Three Wines that will Make You Fall In Love with Oregon

Posted February 11, 2015

Ian Dorin


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There’s no doubt that the Pacific Northwest is the vanguard of American wine expansion. We’ve talked about Washington State before, so now it’s time for Oregon!

It's unique, as there are several AVAs in Oregon, but only 2 are solely contained within its borders and not shared with any other states. Those two AVAs are Willamette Valley and Southern Oregon. The state's plantings are rather dominated by Pinot Noir, as it's really become the identity of the state. Pinot Gris and Riesling have also thrived in Oregon, and while they may not be setting sales records, they've done rather well along with a number of obscure varieties, including Muller Thurgau, Pinot Blanc, and Gewurztraminer.

2012 Pull Eighty Pinot Noir

Since Pinot is a low yielding variety, it's rather hard to make large production wines. In fact, King Estate is the state’s biggest single producer putting out 175,000 cases while most estates are well south of 35,000. Thankfully, there are many artisan wines at reasonable prices thanks to the large plantings of this great grape. It is comparatively cooler in Oregon vs. Cali, but not quite as cool as Burgundy. The gentle hillsides are perfect for Pinot, and the soils have some similar traits to Burgundy, but lack the obvious limestone element that makes Burgundy incredibly unique. The wines will have more structure, be slightly less fruity, and have more pronounced aromatics than Californian wines of a similar price point.

2011 Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard

Another fantastic quality of Oregon is that it thrives on single vineyards. Like Burgundy, a plot on one hillside will taste vastly different than another hillside, so the importance and value of great farming and top-notch fruit is critical. Dick Shea is one of the great farmers of Oregon, and runs one of the premier single vineyards of Oregon. Wineries like Raptor Ridge add their own touch to the great fruit.

2012 Trisaetum Riesling Coast Range Vineyard

Getting away from the Pinot for a second, I want to  touch on another quirk of Oregon wine: “alternative” white wines. Oregon Chardonnay (to which these are case an an alternative) can be a bit difficult, and id often much lighter, and less expressive than its Californian cousins. Grapes like Riesling, on the other hand, don't need the long hot summers to fully ripen into interesting wines, so they’re perfectly cast for Oregon’s more moderate weather. Trisaetum is one of the leading producers of this noble grape, and this single vineyard wine will easily fool you into believing you’re drinking something from Alsace (For a fraction of the price).


With over 15 years of experience (and counting), Ian has risen to become Wine Director for the Wine Library. He also been featured in the Wall St. Journal, and has regularly been quoted in a variety of wine articles.


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