Growth in Oregon Wine: Here’s Why

The Oregon Wine Board recently released its Oregon Vineyard and Winery Census Report, revealing growth in many aspects of winemaking and grape growing in their state. While the numbers illustrate realities, here are a few wines to try (after all, that is what it’s all about) that bring home salient points from the report.

Oregon Wines, Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir
Five wines from Oregon to support the recent report from Oregon Wine Board. Credit: Jill Barth

Report Bullet: Interest in cool-climate varieties is on the rise. Increased plantings showed Chardonnay was 16 percent from 2015, Riesling (8 percent), Müller-Thurgau (24 percent) and Pinot Gris (7 percent).

To See Why, Try This Wine: Rain Dance Vineyards 2016 Estate Riesling Nicolas Vineyards (available here for $22) – From the Willamette Valley, planted on the slopes of the Chehalem Mountains AVA, Nicolas Vineyard is LIVE (Low Impact Viticulture and Enology) certified and Salmon Safe. Ken and Celia Austin founded Rain Dance Vineyards in 2009, now comprised of 120 acres of farmland split between dry-farmed vines (73 acres), “wildlife corridors”, native tree plantings and homeland for 100 llamas. Slightly more than half of their plantings are Pinot Noir, a Riesling presence from Dijon Clone 12 signifies that high-quality cool-climate varietals thrive in the Pacific Northwest.

Report Bullet: Tasting rooms were largely responsible for consumer sales in Oregon, constituting a whopping 63,536 increase in case sales in 2016 over 2015.

To See Why, Try This Wine: Raptor Ridge Auxerrois 2015 (available here for $30) – I’m sure they are out there, but American wineries cultivating Auxerrois, a native Alsatian varietal, are rare. This wine, from Zenith Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, is fermented and aged in French oak barrels. Raptor Ridge hosts Auxtober Fest, a food and wine experience in honor of the release of the 2016 Auxerrois – an evening that illustrates the authenticity and creativity going into Oregon tasting rooms. Details on Auxtober Fest can be found here.

Report Bullet: Pinot Noir is the leader in vineyard planted acreage, accounting for 64% of all planted acreage, and generating a production value of over $111 million.

To See Why, Try This Wine: Tendril Wine Cellars C-Note Whole Cluster Pinot Noir 2013 (available on a limited basis here for $100) – Winemaker Tony Rynders created what he calls a five-course “meal” of Pinot Noir “to show the impressive range of Oregon’s Willamette Valley”.  The C-Note is one element in this collection, made from the old world approach, whole cluster fermentation which Ryder calls “high risk / high reward”.  The grapes come from Yamhill-Carlton AVA in the Willamette Valley and spend 16 months in new French Oak. This bottle expresses the shimmer of pure creativity that comes out of a region with quality and experience in Pinot Noir.

Report Bullet: Much of the industry’s growth of late has come from its super-premium tier, which has Oregon wines priced at $20-$25 a bottle, rising 60.3% according to national retail scanner data.

To See Why, Try This Wine: Ledger David Viogner 2016 (available here for $23) – Lena Varner and Davit Traul founded Ledger David (named after their son) in 2009, after three years of farming their own vineyard. Their tasting room is located along Central Point Artisan Corridor.  An elegant, eye-catching label features “an abstract image of Orion’s Belt, which symbolizes the unity, strength and connectedness required to grow high-quality wine grapes and offer an enhanced and shared connection with our customers.”

Report Bullet: As far as regions, the North Willamette Valley continues to lead the state with 73% of total tons crushed.

To See Why, Try This Wine: King Estate 2015 Backbone (available here for $28) – Backbone is comprised of Pinot Gris grapes from four Willamette Valley vineyards (King Estate, Pfeiffer Vineyards, Johnson School, Nekia Hill and Antiquum Vineyards). The blocks are fermented and aged on their own before the winemaker blends. “The exceptional quality fruit coming from these storied vineyards provides the backbone for our King Estate Willamette Valley wines.” A heck of a way to experience the scope of the appellation in a single bottle of wine.

For the full report visit: Oregon Wine Board.

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