Brief History

European wine grapes were brought to Oregon in the late 1800s, but United States wine production was commercialized mostly in California until the 1960s. In 1961 a man by the name of Richard Sommer planted some vineyards in Oregon, even though he was strongly advised by folks at the University of California at Davis that they would not produce worthwhile wine grapes.

Another winemaker, David Lett, followed suit, planting Pinot Noir in the Eyrie Vineyard, and he is credited with being the visionary who proved Pinot Noir could be grown as well (if not better) in Oregon than in California. He put Oregon on the map by coming in second in 1979 in a competition held by the French that pit their best Burgundies (Pinot Noir wines) against New World emulators. Eyrie still produces a fantastic elegant, perfumy Pinot Noir. A handful of other excellent winemakers have planted Pinot Noir in Oregon since, and this is the variety Oregon truly excells at producing.

Key Regions (North to South)

Willamette Valley - Very high quality wines produced. Still a very young wine region that is experimenting (particularly with clonal selections). Known mostly for Burgundian style Pinot Noir, and also produces some Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.

Umpqua Valley - Warmer climate than Willamette Valley, so this region produces mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. (which need more heat and light than Pinot Noir).

Rogue Valley - Similar climate to Umpqua Valley. Produces mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Types of Wines

The most prominent type of wine produced in Oregon is the Varietal wine. This is a table wine that lists a single variety of grape on the label. Some wineries have also had good success with ice wines from Riesling and Gewurztraminer.

Prominent Grape Varieties

Due to the cooler temperatures and climate similar to that of Burgundy (France), the most successful plantings have been Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.

Some areas have experimented with Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Gamay is also grown in some of the cooler areas. Recent plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have been moderately successful in the warmer southern regions.



Viticulture and Wine-making

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