The state of Oregon in the United States has established an international reputation for its production of wine, ranking fourth in the country behind California, Washington, and New York. Oregon has several different growing regions within the state's borders that 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.
American Viticultural Areas entirely within the state are the Willamette Valley AVA (with 6 nested-AVAs) and the Southern Oregon AVA with (5 nested-AVAs). Parts of the Columbia Gorge, Walla Walla Valley, and Snake River Valley AVAs lie within Oregon. Pinot noir and Pinot gris are the top two grapes grown, with over 59,452 short tons (53,934 t) harvested in 2016. Oregon winemakers sold just under 3.4 million cases in 2016.
With 725 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. It is estimated that enotourism contributed USD $207.5 million to the state economy in 2013 excluding sales at wineries and tasting rooms.
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 As in other states, the Oregon wine industry lay dormant for thirty years after Prohibition was repealed.
The Oregon wine industry started to rebuild in the 1960s, when California winemakers opened several vineyards in the state. By 1970, there were five commercial wineries, with 35 recorded acres (14 ha).
This included the planting of Pinot noir grapes in the Willamette Valley, a region long thought too cold to be suitable for viticulture. In the 1970s, more out-of-state winemakers migrated to the state and started to organize as an industry. The state's land use laws had prevented rural hillsides from being turned into housing tracts, preserving a significant amount of land suitable for vineyards. In 1979, The 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.
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 Neil Goldschmidt paid an official visit to Burgundy and a leading French winemaking family bought land in Dundee.
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. In 2005, there were 314 wineries and 519 vineyards in operation in Oregon. By 2014, the number of wineries in the state has increased to 676, the 3rd most behind California and Washington. Oregon remains the 4th largest wine producer in the country in cases produced behind New York.
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%. 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.
In 2016 the top five varieties produced in Oregon were:
Other varieties with significant production by harvested acres in 2016 are Syrah, Merlot, Tempranillo, Pinot blanc, Gewürztraminer, Viognier, Cabernet franc, Müller-Thurgau, Sauvignon blanc, and Zinfandel, V. vinifera based wines produced in smaller quantities include Arneis, Baco noir, Black Muscat, Chenin blanc, Dolcetto, Gamay noir, Grenache, Marechal Foch, Malbec, Muscat, Nebbiolo, Petite Syrah, Sangiovese, and Sémillon. The state also produces fruit wine, sparkling wine, late harvest wine, ice wine, and dessert wine.
|1995||7,100 acres (2,873 ha)||92||14,280 short tons (12,955 t)||734,437|
|1996||7,500 acres (3,035 ha)||94||15,191 short tons (13,781 t)||741,953|
|1997||7,800 acres (3,157 ha)||94||18,669 short tons (16,936 t)||827,312|
|1998||9,000 acres (3,600 ha)||103||13,265 short tons (12,034 t)||894,386|
|1999||9,800 acres (3,966 ha)||102||16,523 short tons (14,989 t)||777,890|
|2000||10,500 acres (4,249 ha)||122||17,663 short tons (16,024 t)||991,770|
|2001||11,100 acres (4,492 ha)||131||22,163 short tons (20,106 t)||1,082,058|
|2002||12,100 acres (4,897 ha)||150||20,905 short tons (18,965 t)||1,073,177|
|2003||13,400 acres (5,423 ha)||170||21,860 short tons (19,831 t)||1,199,086|
|2004||13,700 acres (5,544 ha)||193||18,620 short tons (16,892 t)||1,286,128|
|2005||14,100 acres (5,706 ha)||215||23,450 short tons (21,273 t)||1,591,330|
|2006||15,600 acres (6,300 ha)||236||33,300 short tons (30,200 t)||1,628,608|
|2007||17,400 acres (7,000 ha)||254||37,000 short tons (34,000 t)||1,711,532|
|2008||19,300 acres (7,800 ha)||274||34,700 short tons (31,500 t)||1,748,282|
|2009||19,400 acres (7,900 ha)||275||40,200 short tons (36,500 t)||1,660,202|
|2010||20,500 acres (8,300 ha)||315||29,800 short tons (27,000 t)||1,930,763|
|2011||20,400 acres (8,300 ha)||350||42,033 short tons (38,132 t)||2,040,698|
|2012||22,880 acres (9,260 ha)||379||50,186 short tons (45,528 t)||2,379,165|
|2013||23,955 acres (9,694 ha)||370||52,588 short tons (47,707 t)||2,678,807|
|2014||27,390 acres (11,080 ha)||412||70,112 short tons (63,605 t)||2,864,963|
|2015||28,034 acres (11,345 ha)||71,849 short tons (65,180 t)||3,093,661|
|2016||30,435 acres (12,317 ha)||424||67,918 short tons (61,614 t)||3,390,958|
As of the 2015 wine growing season, the state of Oregon has 702 wineries and 1052 vineyards growing Vitis vinifera, composing a total of 28,034 acres (11,345 ha) of which 24,742 acres (10,013 ha) were harvested. Out of all US wine growing regions, Oregon ranks third in number of wineries and fourth in production. Nearly 3 million cases of Oregon wine were sold in 2015. The retail value of these cases was $470,650,919 a 9% increase over the previous vintage.
The industry has had a significant economic impact on the state. The industry contributed a total of US$3.35 billion to the Oregon economy. 17,100 people participate in the wine industry with $527 million in wages. In 2014 70% was sold to US markets outside Oregon and 4% was sold internationally.
Oregon produces wine on a much smaller scale than the California wine industry. Oregon's leading producer, King Estate, ships only 401,400 cases per year and most produce under 35,000 cases. The state features many small wineries that produce less than 5,000 cases per year. In contrast, E & J Gallo, the United States' largest winery with more than 50 different brands including Washington's Columbia Winery and Covey Run holds 22.8% share of the US market. 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.
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.
There are, loosely speaking, three main wine producing regions with a major presence in the state of Oregon, as defined by non-overlapping American Viticultural Areas. Two of them—the Willamette Valley AVA and the Southern Oregon AVA—are wholly contained within Oregon; a third, the Columbia Gorge AVA straddles the 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 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. 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.
The Willamette Valley AVA is the wine growing region that 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; with 545 as of 2016.
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. 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.
The region is best known for its Pinot noir, and also produces large amounts of Pinot gris, Chardonnay, Pinot blanc, and Riesling. The region also produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau, Sémillon, and Zinfandel grapes, but in far smaller quantities.
The region is divided into five nested AVAs: Chehalem Mountains AVA, Dundee Hills AVA, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, McMinnville AVA, and the Yamhill-Carlton District AVA. Ribbon Ridge AVA is nested within the Chehalem Mountains. In addition, many wine connoisseurs further divide the Willamette Valley into northern and southern regions approximately at the latitude of Salem.
The Southern Oregon AVA is an AVA 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. As the Rogue Valley and Umpqua Valley regions produce different grapes and different varietals, they are examined separately.
The Umpqua Valley AVA contains the drainage basin of the Umpqua River, excluding mountainous regions. 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.
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 (445 ha) 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. 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. The region has one sub-AVA, the Applegate Valley AVA.
The Columbia Gorge AVA is found in the Columbia Gorge. This region straddles the Columbia River, and thus lies in both Oregon and Washington; it is made up of Hood River and Wasco counties in Oregon, and Skamania and Klickitat counties in Washington. The region lies to the east of the summits of nearby Mount Hood and Mount Adams, situated in their rain shadows; thus, the region is significantly drier than the Willamette Valley. It also exhibits significant differences in elevation due to gorge geography, and strong winds common in the area also play a factor in the region's climate. This allows a wide variety of grapes to be grown in the Columbia Gorge. 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.
Portions of northeastern Oregon (in the vicinity of Milton-Freewater) are part of the Walla Walla Valley AVA established in 1984; which in turn is nested within the Columbia Valley AVA. Both Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley AVAs reside primarily within Washington state. The Oregon subsection has 5 wineries and 1,200 acres (486 ha) 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.
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. 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. 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.
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 that cater to wine tourists, such as lodging, fine restaurants, art galleries, 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 $207.5 million to the state economy in 2013 excluding sales at wineries and tasting rooms. There are approximately 1.8 million visits to Oregon wineries each year, 59% by Oregonians and 41% from out of state visitors. Major events drawing significant numbers of tourists to wine country include the International Pinot Noir Celebration which is held the last weekend of July every year since 1987 and the more recent Oregon Chardonnay Celebration.
Since wine themed events are a significant driver of tourism new ones are launched each year.
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%.
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 running 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. Phase I of the Newberg Dundee Bypasss (avoiding the prime growing areas in the hills) is under construction and expected to open in 2017.
A growing number of organizations have been established to promote Oregon Wine. In February of each year the Oregon Wine Board and Oregon Wine Grower's association team up to hold the Oregon Wine Symposium.
Regional organizations, largely aligned to AVAs:
Oregon wines have won several major awards, and/or been praised by notable wine critics.
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.
|Adelsheim Vineyard||Chehalem Mountains AVA||1971||First winery in the Chehalem Mountains. David Adelsheim has been instrumental in the Willamette Valley wine industry.|
|Domaine Drouhin||Dundee Hills AVA||1988||Long established French estate invests in Oregon.|
|The Eyrie Vineyards||McMinnville (winery)
Dundee Hills AVA (vineyards)
|1966||David Lett of The Eyrie Vineyards is widely considered the father of Oregon Pinot Noir.|
|HillCrest Vineyards||Umpqua Valley AVA||1961||Oregon's oldest estate winery.|
|Honeywood Winery||Willamette Valley AVA||1934||Oldest continuously operating winery in Oregon.|
|Sokol Blosser Winery||Dundee Hills AVA||1971||Synonymous with sustainability.|
|Willamette Valley Vineyards||Willamette Valley AVA||1983||Oregon's only publicly traded winery.|
In 1970, there were five commercial wineries in Oregon and 35 recorded acres of vineyards. Today, there are more than 400 wineries and greater than 20,000 acres of vineyards in Oregon.