Monday, February 26, 2007

World Wine Tour: Welcome to Oregon, USA

Hey folks. Welcome to Oregon. This is pretty exciting for us, because it's our first opportunity to showcase some domestic wines. But as usual, I will give you an intro first, then we'll publish our first rating later check back often. Here we go...

Oregon wineries are generally small and decentralized within each official wine region of the state. They are often winemaker- or family-owned. The fact that the wineries tend to be smaller in size, has not stopped explosive growth in Oregon. In fact, Oregon is now (depending on what you read) the second largest wine producing state in the US. Most Oregon wine regions lie in valleys between the southern Cascade Mountains that run through the state and its Coastal Range to the west. Three quarters of the wineries are located in the Willamette Valley.

The Oregon wine region was born during the 1840s, when Italian and Swiss immigrants began planting wine grapes and bottling wine. Like so many wine regions, Oregon's wine industry was suppressed during Prohibition, only to emerge as a productive wine-growing region in the mid-1970s.

The Willamette Valley, which stretches from Eugene in the south to Portland in the north and encompasses two-thirds of Oregon's population, is the largest wine-growing region in Oregon. Sheltered by the Cascade Mountains to the east and Oregon's Coastal Range to the west, and on the same latitude as France's famed Burgundy region, the valley has gained international recognition as a world-class growing district, especially for cool-climate varieties like Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay.

To the northeast of the Willamette Valley are the Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley appellations, which Oregon shares with Washington These warmer, drier appellations are well-suited to the cultivation of red varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah.

In the southwest of the state are the Rogue Valley, Applegate Valley and Umpqua Valley appellations. Although generally drier and warmer than the northern wine districts and well-suited to Bordeaux (Cabernet, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc) and Rhone Valley (Syrah) varieties, each contains cooler microclimates allowing for the successful cultivation of the Burgundian varieties that flourish in the Willamette Valley.

Collectively, these six wine-growing regions contain over 11,000 vineyard acres and over 200 wineries, which together produce over one million cases of wine annually.

Anyway, that's Oregon in a nutshell. We'll get to the ratings a little later in the day.


Anonymous said...

I have friends who live in Eugene, so righ tin the heart of the Willamete valley. Every year I make an effort to attend the Augene Art in the Park Festival. Not only are Oregon wines underestimated here in California, but people just are not educated about them. My darling husband is a complete snob about Oregon Pinot and I can't seem to shake it out of him. Great post!!

pinotchio said...

The vineyards around Eugene are a great change of pace tour idea. King Estate, Sweet Cheeks, Noble Estate and Pfeiffer just to name a few are great destinations. Sunshine Limo Service and Wine Tours is a good local tour company that we used recently to take us out to these wineries. Great staff, very knowledgeable and friendly.