Discover Willamette Valley
Our Willamette Valley Wine Travel Guide shares a brief history of the region, terroir, where to sip, where to stay and things to do beyond the vines
There are 25,452 acres of planted vineyards and close to 700 wineries in the Willamette Valley. The region accounts for 70% of the state of Oregon’s wine production, and 83% of the state's Pinot Noir production.
As with so many wine regions, it’s tricky to try to describe the entire Willamette Valley’s terroir.
The Willamette Valley is a huge and varied appellation, stretching 150 miles lengthwise from south of Eugene all the way up to Portland and spanning 60 miles at its widest point. Within the larger Willamette Valley AVA, there are nine nested AVAs that have been designated unique growing regions due to the specific and unique conditions of each of these areas.
The Valley is currently classified as a Region 1 Cool Climate region, which means it qualifies as one of the coolest wine growing regions (on a scale of 1-5 with 1 being the coolest) but the climate and conditions of the different AVAs vary relatively widely. In addition, temperatures have been rising in this region like so many others, due to climate change.
Overall, the Willamette Valley has a long and mild growing season with warm summers, cool evenings, long Autumns, and mild winters followed by long Springs. It is protected from the coldest air blowing from the Pacific and most heavy rainstorms by the Coast Range Mountains on the West side and from the dry, desert climate of Eastern Oregon by the Cascade Range, to the east.
The predominant soil types found here are Marine Sedimentary (Willakenzie), Volcanic (Jory, Nekia), and Windblown Loess or Silts (Laurelwood).
The conditions in the Willamette Valley are particularly well suited for growing Burgundy varietals, such as Pinot Noir, which is the primary focus of the region. It’s not just the topography and weather that bear similarities to Burgundy, the Willamette Valley is actually situated at 45° North latitude, parallel with Burgundy. It is these combined factors that have motivated winemakers and winery founders from not just the U.S. but also from France to invest in planting Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley.
TOP GRAPE VARIETIES IN WILLAMETTE VALLEY
White Wine Grapes
Red Wine Grapes
WHERE TO SIP
Planning Your Willamette Valley Wine Vacation
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.
BEYOND THE VINES
The Willamette Valley spans some 150 miles and is one of the richest wine-producing regions in the United States. You can easily spend weeks exploring the sprawling vineyards but there are so many things to do in Willamette Valley when you venture beyond the vines.