In the southwest corner of the Pacific Northwest lies an underrated gem in the wine world named Oregon, which history buffs know to be part of the Louisiana Purchase and the end of the Lewis and Clark Trail. The state’s terrain offers everything from high desert to a rocky Pacific coast, volcanic mountains, waterfalls and evergreen forests.
Oregon’s place in the agricultural world is unique in that it produces what are often considered “luxury” products. Berries abound, from basic blue, black and raspberries to the more exclusive huckleberries, marionberries and boysenberries. Add bok choy, hazelnuts, truffles and hops to the list and you’ll have a what’s what in cool weather agriculture. This is Oregon’s selling point and it gives the state a particular, unchallenged place in the market—in fact, with the exception of blueberries, most of the berries produced in the country come from here. The same is true of hops, used in making beer. Along the coast and in the rivers, salmon fishing is a substantial industry, both in terms of tourism and production.
Then there is wine, which is a relatively recent development in the state. Although the first Oregon wineries were founded in late 1800s, it was almost a century later in the early 1960s that the wine industry began to develop—in what’s now the Umpqua Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA), not the Willamette. What? Zinfandel is Oregon’s grape? Who knew?
Although Noble Grapes—Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah—are planted successfully, Southern Oregon is increasingly becoming known for its Spanish varietals. Abacela in particular has a formidable reputation for their Grenache, Tempranillo and Albarino. There’s a big difference in Southern Oregon and the Willamette Valley AVAs further north.In the late 60s, David Lett planted the first Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley. This was followed a few years later by the Eraths, Ponzis and Adelsheims. Since that time, Oregon’s reputation has grown to that of a world class Pinot Noir producer, even attracting Old World producers to the party: in 1987, the 125 year old house of Joseph Drouhin purchased 100 acres in the Dundee Hills.
The cool temperatures formed by the Coast and the Cascade Mountains, plus the rain shadow caused by the Coast Range make for prime Pinot Noir climate.
Tours typically last from 30 to 60 minutes per tour and they are well worth your time to check out the different ones. Each one has their own flavors, beauty, and charm to experience.
What is even more awesome is that most wineries offer free samples of their wines when you go through a tour as well. Some do more formal tasting events as well. The tours are extremely interesting and fun to do too. They aren't just there to sample the wine that you're looking forward to but are actually very informative and you get to meet a lot of like-minded people usually that are also doing the tour. It's always nice to a fellow wine lover! - Be sure to call ahead if you are planning on doing a tour at one of the wineries or vineyards though to check on availability since many of them get very busy during season.