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Oregon AVA

Oregon AVA, nestled in the United States, has carved a distinct niche for itself in the global wine market, securing its position as the fourth-largest wine producer in the nation, trailing only California, Washington, and New York. The state boasts a rich tapestry of vineyard-friendly territories, some of which extend over its borders, merging with the lands of Washington and Idaho. The roots of Oregon AVA ‘s winemaking tradition stretch back to the 1840s, initiated by early settlers, and blossomed into a full-fledged industry in the 1960s.

History Oregon AVA

Within Oregon’s scenic boundaries, the Willamette Valley AVA, encompassing 10 smaller AVAs, and the Southern Oregon AVA, home to 5 nested AVAs, stand out for their viticultural significance. The state also shares a portion of the esteemed Columbia Gorge AVA, Walla Walla Valley AVA, and Snake River Valley AVAs. Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris lead the state’s grape varietals, with an impressive harvest exceeding 59,452 short tons (53,934 t) documented in 2016. The same year witnessed Oregon’s wineries dispatching nearly 3.4 million cases of wine to markets.

Wineries of Oregon AVA

The state’s 908 wineries have not only bolstered its economy but have also sparked a thriving wine tourism sector. The industry predominantly thrives in the Yamhill Valley, located southwest of Portland, attracting connoisseurs and tourists to its wineries and tasting rooms. In 2013 alone, wine tourism significantly contributed to Oregon’s economy, injecting an estimated USD $207.5 million, a figure that notably excludes revenue from sales directly at wineries and tasting rooms.

Oregon AVA’s journey into viticulture began in the 1840s with early settlers, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that winemaking truly flourished in the region. Initial grape cultivation traces back to 1847, and the establishment of Valley View by Peter Britt in the late 1850s in Jacksonville marked the inception of the state’s wine production. The 19th century saw various grape types being tested by settlers, and in 1904, an Oregon wine secured an award at the St. Louis World’s Fair. However, the industry paused during Prohibition and remained dormant for 30 years post-repeal.

A revival era commenced in the 1960s, catalyzed by Californian vintners who ventured into Oregon, setting up new vineyards. By 1970, Oregon boasted five commercial wineries and 35 acres of vineyards. A notable development was the cultivation of Pinot noir in the Willamette Valley, initially considered too frigid for grape growing. The 1970s witnessed an influx of winemakers and the industry’s organization. State land-use laws protected potential vineyard lands from becoming residential areas. International recognition for Oregon wines arrived in 1979 when The Eyrie Vineyards’ 1975 Pinot noir was acclaimed at the Wine Olympics.

The 1980s saw the industry’s growth in wineries, vineyards, and acclaim, with the formation of the state’s first AVAs and strengthened ties with France’s Burgundy region, highlighted by a visit from Oregon’s governor Neil Goldschmidt and land purchases by a prominent French wine family in Dundee.

The 1990s posed challenges with a Phylloxera outbreak, yet the industry adeptly shifted to resistant rootstocks. Legislative changes further supported winemaking and distribution, and a pivot towards sustainable practices positioned Oregon as a leader in eco-friendly winemaking. By 2005, the state had 314 wineries and 519 vineyards. The growth persisted, and by 2014, Oregon ranked third in the number of wineries, following California and Washington, and fourth in wine production nationally, trailing New York.

Oregon AVA’s wine landscape is distinguished by its adherence to specific labeling regulations. State protocols dictate that the label must reflect the grape type constituting the wine, with a stipulation that the content of the named grape variety should be no less than 90% for most types. However, certain varieties such as the Bordeaux and Rhône variants (both red and white), alongside Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Zinfandel, and Tannat are permitted to follow the federal standard of 75%. The state firmly prohibits the use of geographical names unless they are officially recognized as regions of origin. Among its various offerings, Oregon’s Pinot noir stands out, enjoying high regard and acclaim, particularly those originating from the Willamette Valley. This region is celebrated globally as a leading producer of Pinot noir.

As of 2016, the most cultivated varieties in Oregon AVA were:

Pinot noir, covering 17,744 acres, yielding 45,851 short tons
Pinot gris, with 3,705 acres, producing 13,601 short tons
Chardonnay, grown over 1,482 acres, resulting in 4,359 short tons
Riesling, cultivated on 713 acres, with a yield of 3,095 short tons
Cabernet Sauvignon, from 626 acres, producing 1,652 short tons
Additionally, 2016 saw notable production of Syrah, Merlot, Tempranillo, Pinot blanc, Gewürztraminer, Viognier, Cabernet franc, Müller-Thurgau, Sauvignon blanc, and Zinfandel. While these were the primary varieties, Oregon also ventured into producing wines from V. vinifera like Arneis, Baco noir, Black Muscat, Chenin blanc, Dolcetto, Gamay noir, Grenache, Marechal Foch, Malbec, Muscat, Nebbiolo, Petite Syrah, Sangiovese, and Sémillon in smaller quantities. The state’s diverse wine portfolio extends to fruit wines, sparkling wines, late harvest wines, ice wines, and dessert wines.

During the wine production season of 2015, Oregon boasted an impressive collection of 702 wineries and 1,052 vineyards cultivating Vitis vinifera, covering an expansive area of 28,034 acres, with 24,742 of those acres actively harvested. In the panorama of American viticulture, Oregon holds the distinction of being the third most prolific in terms of winery count and the fourth in overall production. The year witnessed the sale of nearly 3 million cases of Oregonian wine, generating a retail value of approximately $470.65 million, marking a 9% surge from the preceding year.

The wine sector stands as a substantial economic pillar for Oregon, injecting an estimated $3.35 billion into the state’s economy. It’s a vibrant industry that sustains approximately 17,100 jobs, offering a sum of $527 million in wages. The market outreach of Oregon’s wine is notable, with 70% distributed across various US states beyond Oregon’s borders and 4% making its way to international markets in 2014.

Oregon’s wine narrative is one of artisanal quality over mass production, a contrast to the colossal scale of California’s wine industry. The state’s top wine producer, King Estate, dispatches a modest 401,400 cases annually, and the majority of Oregon’s wineries craft fewer than 35,000 cases each year. This is set against the backdrop of the industry giant E & J Gallo, commanding a 22.8% share of the entire US market with an extensive portfolio that includes notable names like Columbia Winery and Covey Run. Oregonian wineries are mostly self-sufficient, tending to their own vineyards, though a portion do source grapes from the broader market, contributing to a diverse and independent grape cultivation landscape.

In a strategic move, the Oregon wine industry zeroes in on the premium segment of the market. This strategy pays off, as Oregonian vineyards fetch higher average returns per ton and revenue per case compared to other US wine-producing regions. Despite its relatively modest production volume, the revenue per capita from Oregon’s wineries holds its ground against those from other notable wine-producing states such as New York and Washington.

In Oregon’s diverse landscape, a trio of principal wine regions, each marked by distinctive American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), offers a rich tapestry of flavors and terrains. The Willamette Valley AVA, a lush expanse nestled within the state, and the Southern Oregon AVA, known for its amalgamation of the historically distinct Rogue and Umpqua Valleys, are Oregon’s exclusively held wine territories. Conversely, the Columbia Gorge AVA, with its scenic vistas, extends its vines across both Oregon and Washington, though it’s predominantly affiliated with Oregon. Adding to this mix is a portion of the Walla Walla Valley AVA, which, though primarily rooted in Washington, dips into Oregon around the Milton-Freewater area. Notably, the Southern Oregon AVA emerged from the fusion of the Rogue Valley and the Umpqua Valley, regions with deep-rooted winegrowing heritage. Other smaller AVAs embellish these broader regions, like the Snake River Valley AVA, marking Oregon’s foray into viticulture along the Idaho border.

Encompassing the Willamette Valley’s lush expanse, the Willamette Valley AVA stands as a beacon of viticulture, stretching from the Columbia River in the north to Eugene’s southern outskirts and flanked by the Oregon Coast Range and the Cascade Mountains. Spanning 5,200 square miles, it’s Oregon’s most expansive AVA and a haven for most of the state’s wineries, boasting 545 as of 2016. The valley’s climate is a gentle embrace of mildness, with cool, moist winters and warm, dry summers, steering clear of extreme weather. Rain graces the valley mostly outside the growing season, sparing it from excessive snowfall. While not every part of the valley is primed for winegrowing, the western banks of the Willamette River, particularly in Yamhill County, are thriving vineyard territories. The region garners acclaim for its Pinot noir and nurtures a variety of grapes like Pinot gris, Chardonnay, Pinot blanc, and Riesling, alongside lesser quantities of other varieties.

The Willamette Valley’s viticultural identity is further refined by ten nested AVAs, each a unique vignette of the region’s diverse terroir. Notably, the Chehalem Mountains AVA cradles within it the Ribbon Ridge AVA and the Laurelwood District AVA, highlighting the intricate sub-regional characteristics. Wine aficionados often draw a line at Salem’s latitude to distinguish the valley’s northern and southern parts, each with its distinct charm.

Southern Oregon’s wine narrative is shaped by the Southern Oregon AVA, a harmonious blend of the Rogue Valley AVA and the Umpqua Valley AVA. This unified AVA, crafted in 2004, was a strategic move to market the distinct wine profiles of Southern Oregon under a collective banner. Each valley, with its unique climate, contributes varied grapes and varietals to the region’s rich viticultural portfolio.

The Umpqua Valley AVA, cradling the Umpqua River’s basin, is Oregon’s oldest wine region post-prohibition. It basks in a climate warmer than the Willamette Valley yet cooler than the southerly Rogue Valley. The valley’s vineyards yield a diverse array of grapes, including Tempranillo, Baco noir, and the classic Pinot noir and Pinot gris, among others. It’s also home to the Red Hill Douglas County, Oregon AVA, and the Elkton Oregon AVA, each with its unique viticultural imprint.

In contrast, the Rogue Valley AVA, tracing the Rogue River and its tributaries, is a mosaic of microclimates, with the Bear Creek valley being the warmest and driest and the Illinois River valley the coolest and wettest. Despite the AVA’s expansive reach, its vineyards, primarily along the tributaries, are limited in acreage but rich in diversity, growing a wide array of grapes suited to their distinct climates.

The Columbia Gorge AVA, perched in the breathtaking Columbia Gorge, is a testament to the region’s diverse geography and climate. Straddling both Oregon and Washington, it benefits from the rain shadows of Mount Hood and Mount Adams, creating a drier climate conducive to a varied grape repertoire. The area’s strong winds and varying elevations add another layer of complexity to its viticulture.

Nestled within the larger Columbia Valley AVA, the Walla Walla Valley AVA extends its reach into Oregon near Milton-Freewater, presenting a unique viticultural landscape primarily housed in Washington. The Oregon subsection, though smaller, is home to wineries specializing in a range of grapes, from Syrah to exotic varietals like Counoise and Carmenère.

The Snake River Valley AVA, established in 2007, marks Oregon’s eastern viticultural frontier, overlapping into Idaho. Its unique climate, characterized by cooler temperatures and low rainfall, paves the way for

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