Oregon Vineyards And Wineries
By Sheri Wytcherley
Oregon Wine Country, where the wild and scenic Pacific Northwest gives wine lovers plenty of reasons to venture north from California’s frequented wine country, with over 450+ tasting rooms to choose from.
The pioneering spirit that paved the way to populating this vast and diverse region is the same spirit that blazed the trail for the wine industry in Oregon.
Oregon wine regions feature mountains, high deserts, and river valleys, which provide a range of growing climates ideal for producing many varietals. Oregon encompasses 16 specific wine-growing regions called American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), each unique in geographic location, climate, soil, and topography. When an AVA is designated on the wine bottle’s label, 85 percent of the grapes used to make the wine must be sourced from that AVA. Oregon is home to more than 1,000 vineyards growing 72 varieties of grapes. Varietals like chardonnay and cab franc thrive in the hot, dry Rogue Valley, while the Umpqua Valley excels in Spanish varietals like tempranillo. You’ll also find albariño, viognier, malbec, gewürztraminer, syrah, and the world-famous pinot noir.
Oregon is quickly becoming a popular ecotourism destination, but still retains a rural charm that’s missing from other more populated wine regions, while still offering excellent cuisine, and accommodations ranging from glamping in a treehouse to five-star luxury hotels. The state has gained national and international notoriety, offering visitors a surprising variety of wines and tasting room experiences.
Liz Wan, Assistant Winemaker at Serra Vineyards in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon, confirms, “With nearly 100 wineries south of Eugene growing over 70 different grape varieties in a diverse range of both microclimates and elevations, one has the option to taste everything from Albarino to Zinfandel.” As Co-Chair of Oregon Wine University and Vice President of the Applegate Wine Trail, Liz is well versed in the Oregon Wine Industry. “Southern Oregon continues to receive nods from major wine writers, magazines, and top-shelf wine professionals, many of whom are either Masters of Wine or Master Sommeliers. With the spectacular Rogue and Umpqua Valleys as a scenic backdrop to Crater Lake, the Southern Oregon coast, giant redwoods, endless hiking, a year-round fishery, stunning golf courses, internationally renowned theatre, and true farm to table cuisine options will inspire both the soul and the palate.”
Ashland, famous for its annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival, ushered Southern Oregon onto Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s “Top 10 Wine Travel Destinations in the World” list for 2016.” Southern Oregon’s AVAs begin at the California border and extend North almost 180 miles, with 150 microclimates. The Northern part of the state makes Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s 2017 list with Hood River, in the Columbia Gorge AVA.
Christine Collier, Winery Director for Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner Oregon, has been given the responsibility of the Vineyard’s new Oregon Estate Vineyards division, focused on building boutique wineries on some of Oregon’s most intriguing vineyard sites. “Oregon’s Willamette Valley is an excellent destination for wine enthusiast travelers.
We are the American home for Pinot Noir, with over 400 wineries. In the past few years, we have built tasting rooms to host guest experiences that are approachable and sophisticated. Portland’s vibrant food culture also extends into wine country, with chefs and restaurateurs featuring local ingredients and wine lists.”
The Oregon wine industry continues to substantially contribute to the state’s economy, according to a January 2015 study released by the Oregon Wine Board. In 2013, the total economic contribution related to Oregon wine in the state was more than $3.35 billion. The industry has contributed more than 17,000 wine-related jobs to Oregon and brought $207.5 million to the state in wine-related tourism revenue. It has been five decades since the planting of the first modern grapevines in Oregon. History is still being made here, thanks to all the dedicated vine tenders, winemakers, and wine lovers who have farmed, fermented, and sipped here for the past 50 years.
No matter what type of outdoor or cultural adventure you are seeking, be it spelunking in the Oregon Caves, enjoying the Shakespearian Theater, whitewater rafting, hiking, or horseback riding, you will find a great bottle of Oregon wine to go with it.
I’ll close with Liz Wan’s advice to those who have not yet visited Oregon’s wine country: “Come visit soon—before more people discover the hidden jewel that is this emerging wine region. Once you get here, our local hospitality will have you feeling like family.” She cautions, “In extreme cases, a common side effect of visitation is the insatiable desire to move to the area!”
Realtor Sheri Wytcherley on a tractor at one of her properties, Lookingglass Vineyards, in Roseburg, Oregon. August 8, 2019. Rugged-Sheri Wytcherley 55438. Dina Avila for the Wall Street Journal.
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