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Oregon wineries got their start as settlers arrived in their wagons at the end of the Oregon Trail. The first vines were planted in the 1840s and some are still growing. There are many Pinot Noir wines, for which Oregon is famous, that come from the original plantings.

Oregon has ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir and many other varieties. There are three primary growing regions and nineteen regions in total. The fertility of the soil comes from several different ice age floods that brought the nutrients that reside in the soil today.

Not only does Oregon have great weather for growing wines, but it was perfect weather for tourism. Hiking, kayaking, landscapes, cities with personality, and wineries all do their part to bring visitors to the state.

If you’re looking for some wineries to visit or some great wines to try, there’s no shortage of either. Here are some things you might want to know if you’re curious about the best winery in Oregon.

About Wineries

Wineries are great places to visit. They’re all about atmosphere and they give wine lovers a place to enjoy tastings and fellowship with one another. It’s also a great place to learn about new wines. You might even find a new favourite.

Small wineries have a limited selection, but you get a more personal experience from more knowledgeable staff. Large wineries have more traffic, but more variety, sometimes at a cheaper cost.

Vineyard wineries can be big or small, but they feature gardens, tours, and more scenic views because the vineyards are on the grounds. If you’ve never visited a winery before, you might want to review these tips so you’ll look like an expert.

Oregon Wine Regions 

Oregon contains three main wine-producing regions. Within these are several smaller regions as well. Two of the main regions are completely inside the state, while the third straddles the Columbia River and extends into Washington…

Willamette Valley

Perhaps the most well-known Oregon wine region, the Willamette Valley AVA is in, you guessed it, Willamette Valley. It extends from just south of Eugene, Oregon all the way north to the Columbia River and from the Cascade Mountains in the east to the Oregon Coast Range in the west.

It’s the largest region in the state and contains more than 550 wineries. Extreme temperatures in this region are unusual. They have dry summers with very little rainfall happening during the growing season.

This region is known for Pinot Noir but it also has large amounts of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Pinot Blanc.

Southern Oregon

The Southern Oregon AVA was formed from what used to be two distinct AVAs – the Umpqua Valley AVA and the Rogue Valley AVA. By establishing one larger AVA, these two regions can market themselves jointly. However, they produce very distinct varieties of wine.

The Umpqua Valley has a climate warmer than Willamette Valley but cooler than the Rogue Valley. It’s the oldest wine region in Oregon that was established post-prohibition. They are famous for Tempranilla, Baco Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, and Chardonnay.

The Rogue Valley AVA has wineries along several tributaries, including Bear Creek, the Applegate River, and the Illinois River. Most of the AVA’s wineries sit here rather than on the Rogue River, despite its name. This is the warmest and driest of the winegrowing regions in Oregon.

Columbia Gorge

This region is in both Oregon and Washington. It’s made up of Wasco and Hood River counties in Oregon as well as Washington, Klickitat, and Skamania counties in Washington. It sits to the east of Mount Adams and Mount Hood summits.

Elevation across the region varies greatly because of the geography of the Gorge. There is a wide variety of grapes grown in this region, including Sangiovese, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah.

There are some other regions in Oregon that are smaller but still fairly well known including Columbia Valley and Snake River Valley. The Columbia Valley AVA resides primarily in Washington while the Snake River Valley AVA has the shortest growing season of all Oregon AVAs.

What’s Special About Oregon Wineries

Oregon Wineries are rich in history. The first vines in Oregon were planted by settlers in the 1840s. After arriving from a long journey on these settlers needed a way to make a living.

After prohibition, the 1960s saw an almost non-existent wine industry. There were only a few small family wineries left. However, with a resurgence, Oregon now has 725 wineries and more than 1000 vineyards with 72 different kinds of grapes. Oregon’s soil owes its fertility to several ice-age floods that left the ground ideally suited for growing grapes of all kinds.

Oregon is known for its Pinot Noir because of the cooler climate and ideal growing conditions. And while there are three primary winegrowing regions, there are 19 winegrowing regions in all.

Oregon doesn’t produce the quantity that famous regions like Napa Valley or Sonoma in California do. In fact, 70% of the wineries in Oregon produce less than 5000 cases per year. Only 1% of the wine produced in the United States is from Oregon. They’re known more for their quality.

Best Wineries in Oregon

Categorizing wineries is highly subjective. Not everyone likes the same things. Out of 725 wineries, it’s impossible to pick just a few favourites. Here are some of the best wineries in Oregon, placed into different categories, so you can find the best winery based on what you like.

Best Winery With Affordable Tastings

  1. Located in the Columbia Valley, the Seven Bridges Winery offers free tastings on the weekends. While their vineyards are not on-site, they source their grapes from select vineyards based on terroir and grower skill. They make their wines in ways that bring out the best of each variety, so their grapes hold the most potential for making great wines.
  2. ArborBrook Vineyards is a family-owned and operated boutique winery. It’s located in Newberg, Oregon, and they offer free tastings 7 days a week. With vineyards on-site, you can complement your tasting with a lovely view. Established in 1866, they have a rich history and an excellent Pinot Noir.

Best Large Winery

  1. Argyle Winery has a quaint tasting house in the midst of large, modern grounds. They feature ongoing educational and social programming that guests will enjoy time and time again. Every visit is different. The decor is largely repurposed for a unique feel, you’ll experience once of the largest wine libraries in the region, and if you like what you see, you can join the wine club.
  2. You don’t even have to visit Cathedral Ridge Winery to get a free tour, but then you’d miss out on the tastings! This is a large operation with a significant online presence. They host events like holiday parties and they also have a wine club. Pair your virtual tour with a wine club subscription, and you’ll get the whole experience without leaving the house.

If you do choose to visit, you can enjoy standard tastings, tours and tastings, reserve tastings, private tastings, and so much more.

Best Small Winery

  1. Bergstrom Wines grows biodynamic grapes and keeps it all in the family. The current winemaker is the owner’s son, and he’s been Burgundy-trained. However, it may also have something to do with his natural talent and his upbringing. You can enjoy quaint, picturesque views of rolling vineyards from the frame farmhouse. Tastings are offered all year long.
  2. Carlton Winemakers Studio offers an artisanal experience. It’s a one-stop-shop for fourteen different small producers. It’s a swanky, bar-like experience on the cutting edge of the Oregon winery landscape. Step outside of the ordinary and take a chance on this unique, small-time experience.

Best Winery Vineyard Experience

  1. In 2007, REX HILL owners sold to A to Z Wineworks. They immediately reduced case production by 80% so they could focus on quality and distinction. Now when you visit REX HILL, you’ll enjoy the strong character in the wines you try along with an excellent view. The gardens are gorgeous, and the tasting room is currently undergoing renovations for a grand reopening of something spectacular in the spring.
  2. Archery Summit is known for its high-end Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Located in Dundee Hills, this winery has plenty of experiences like flights in the wine library and tours of their underground barrel caves. These caves are carved into the volcanic rock that makes the grounds so fertile.

Best Winery for Red Wines

  1. The Ryan Rose Winery is known for its 2016 vintage Malbec. They also have excellent Syrah and Pinot Noir. These are high-quality wines with a lot of character, and the best way to enjoy them is on the location where you’ll enjoy picturesque views of the mountains beyond.
  2. Quady North’s flagship Syrah is handcrafted, just like all of their other reds, for excellent taste. While their Syrah is the most popular variety, they have plenty of unique reds that you won’t want to miss, like Bomba, GSM, Cabernet Franc, Arsenal, and La Battalla.

Best Winery for White Wines

  1. Sokol Blosser is one of the most prominent wineries in Oregon. They are the sixth largest producer in the state and make some of the best white wines around. Try their Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, or dessert Riesling.
  2. Alloro Vineyard makes two white wines that are worth a trip to their 34 acres of sprawling vineyards. Their Chardonnay is barrel-fermented in 20% new French oak barrels for eleven months. It’s rich and buttery. Vinno Nettare Dessert Wine is made in an ice wine style with floral notes and balanced acidity.

Best Winery for Wide Distribution

You can enjoy great Oregon wines without making the trip. There are plenty of wineries that offer wine clubs delivered to your door, while others have wide distribution networks so you can get their wines at home.

  1. Club Adelsheim comes out of the Adelsheim Winery. They offer three subscriptions with discounts on additional orders and free tastings when you visit. It’s not cheap, but it’s certainly quality.
  2. iOTA Cellars makes it easy to order their wines online. The online order form is easy to fill out, indicating any combination of bottles you’d like. It’s a bit more versatile than a club because you can order what you want when you want.
  3. The California Wine Club has a Pacific Northwest subscription that ships bottles monthly from Washington and Oregon. It’s an affordable way to get your hands on some fantastic Oregon wines.

It’s always worth taking a trip to your local liquor store and browsing the wines they have on the shelf. Chances are they can direct you to some fantastic wines out of Oregon. They may even have a section dedicated to the region.

My Recommendations

If you’re looking to try some Oregon wines, here are some varieties that come highly recommended. Check your local store or order them online. It’s well worth the search to see if you can find them anywhere!

St. Innocent Winery 2013 Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir

In true Oregon fashion, this Pinot Noir is perfectly prepared and ages well. Give it enough time, and it will be beyond compare. Nuanced flavours of strawberry and raspberry make this delicate wine decadent and heavenly.

Duck Pond Cellars 2015 St. Jory Vineyard Pinot Gris

This wine comes out of the Willamette Valley. It’s juicy and fresh with lively flavours. It’s a Pinot Gris that other Pinot Gris strives to be. It’s fantastic on a warm summer day with goat cheese or a beet salad.

Utopia Vineyard 2013 Utopia Estate Chardonnay

This Chardonnay has hints of feminine honeysuckle. It’s lush and silky with sweet creamy texture. Pair it with shellfish for an extraordinary tasting experience.

FAQ

These frequently asked questions may pique your interest, especially if you’ve been looking into visiting some Oregon wineries.

What wine is Oregon known for?

Like California, Oregon is famous for its ideal Pinot Noir growing conditions. It’s produced throughout the entire state, and you can find it anywhere. Willamette Valley Pinot Noir has received critical acclaim, but all of Oregon is regarded as one of the best Pinot Noir producing regions in the world.

When should I visit Willamette Valley?

Harvest starts in late September and ends in early November. If you want to see the vineyards in action, you can visit during the fall and watch crews pick the fruit and fill truck beds with tons of grapes. The air is crisp and delightful.
However, when the sun is high in the summer months, the days are long and wonderful, because the temperature is never too hot. You can hike, kayak, and enjoy the lovely landscapes that Oregon has to offer.
Unless you like the rain, avoid visiting From November through the spring, because that’s the wettest season that brings the rains Oregon is famous for. However, if you like the refreshing rains, bring your goloshes and enjoy the Oregon Truffle Festival.

What is there to do in wine country Oregon?

There’s so much more to Oregon than wine. Silver Falls State Park is known for its hiking through outstanding waterfalls. Camp Dakota features RV and campsites with rope courses, zip lines, paintball, and other outdoor activities.
If you love flowers, visit the tulips in Woodburn every April and if you like fall festivities, check out Mt. Angel’s Oktoberfest for brews, biers, and crafts. Late spring and summer boast excellent weather for picking your own berries, and there are plenty of places to do just that.

How many wineries are in the Willamette Valley?

This is Oregon’s biggest wine region with over 550 wineries. It’s also recognized as one of the best locations for growing and producing Pinot Noir. This region has two-thirds of the wineries and vineyards in the state.

The Verdict

Oregon has beautiful landscapes and plenty to do. If you’re coming for the wine, you’ll find it at every turn. While Oregon is best known for Pinot Noir, you’ll find excellent varieties everywhere from red to white.

Visit during the summer or fall for the most idyllic weather and enjoy your favourite wines as well as something new.

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