Oregon Wine Overview

Oregon stands behind only California and Washington as a wine producing state and by number of wineries within a state. The Oregon wine industry was born from the uniqueness of Oregon’s climate, where ocean coastline, rugged mountains, and fertile valleys combine to create a grape growing paradise.

The modern Oregon wine industry took root, literally, in the 1960s when scientists from the University of California-Davis began planting vineyards in southern Oregon. By the end of the 1970s, Oregon winemakers were taking home prestigious wine competition awards for their Pinot Noir, a style still closely identified with the state. Now, Oregon boasts over 300 wineries, 15 American Viticultural Areas and more than 70 grape varieties that grow all across the state.

Many Oregon vineyards, and wines, are certified organic. Among winemakers here, sustainability is prioritized, which in turn tends to produce greater grape yield and richer, more assertive flavors in their wines. A new program, Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine, was established in 2009 to allow winemakers to label their wines as agricuturally friendly. Other programs and certifications include Certified Organic and Salmon Safe, which recognizes wineries who assist in protecting Oregon’s important salmon watersheds. Oregon is one of the leaders among American winemakers that encourage and practice environmentally sustainable grape growing and wine production.

The Oregon Winegrowers Association has a useful map showing each of Oregon’s 15 AVAs. Most are located within Oregon’s four main wine producing regions: The Willamette Valley, Eastern Oregon, Southern Oregon and the Columbia Gorge. In each of these four areas, dozens and dozens of Oregon wineries produce the wine styles most commonly associated with Oregon, like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon are also highly popular, among others.

Oregon Wine Trails

As mentioned, there are more than 300 wineries in Oregon. We’ve found one organized wine trail, the Applegate Wine Trail which is located in southern Oregon near Grants Pass and Medford and consists of 19 wineries. The state divides its primary wine producing areas by wine region as noted above. It’s important to note that the term “wine trail” is often used by authors to describe wine producing areas, along with a travel agenda they’ve created through their own experience or that of others. While we certainly applaud these efforts, we don’t consider them official wine trails, though we readily admit our own standard of definition may strike some as being purist. One useful organization, Oregon Wine Country, lists nine such travel itineraries within the Willamette Valley area. The itineraries, some of which are called wine trails, encompass agritourism attractions, breweries, shopping, dining and more.

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