Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Oregon Wines

Oregon, our neighbor to the north, is the fourth largest producer of wine in the United States. But many know more about wines from Australia than they do of wines from our neighbor.

Many believe that winemaking began in the 1960’s with the start of the Hillcrest Vineyards in Southern Oregon. But before grape wine was produced, winemakers in Oregon were producing flavorful wines made from fruits.

Families of winemakers found a bountiful harvest of great wines in Oregon, and by the end of the 1970’s many vineyards were producing some fine wines. But Oregon Pinot Noir entered the international world of wine in 1979 when an Oregon Pinot won top honors against France’s best labels. In just 40 years Oregon evolved into a world-class wine growing state with 15 approved winegrowing regions.

As winemakers know, terroir, a sense of place, is key to producing fine wines. Oregon is blessed with one of the most diverse geo-climates in the world. Vintners can successfully grow superb cool and warm climate varietals.

Oregon is not home to many large volume wineries. While it is fourth in total production, it is third in the number of wineries. Most wineries are small, producing less than 5,000 cases a year. Keeping the wine production small ensures that the winemakers have the time and energy to nurture each and every vine, cluster and barrel into wines of superior flavor and concentration.

Key wine regions are mostly concentrated between the coastal range and the Cascades, including the famous Willamette Valley, Umpqua Valley, Rogue Valley, Applegate Valley and Southern Oregon. The Columbia River Valley is also home to many wineries just across the river from the major Washington State wine growing areas.

Prominent grape varietals in Oregon include Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Gew├╝rztraminer, Viognier, Cabernet Franc and Tempranillo.

For more info: Oregon Wine Board

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