Oregon wine regions
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- North Willamette Valley is on the same latitude as France’s Bordeaux wine region.
- The wine industry generates more than $3.35 billion annually in economic activity in Oregon.
- Harry & David, in Medford, is the world’s largest gourmet mail-order company.
- Novelist Zane Grey wrote “Rogue River Feud” (1929) while living in a cabin on Rogue River
- Oregon counts more than 750 vineyards producing more than 70 grape varietals.
Sipping wine in rodeo territory
Oenophiles travel to wine regions for the obvious reasons, and Oregon gives them cause enough to make the trip. The rest of us travel to the world’s wine countries for wine plus, meaning for the scenery, for the on-site lifestyle — particularly the foods that complement the wines — and for the other activities that a terrain of hills (or mountains), valleys and rivers may offer. Oregon’s wine country offers an abundance of attractions in that latter category, which is one reason the venturesome have such a positive take on the destination.
Willamette Valley is the largest and best known of Oregon’s wine regions. The valley, sitting between the Coast Range to the west and Cascades to the east, stretches from Portland in the north to Eugene and a bit beyond, thus encompassing the state’s two largest cities. The capital Salem sits in the valley, as well.
Willamette accounts for more than 300 of the state’s nearly 400 wineries and has 100-plus tasting rooms. It is most noted for Pinot Noir, but produces other cool-climate grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.
The second-most-productive area is southern Oregon, south of Willamette. Southern Oregon encompasses the Applegate Valley, Red Hills Douglas County, Rogue Valley and Umpqua Valley wine regions. There are 63 wineries making Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Syrah and others.
There are eight additional wineries in the state’s Columbia Gorge, Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley wine regions, on the border with Washington state. Most of the Columbia Valley growing area is across the river in Washington. One final wine region is the Snake River Valley, on the Idaho border.
These areas aren’t only about wine — or wine, cheese and truffles. Growers also produce apples, pears and other fruit. It’s the West, so these also are wine regions with a variety of harvest festivals (besides wine), music festivals — plus rodeos and powwows.
With an eye on active travelers, the areas support outfitters of all stripes, ensuring choices for things like mountain biking and hiking plus water-based diversions, ranging from fishing to windsurfing and whitewater rafting.
Things to do for Venturers
- Ride the 130-mile Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway between Champoeg and Eugene. Stop along the way at wineries and gourmet restaurants. Or, if the biking is your main interest, attend Mountain Bike Oregon in Oakridge, also in Willamette Valley.
- You can practice your windsurfing, or maybe kiteboarding, on the Columbia River, taking advantage of Columbia Gorge winds. Find equipment and lessons at Hood River in the Columbia Gorge wine region or at The Dalles in the Columbia Valley region. Also, for a change from the wine theme, sample the goods at local brew pubs in Hood River.
- In Portland, arrange a hot-air balloon ride to travel over wine country in the North Willamette Valley.
- Drive to Grants Pass through Applegate Valley sampling wines along the way. Then, in Grants Pass, where the Rogue River roars through, sign up for a rafting or jetboating excursion. Whitewater rafting is an option on the North Umpqua River, too.
- Attend the autumn Grape Stomping Festival at St. Josef’s Winery near Canby, in Willamette Valley. Or, more ambitiously, participate in the Oregon Grape Stomp Championship and Harvest Celebration at the Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner. Winners qualify for the national stomping contest!
- For something a little more exotic, drop in at the Oregon Truffle Festival, in January, during which dogs and their handlers hunt wild truffles in and around Eugene. For guests, the event includes workshops and truffle tasting.
Things to do for Centrics
- Some of the area’s finest wines come from Tyee Wine Cellars in Corvallis. Stop by, take a sip and see if you agree with that judgment.
- Follow a seven-mile hiking trail to see the 10 waterfalls in Silver Falls State Park, in Willamette Valley. Make this journey in autumn and you have a foliage tour, too.
- Fish for salmon in the Willamette River or for summer steelhead in the Rogue or North Umpqua River.
- Native Americans operate several casinos in Oregon, and some are in wine country. One is Wildhorse Resort Casino in Pendleton, in Columbia Valley. Try your luck.
- Participate in Wine Country Thanksgiving, by visiting a number of wineries for their annual tasting events, which may include tasting local cheeses or truffles as well as the wine. Also, attend an Oregon Bounty Winemaker Dinner.
- There are several rodeos each year in Oregon’s wine regions. Attend one for a different take on wine country here.
Things to do for Authentics
- Sample Pinot Noirs at several wineries in Willamette Valley and end each day in one of the area’s better restaurants to enjoy the valley’s wines with good fresh local foods.
- Winter comes to wine country. When it is not grape-stomping time, drive a bit east of the valley itself to go skiing or snow tubing at Willamette Pass Resort.
- Give yourself time to drive the Oregon Wine and Farm Tour, a route through the Rogue Valley. Besides wineries, its 15 stops include the Rogue Creamery (cheese maker) in Central Point and the Hillcrest Orchard.
- Flowers like wine country, too. See the 80-acre Oregon Garden in Silverton in Willamette Valley. Attend a concert on the grounds, and see the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Gordon House there, as well.
- Drive the 20-mile Cottage Grove Covered Bridge Tour Route, southeast of Eugene. You’ll see seven bridges. Or, consider making time for the five-to-seven-hour Rogue-Umpqua National Scenic Byway.
- If you want to or need to be based in Portland, drive an hour away to the tasting rooms of wineries in Washington County. Take the state’s Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route, a 50-mile drive, to make the most of this day.
For more information, consult Travel Oregon at http://traveloregon.com