The success of Oregon is largely down to the Californian wine pioneers of the late 1960s. Until those days, this region, and in particular, the now premium Willamette Valley was deemed too cold to grow grapes; however Pinot noir lovers and students at Davis university, still looking for the ideal locations to grow this difficult grape, came across Oregon, situated far north on the Pacific Northwest Coast, north of California, and extending up close to the Canadian border.
Pinot Noir is king here, although not grown until the mid 1960s; as well as the climate, many of the winemaking practices mirror Burgundy, with a host of small, family wineries, rather than large-scale operations. The typical weather means long, moderate summers, wet springs and autumns, and frost in the winter, but the producers have learnt to adapt vineyard and winemaking techniques to help improve vintage consistency. The majority of the vineyards are planted between the Coastal range and the Cascade range of mountains, and are thus sheltered, despite the cool climate.
Willamette Valley is developing its own identity, as a sub- region, which produces some of the most outstanding wines in the area. It’s the largest of Oregon’s sub regions, home to over 60% of all the wineries, and produces some of the top Pinot Noirs.
As well as Pinot Noir, Oregon is suited to the production of grapes that suit cool climates – Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Gewurztraminer all work well.