July 10, 2018
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Oregon now is home to over 725 wineries, making it the third-most popular state in the nation in terms of total wineries, trailing only California and Washington State. In terms of overall wine production, Oregon ranks fourth, trailing California, Washington and New York State. By far, the most popular grape grown within the state is Pinot Noir. Other popular grapes include Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Gris.
While the modern wine industry in Oregon started in the 1960’s, the tradition of winemaking within the state extends back to the 1840’s. By the 1970’s, the state still only had 5 wineries. However, in the 1970’s, the state began to experience a winemaking boom, led by the phenomenal success of Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley.
Today, there are five primary American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) within the state:
- Willamette Valley AVA
- Southern Oregon AVA
- Columbia Gorge AVA
- Walla Walla Valley AVA
Snake River Valley AVA
The Southern Oregon AVA was established in 2004 by joining together two existing AVAs – Rogue Valley and Umpqua Valley – into one single AVA.
This is the largest AVA in the state, containing 545 of the state’s 725 wineries. The wine region is notable for its mild year-round climate, which includes cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers. The AVA is located almost entirely west of the Willamette River, and is known primarily for its production of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. In the mid-1970’s, it was Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley that put the Oregon wine industry on the map.
Within the Willamette Valley, there are five nested AVAs:
This wine region was formed by merging together the Rogue Valley and Umpqua Valley AVAs, primarily to make it easier for these two Oregon wine regions to market their wines to the average wine drinker. However, there are different grape varieties found in each of the two valleys. For example, the Umpqua Valley specializes in Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Pinot Gris and Baco Noir.
Southern Oregon and Willamette Valley are the only two Oregon wine regions wholly contained within the state itself. (Snake River Valley extends into Idaho, and Columbia Gorge and Walla Walla Valley both extend into Washington State.)
Snake River Valley
The Snake River Valley AVA was established in 2007. It became the first Oregon AVA to include a part of Eastern Oregon, as well as the first AVA to include part of Idaho. This region is known primarily for three different types of wine: Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay. In addition, due to the cold climate found here, it has also established a reputation for its ice wine.
Due to the expansion of Oregon’s wine industry over the past three decades, the state now has a thriving wine tourism ecosystem, including wine festivals, tastings and local restaurants that specialize in Oregon wines. According to recent estimates, nearly 40 percent of the tourism traffic is coming from out-of-state, which shows how wide Oregon’s reputation for creating world-class wines has extended.
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