. ^ Klooster, K. ‘Finalizing 2011 Numbers’ Oregon Wine Press, February 1, 2012.

Further reading

  • The wines and wineries of America's Northwest: the premium wines of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, 1986, ISBN 0-936666-03-X
  • A travel companion to the wineries of the Pacific Northwest: featuring the pinot noirs of Oregon's Willamette Valley, 2002, ISBN 0-9704154-3-5
  • Legal issues affecting Oregon wineries & vineyards, 2003
  • Oregon wine country, 2004, ISBN 1-4000-1367-4
  • Cooking with the wines of Oregon, 2007, ISBN 1-55285-843-X

External links

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