The best wines from Oregon

Oregon's winemaking philosophy contrasts with that of California, they emphasize friendly, philosophical winemakers. Oregon's terroir features diverse soils, shielded valleys, and a cool climate. Therefore, fostering the production of exclusive wines with distinctive character. Especially the Willamette Valley (region within Oregon) excels at producing world-class Pinot Noir an earning international acclaim. Also, the 2021 Casteel Pinot Noir, sourced from western vineyards planted in the 1990s, is expressive and dynamic with remarkable depth and elegant structure.

Oregon is celebrated worldwide for its finest Pinot Noirs. The annual International Pinot Noir Convention in McMinnville unites enthusiasts and producers to honour the grape. The Chardonnay wines resemble more and more the style from famous Chardonnay wines from Burgundy.

Suppliers in Oregon

Arterberry Maresh  |  Au Bon Climat  |  Audeant  |  Beaux Freres  |  Beaux Frères  |  Bethel Heights  |  Domaine Drouhin  |  Evening Land  |  Nicolas Jay  |  Sine Qua Non  |  Tan Fruit
All wines in Oregon

History of Oregon wine

In the second half of the 19th century, Oregon pioneers ventured into winemaking. After prohibition, wineries flourished. The region initially produced fruity wines like those at Salem's Honeywood Winery (which was founded in 1934).

In 1963, Richard Sommer, a viticulture pioneer, planted Riesling in the Umpqua Valley, which shaped the modern viticulture. In the 1960s, vineyards were planted in the northern Willamette Valley. The reason resonates because of the specific location that has climatic similarities to Burgundy. Therefore, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are favoured here. By the 1980s, experienced winemakers (mostly from California) continued to advance Oregon's wine industry. This was evidenced by the triumph of Eyrie Vineyards' 1975 Pinot Noir over renowned Burgundies.

Terroir of wines from Oregon

Oregon's climate can be expressed in short and wet summers. Most of Oregon’s vineyards, especially those on ocean-facing slopes, benefit from natural irrigation. The cool climate and diverse soils promote early grape ripening, creating Oregon's unique wine profile.

Unlike California's warm summers, Oregon requires the warmest, sunniest sites for the ripening of its grapes. Winemakers carefully select prime sites and are flexible to nature's demands. In optimal years winemakers desire higher elevations for wine cultivation. However, this can also result in ripening issues for cooler vintages. Areas that are located at mid-level provides consistency to the winemaker, and vines located at the lower areas have the risk of premature ripening in favourable seasons.

So, the winemaker must be flexible with the current vintage. Slow and deliberate action is preferable, as Steve Doerner, winemaker at Cristom, noted, "Doing things right by doing them slowly. However, the environment is ideal for cool-climate grapes and for making wines that ripen earlier.

Grapes of wines from Oregon

Oregon's climate and fertile soil yield diverse berries, stone fruits, and abundant harvests today. In the Roseburg area characterized by low hills and flat valleys, the climate is relatively dry and warm, so Cabernet Sauvignon is also planted, although grapes that tolerate low temperatures dominate here, such as Riesling, Pinot and Chardonnay. In Rogue Valley, vines grow on higher vineyards. Closer to the Pacific Ocean in Illinois Valley, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris define the picture, while in the warmer sub-appellations of Applegate Valley and Rogue River, Oregon's best Cabernet and Merlots thrive.

Classifications of Oregan wine

Oregon maintains strict wine labelling regulations to maintain its esteemed reputation, therefore, exceeding federal standards. For example, while the U.S. requires 75% grape-to-grape consistency with the labelled area, Oregon requires 95%. Wines claiming cross-border regions, such as the Walla Walla Valley, these regions can comply with either state's laws. The state of Oregon requires a 90% varietal blend, with exceptions for 18 varietals that allow up to 25% other grapes.

The wine area of Oregon boasts 23 AVAs (American Viticultural Areas), which are state-approved wine-growing regions, including:

  • Columbia Gorge AVA that lies in both Oregon and Washington.
  • Snake River Valley AVA is located in the south-west of Idaho.
  • Southern Oregon AVA that encompasses the Umpqua Valley and the Rogue Valley (and their respective AVAs).
  • In the AVA of Willamette Valley are 11 smaller AVAs located.

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