Oregon is a world-class wine region with 18 AVAs, more than 700 wineries, and 1,000 vineyards growing 72 grape varieties.
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.
Our Oregon Wine Country Travel Guide shares a brief history of the state’s wine country, terroir, where to sip, where to stay and things to do beyond the vines.
When Prohibition started, most vines were torn out and replaced with fruit trees and potatoes. Mind you, the wine industry in Oregon was still a small one, but this killed it completely.
In 1933, shortly after the U.S. Congress repealed Prohibition – the Eighteenth Amendment – John Wood and Ron Honeyman received bonded winery status for Honeywood Winery in Salem.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. With that, 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.
Oregon is home to four distinct and unique wine regions, which make up 18 AVAs.
The state is one of the few places in the world outside of Burgundy, France known for producing world-renowned Pinot Noir. However, given its diverse climate everything from Arneis to Zinfandel is produced in Oregon with the top varietals being Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
TOP GRAPE VARIETIES
Columbia Gorge and Columbia Valley: Less than 60 miles east of Portland is the Hood River area in the Columbia Gorge AVA where the climate 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.
Southern Oregon: 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 world’s most diverse wine growing regions. Cooler areas produce Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and more. The warmer, arid regions ripen Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Syrah and others.
where to sip
With 700+ wineries, Oregon wine country has plenty to sip in.
We’ve shared the best Oregon wineries for your grape escape.
Stoller Family Estate
Oregon’s Seven Wonders: 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 route.
East of Eden Wine Trail: The emphasis of this Willamette Valley wine trail is on boutique wineries in the eastern portion of the valley.
Eugene Wine Trail: 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.
Salem Wine Trail: Twelve wineries and five historic places along the route, including Oregon’s State Capitol, makes for a history and wine lovers perfect wine country getaway.
where to stay
Planning Your Oregon Wine Country Travels
International Pinot Noir Celebration, July 24, 2021: Instead of the usual three-day event, this world famous keystone Pinot Noir event is going virtual this year.
Only 100 Virtual IPNC packages are available and they includes:
- 18 hand-selected bottles premium Pinot Noir wines shipped to you.
- A live Grand Seminar with a star-studded panel of wine legends and luminaries.
- 2 University of Pinot classes of your choice featuring some of the top minds in the world of wine.
- Cooking demos and recipes from award-winning Pacific Northwest chefs.
- Plus, other fun surprises!
Spring Barrel Wine Tasting Event Weekends, April (Yakima): 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? Check the site for the creative tasting opportunities for 2021.
Northwest Food and Wine Festival, November (Portland): The annual Northwest Food and Wine Festival has become the definitive Portland wine fest 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.
BEYOND THE VINES
If you’re looking for things to do besides sipping in the Oregon wineries, we have A LOT OF IDEAS for things to do in Oregon that go well beyond the vines.