The wine industry in Oregon received a major boost in the 1960s when immigration of California winemakers look for the challenge of cooler, marginal climates associated with specific grape types. There are around 300 wineries in Oregon with around 44,000 acres of vinifera grape types.
The preoccupation with specific grape types in certain locations has helped build Oregon’s reputation as a producer of occasionally fine Pinot Noir. But the concentration of the international press on Pinot Noir is a disservice to the other grapes that can do very well here, such as Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer.
While Washington State has its semiarid conditions in the Columbia Valley, the climate in Oregon’s major grape growing regions is much more Maritime. Situated on the western side of the Cascade Mountains in river valleys that run mostly north-south, only about 60 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The soaring Cascade Mountains cause the moisture-laden air to leave most of the precipitation on their western side, where the most heavily planted areas experience around 1000mm of rain/ year, most of it falling in the autumn and winter months. Moving southward from Portland to California boarder, the rainfall tapers off until it averages 500mm/ year in central and southern Oregon.
In Oregon wine labeled as varietal must be made from a least 90% of the named variety (except Cabernet Sauvignon, for which the minimum is 75%).
16 AVAs either entirely or partially within Oregon, almost all of them are named after river valleys or hills, demonstrating the importance of climate and soil conditions provided by those valleys. 12 of the AVAs are completely within Oregon, while small portions of the Columbia Valley, Columbia Gorge, and Walla Walla Valley extend to Washington State, and part of the Snake River Valley extends to Idaho.
Other 12 AVAs completely inside Oregon are:
Willamette Valley -largest and best-known AVA, six sub appellations are established within Willamette Valley due to the mix of soils and microclimates in those smaller valleys. They are: Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge and Yamhill-Carlton District.
Southern Oregon, a relatively new appellation, recognized in 2004, is intended as an umbrella appellation for all the appellations south of the Willamette Valley, including Umpqua Valley, Red Hill Douglas county and Applegate Valley.
Columbia Valley, situated east of the Cascade Mountains, is shared with Washington State of itself and its sub appellations of Walla Walla Valley and Columbia Gorge. Producing Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewürztraminer in the cooler sites; Rhone and Bordeaux varieties in warmer and drier areas.
Snake River Valley is located in the extreme eastern portion of Oregon, spreading into southwestern Idaho where most of the acreage is located. Could climate varieties are favored in the Oregon section due to the short growing season, high elevation and the extreme variations between daytime and nighttime temperatures.