Oregon Wine Month: Growing Regions
Updated: Jul 16, 2021
Ever wondered how many different wine-growing regions are in Oregon? If you read “What is Oregon Wine?” and found your interest peaked, learn more about the four main AVAs and what they are producing.
Willamette Valley AVA
Most wineries in Oregon are West of the Cascades, in the North flowing Willamette River Valley, East of the Coast Range. This is Oregon’s agricultural heartland and has a long history of farming and ranching. The Willamette Valley AVA is the most well-known grape-growing region in Oregon and contains seven subregions including Chehalem Mountains AVA, Dundee Hills AVA, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, McMinnville AVA, Ribbon Ridge AVA, Van Duzer Corridor AVA, and Yamhill-Carlton District AVA. Although winters here are cool and wet, the summers are moderate and dry, producing Pinot Noir that is world-renowned (and fairly expensive) in addition to Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Riesling. The most revered wineries in Oregon are found here.
Lesser-known wine regions in Oregon include the Northern AVAs bordering Washington: Columbia Valley AVA, Columbia Gorge AVA, and a small portion of the Walla Walla Valley AVA (also referred to as The Rocks of Milton-Freewater AVA). These areas grow a diverse range of grape varieties ranging from Riesling and Gewürztraminer to Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and even Italian grape varieties. Yes, you can even find Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and Barbera growing here.
Snake River AVA
In the far eastern part of the state, the Snake River Valley AVA borders Idaho. Here, the cooler parts of the AVA are best suited to Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, and even ice wine! The warmer areas of the Snake River AVA focus mainly on Bordeaux grape varieties.
Southern Oregon AVA
In the south, there lies a larger AVA called Southern Oregon AVA and within that, two more nested AVAs called Umpqua Valley AVA and Rogue Valley AVA. Both are warmer than the Willamette Valley AVA but the Rogue Valley AVA is the warmest overall. Inside the Umpqua Valley AVA are two different subregions: Red Hills Douglas County AVA and Elkton Oregon AVA. The very first commercial Grüner Veltliner from the U.S. was produced in the Umpqua Valley in 2005. The Rogue Valley AVA also includes one subregion called the Applegate Valley AVA. This warmer area is experimenting with dozens of different grapes where the land is not too mountainous to grow vines.
With the first winery founded in 1965, Oregon Wine is fairly new compared to its southern neighbor. In a relatively short period of time, Oregon has established itself as a premier Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay producer as well as an innovator, planting the first Pinot Gris and Grüner Veltliner in the country. The abundant agriculture of the Willamette Valley, its farm-to-table culinary vibe, and the fresh salmon of the Pacific Northwest combines beautifully with the extraordinary flavors and elegance of Oregon wines. These culinary traditions are only growing and influencing other areas of the country. Oregon wines are only getting better and their acclaim is growing. If Oregon wines have only existed since 1965, think of what it can accomplish in the next 50 years. I hope I’m around to see it.
To learn more about Oregon Wine visit OregonWine.org or visit read What is Oregon Wine? Posted earlier this month.
This year as a part of Oregon Wine Month, select wineries have partnered with Republic National Distributing and a portion of sales will be donated to the James Beard Foundation’s “Open For Good” campaign to help rebuild the restaurant industry. To shop these participating wineries visit the Oregon Wine Month explore tile on eRNDC.com