Oregon is home to four distinct and unique wine regions, which make up 18 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs – official wine growing regions). The state is one of the few places in the world outside of Burgundy, France known for producing world-renowned Pinot Noir.
The following Oregon Wine Travel guide shares a brief history of Oregon’s wine country, along with where to sip, where to stay and things to do beyond the vines. Cheers!
In 1916, Oregon voters passed Prohibition FOUR years before it took effect nationally. Most vines at local vineyards were torn out and replaced with fruit trees and potatoes. Mind you, at this time the wine industry in Oregon was still a small one. Albeit, this killed it all together.
In 1933, shortly after the U.S. Congress repealed Prohibition – the Eighteenth Amendment – John Wood and Ron Honeyman received bonded winery status for Honeywood Winery in Salem. Today, this is Oregon’s oldest, continuously operating winery. But, it wasn’t until 1961 that Oregon’s wine industry was truly born when Richard Sommer planted Riesling and a few other grape varietals at what is now Hillcrest Vineyard in the Umpqua Valley. Four years later the state’s official grape – Pinot Noir – was introduced by David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards who planted the first vines in what is now the Dundee Hills AVA located in the Willamette Valley. Oregon’s modern day wine industry was born…
It wasn’t until Lett entered his 1975 Reserve Pinot Noir in the 1979 Gault-Millau French Wine Olympiad and placed in the top 10 in a blind tasting among the finest Burgundies that the world started to take notice of Oregon as a serious winemaking region. Today, the state is recognized as one of the premier wine producing regions in the world.
The Willamette Valley is known as Oregon’s leading wine region. It runs from Portland to south of Eugene, and is home to seven American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), more than 500 wineries, which is more than two-thirds of the state’s wineries. While the Willamette Valley is recognized as one of the premier Pinot Noir producing areas in the world, the region specializes in other cool-climate wine varieties including Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. (Seventy percent of the grapes grown in Willamette Valley are Pinot Noir.)
Less than 60 miles east of Portland, is in the Hood River area, aka the Columbia Gorge AVA. The climate here varies widely. From the high desert-like east to the cooler, wetter west, a range of grape varietals ? Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, among them – thrive in this region.
Nearby is the Columbia Valley AVA, which mainly lies in Washington State, with a small section in Oregon stretching from The Dalles to Milton-Freewater.
With five AVAs ? Umpqua Valley, Red Hills Douglas County, Rogue Valley, Applegate Valley and the new Elkton – in addition to the Southern Oregon AVA, and more than 65 wineries, Southern Oregon is one of the most diverse winegrowing regions in the world. Cooler areas produce Pinot noir, Pinot gris, Sauvignon blanc and more. The warmer, arid regions ripen Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Syrah and others.
Located in northeastern Oregon eight miles south of Walla Walla, Washington, this region is open, spacious and home to vineyards along the Columbia River. As the warmest growing region in Oregon, this region is known for making wine varietals including like Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Oregon shares the Walla Walla AVA with Washington state, however more than 50 percent of Walla Walla AVA wine is made from grapes grown in Oregon.
This trail is for both beer and wine lovers. For wine lovers, you have seven Willamette Valley wineries to explore and beer lovers are offer four craft breweries along the rout.
The southern portion of the Willamette Valley, just outside the town of Eugene is the Pedaling for Pinot – Eugene Wine Trail. This is the perfect trail for those of you who are into biking and wine tasting. The country roads will take you to both large and elegant to small and intimate wineries, and all of them make amazing Pinot Noir.
Read on to find Carpe Travel’s first-hand travel tips and recommendations to help make your stay in Oregon Wine Country a memorable one.
Oregon Garden Resort
A 103-room garden theme hotel located adjacent to The Oregon Garden. Take advantage of innovative, high-value packages such as “Wine and Jazz Festival package”, “Girlfriend Getaway”, and diverse “Spa Escapes.”
Prairie House Inn
Built in 1900 and restored to its original detail, this home was the first one in Molalla to have water and electricity. Each of the six bedrooms has been tastefully decorated to reflect Molalla’s colorful history
The Grand Hotel in Salem
Formerly the Phoenix Grand Hotel. Features 193 over-sized guest rooms and suites. Each room has a work/living area, complimentary high-speed Internet, complimentary breakfast and more.
Village Green Resort
Stop to rest your legs and stay for the 14 acres of beautiful, themed gardens and walking paths. Finish the day on a private garden patio outside your deluxe room featuring a fireplace and cozy down comforters
Century House B & B
This charming B&B offers spacious guest rooms and specialty breakfasts to accommodate all preferences and is within walking distance to downtown Salem shops, restaurants and attractions.
This is a destination hotel located in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in the town of Stevenson, Washington. The resort offers a distinctly Pacific Northwestern experience, featuring a three-story stone fireplace, sweeping river views in the main lobby, two locally-inspired restaurants, an outdoor zipline and aerial park, the Skamania Lodge Golf Course and a full-service spa.
Oregon has more than 700 wineries and over 500 wine tasting rooms – all are worth the pilgrimage.
Be sure to check out these Oregon Festivals and Events that are not to be missed!
July / McMinnville
The three-day event is famous around the globe, as a mecca for lovers of Pinot noir and northwest cuisine. During the weekend, world-renowned winemakers, northwest chefs, esteemed media, epicures, and wine lovers will gather in McMinnville, Oregon, for three days of exploring Pinot noir, savoring unforgettable meals, and learning and celebrating with luminaries of the food and wine world. Along with the speakers and chefs, it is the relaxing and festive atmosphere that sets it apart from all other wine events. Whether tasting Grand Cru Burgundy or walking through Oregon vineyards with the grower who planted them, guests find themselves unwinding in picturesque Oregon wine country for what wine legend Jancis Robinson described as “one of the most enjoyable wine weekends in the world”.
April / Yakima Valley
Yakima Valley wine tasting from the barrel is a unique experience. Expect wines to taste different than you are used to out of the bottle. The vintages are brand new – giving tasters a sneak peek in to how they could mature. Will it be an award-winner? You be the judge at Spring Barrel celebrations. You have two weekends to participate: On April 20-22nd, many wineries are open for “pre-barrel.” This is an opportunity for a bit slower pace and more education from the wine-maker as crowds are smaller. The weekend of April 27-29th is Spring Barrel Weekend, where droves of people gather in the Yakima Valley for the largest wine festival in the Pacific Northwest to experience the new vintages straight from the barrel. Many wineries have local food pairings, live music and festivities.
November / Portland
The annual Northwest Food and Wine Festival has become the definitive wine festival in Portland with a targeted half-day wine and food celebration. The festival brings the highest quality regional wines, spirits, beers, foods and prominent chefs and restaurants. It’s designed to present a rich and rewarding experience for wine lovers, gourmet food enthusiasts and industry experts.