While we are a good 20 days into the month-long celebration of all things enological within the Beaver State, Oregon Wine Month is far from over.
Granted, the promotion looks a little different this year, with wineries forced into the digital route amid the ongoing pandemic. But that doesn’t mean consumers can’t still enjoy Oregon’s 19 American Viticultural Areas (AVA), which support more than 70 grape varieties and cover all four corners of the state. (Especially with wineries and tasting rooms re-opening in 28 Oregon counties.)
Think you know the Oregon wine scene and its famed Willamette Valley? Cheers, if you do. For everybody else, here’s a primer on one of the most exciting areas in the entire world of wine, plus a few factoids even the industry insiders may not have known.
- The majority (70%) of Oregon wineries produce fewer than 5,000 cases of wine per vintage.
- While the state only produces a bit more than 1% of the nation’s wine, it has attracted 20% of Wine Spectator’s domestic 90+ scores.
- The state’s newest AVA, the Van Duzer Corridor, was approved in early 2019 and makes up a gusty stretch of the central Willamette Valley, where winds break through a rare break in the Coastal Range.
- Pinot Noir is 57% of what’s grown in Oregon vineyards, but there’s also a substantial amount of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Syrah, Riesling and Merlot.
- Just over half of all Oregon wine is crafted from estate-grown fruit.
- The Snake River AVA is one of the biggest in the nation, spanning Oregon and Idaho and home to some of the region’s highest elevation growing sites.
- There are now some 800 wineries and close to 1,200 vineyards throughout Oregon.
- The official state soil is Jory, an iron-rich red type of earth made from volcanic flows millions of years ago and spared from the Missoula Floods due to its higher elevations.
- A good portion of the famed Walla Walla Valley resides on the Oregon side of the border, including the esteemed Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA.
- Some of the greatest viticultural diversity exists in the Columbia Gorge AVA, where a broad spectrum of climate and soil types allow for everything from Arneis to Zinfandel.
- Oregon is fast becoming known for its tremendous sparkling wines, as well as lesser-known varietals like Gamay Noir.
- While the Willamette Valley is the most concentrated and famous in terms of wine growing, the state’s first vines since Prohibition were actually planted in Southern Oregon in 1963.
- The warmer stretches of southern Oregon allow for unique grape varieties like Tempranillo and Albariño, along with Rhône types such as Roussanne and Marsanne.
- Oregon’s wine labeling regulations are some of the tightest out there, requiring that at least 90% of the wine be the variety indicated (although most wines are fully 100% of what’s listed).