oregon wine regions

Oregon Wine Regions: A Guide

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Oregon Pinot Noir. And More

Oregon’s wine regions are distinct and diverse, with much more to offer than just Pinot Noir. Although I think we can all agree that Oregon Pinot Noir is hard to beat. Oregon is typically associated with Pinot Noir because it equates to over 60% of their production, followed by Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.

Oregon Terroir

Willamette Valley Vs Burgundy

Willamette Valley, Oregon’s largest wine region, is often compared to Burgundy, France as it has similar soils and climate. Millions of years of floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions have come together to create the perfect glass of wine.

Willakenzie Soil Type

The silt-clay soil called Willakenzie is found throughout Oregon and is ideal for Pinot Noir and other cool-climate grapes. The weather varies by year, but you can expect cooler coastal climates that are wet with little threat of frost. Oregon focuses on modern clones and preventative measures to reduce the risk of mildew and fungi that often threaten cool climate grapes.

Notes of Oregon Pinot Noir

Oregon Pinot Noir is often described as a cranberry and earth bomb for your taste buds. With an extra light body, high acidity, and rustic flavor, it may be shocking for those who enjoy big fruity reds. In many cases, it differs from Burgundy Pinot Noir because it is typically lighter and slightly more acidic. Pinot Noir varies greatly throughout Oregon, ranging from more traditional Burgundy-inspired wines, to lighter and more modern takes.

Oregon Wine Production

Oregon wines are much more diverse than just Pinot Noir. You will also find an array of sparkling wines and a cooler take on what are traditionally warm climate grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Explore the other varietals to get a taste of the effect different climates have on grapes.

Oregon Wine Regions

Oregon Wine Regions to Know

Oregon has 19 regions or AVA’s (American Viticulture Area) and around 800 wineries. Take a dive into some of the most unique (and underrated) wine regions in the world.

Central Oregon

Central Oregon is stunning. Mountains, waterfalls, kayaking, and hiking make this area an outdoor lover’s paradise. Add wine into the mix and you may never want to leave. While there are not a lot of wineries scattered throughout this region, they will make the perfect stop on your road trip around Oregon. 

You will find wineries in Sherwood, Terrebonne, Gaston, Culver, Bend, and Hood River. 

Central Oregon has a surprising amount of diversity in their wines; which include Rhone varieties, Muller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris, Carmine, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and sparkling wines. 

Columbia Gorge

This region is popular for weekend getaways out of Portland. The Columbia Gorge is said to be America’s most unique wine region and has recently been getting a lot of attention from Wine Spectator and sommeliers around the world. An extension of the Washington wine region, this region has many different climates, soils, and topographies. The soil here is rich in nutrients from floods and volcanic activity.

Here you can find a wide range of varietals that include Muller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Gruner Veltliner, Albariño, Riesling, Barbera, Chenin Blanc, Gamay, Dolcetto, and Sauvignon Blanc. 

Southern Oregon

Southern Oregon wineries are quickly rising to fame along with their beautiful forest and river backdrops. 

Rogue Valley

Most of the wineries in the Rogue Valley are family-owned and have small vintages. It is hard to find these wines outside of local distribution, but they are worth splurging on a case as you pass through. 

For one of the smallest wine regions in the United States, the Rogue Valley has a wide range of varietals. Grenache, Malbec, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Syrah, Zinfandel, and Port are just a small portion of the diverse wine menu they have to offer.

Applegate Valley

Applegate Valley is some of the most breathtaking country in the world. Mountains, streams, rolling hills, and vineyards come together to create a great wine experience. Most of these wineries are small and family owned. You will often get to chat directly with the winemaker or vineyard manager during your tasting. 

Enjoy a glass of sparkling wine, Rosé, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Tempranillo, Primitivo, and Petit Syrah.

Umpqua Valley

Umpqua Valley is one of the more well-known Oregon regions. This region is further split into the North, Central, and South Valley areas. Although this region has a small number of wineries, they do a great job in providing consumers with a fantastic wine tasting and tourism experience throughout Roseberg, Elkton, Winston, and Oakland.

Umpqua Valley is home to a variety of wines that include Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, and Malbec.

Walla Walla Valley

The smaller part of Washington’s Walla Walla Valley wine region, the Oregon side hosts almost half of the region’s vineyards. This region is just a short distance across the border for anyone making their way through Washington’s wine country.

Rocks District of Milton-Freewater

The Rock’s District of Milton-Freewater is the Holy Grail of the Walla Walla Valley. Some of Oregon and Washington’s most prestigious wines are grown here. Large rocks take over the vineyards and look to be an impossible feat for anyone trying to cultivate grapes. Most of the vineyard work and harvest is done by hand. The rocks act as a barrier against the threat of frost and allow extra heat to radiate off the vines during the day. There is a large focus on Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon in this district.

The wines made from the Rocks District are often single vineyard and reserve wines. 

Willamette Valley

Listed below are the regions that are part of the greater Willamette Valley wine region. Bottles labelled ‘Willamette Valley’ will have a large majority of their grapes coming from any number of these regions. It is rare to see any oak besides French oak used in this part of Oregon.

While many of them do focus on Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley vineyards also specialize in Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Gris, and more.

Some of the biggest names in Willamette Valley Pinot Noir include Beaux Freres, Domaine Serene, Eyrie Vineyards, Bergstrom Wines, Erath Wines, Ken Wright Cellars, Archery Summit, Lingua Franca, Adelsheim Vineyard, Shea Vineyard, Domaine Drouhin, Penner-Ash, Hyland Estates, Maison Wine, and Elk Cove.

Subregions of Willamette Valley

  • Chehalem Mountains and Ribbon Ridge
  • Dundee Hills
  • Cascade Foothills
  • Eola-Amity Hills
  • Heart of Willamette
  • McMinnville
  • North Willamette
  • South Willamette
  • Yamhill-Carlton District

Portland Urban Wineries

Oregon has an upbeat urban wine scene and a pretty tight-knit group of wine industry workers. The Portland Urban Wineries Association is a small group of winery owners who make their wines in the city of Portland. Many of these wines are the focus of the best restaurants in Portland and throughout Oregon. 

These wineries source their grapes from some of the best vineyards in Oregon. Pinot Gris, Viognier, Syrah, Merlot, Nebbiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Malbec, Zinfandel, and special Cuvees are just some of the wines that this community of city wineries has to offer. 

Our Favorite Oregon Wines

  • 2017 King Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Gris $19 (Est. retail cost)
  • 2015 Argyle Willamette Valley Brut $28 (Est. retail cost)
  • 2014 Ponzi Reserve Chardonnay Willamette Valley $42 (Est. retail cost)
  • 2018 Quady North GSM Rogue Valley Rosè $19 (Est retail cost)

Still Thinking about Pinot Noir?

Oregon is the perfect wine region to explore and taste if you are looking for something new and refreshing. Oregon offers an eclectic blend of French, Italian, and Spanish Varietals and often use traditional methods of winemaking. Take a tour through some of America’s most beautiful wine country while stopping at world-renowned hiking spots and rivers.