My wish for Christmas is that the winemakers and vineyard owners of Oregon keep honing their skills, thus perfecting the lovely wines being produced throughout the state. My hope is that by continuing to act as good stewards of the land, implementing sustainable measures such as organic and biodynamic practices, our wines will always be a sure sign of quality. My desire is that by continuing to practice judicious wine making that allows the terroir to develop in the wines, we will continue to elevate Brand Oregon to new heights!
I come from California where most of the wine industry does not appear to be nearly as cooperative and collaborative in their approach as what I’ve seen here. Oregon wineries have long understood that by developing and promoting a collective brand, everyone wins more market share. Getting people interested in and drinking Oregon wines benefits winemakers across the state. The world has finally come to realize that we create exceptional Pinot noirs.
But Oregon is so much more than Pinot noir! According to 2010 statistics on acres of grapes planted in the state, provided by the Oregon Wine Board, there are currently fourteen other significant grape varietals to be found in vineyards throughout Oregon. There are a number of the lesser know wines being made by Oregon wineries these days.
Do wine drinkers (especially those outside the state) know that Oregon makes a mean Muller Thurgau, a bewitching Baco noir, a racy Riesling, a perky Pinot blanc and a tantalizing Tempranillo? With the cooler-climate varietals, including Pinot noir and Pinot gris, thriving in the Willamette Valley, grape growers are finding warmer regions like the Columbia Gorge, Southern Oregon and parts of the Umpqua Valley can produce some exceptional wines as well.
While Oregon wineries may not produce the huge volumes found in California and Washington, I think our wines tend to more clearly express the local terroir of the places they are grown. Winemakers here are careful with their choices, often selecting more subtle French oak barrels over American oak that can sometimes overwhelm the palate with wood flavors. Wineries here tend to be smaller, with a very focused eye toward producing a quality product.
When you visit tasting rooms here, more often than not you are greeted by an owner or winemaker (or a close relative!) Oregon wineries learned early on that wine with a story tends to sell better than wine without a tale behind it. Some choose to tell their stories using clever names and labels while others like to narrate their stories in person when guests visit the tasting room.
All in all, I believe that Oregon wineries have pioneered the notion of working together to get their wines to market and into the mouths of happy wine drinkers around the globe. Those collective efforts of promoting Brand Oregon will continue to pay off as more and more people associate Oregon wines with quality and sustainability. So Oregon wineries and vineyards, I thank you for sticking to your guns and making the best wine possible! In the coming year I challenge you to find even more innovative ways to grow, make and market your wines with the goal of creating a more inclusive state-wide brand that wine drinkers can really sink their teeth into, no matter what kind of wine is in their glass.
Don’t think we’d leave you hanging! Here are some Oregon wine producers that the Winerabblers recommend for the more unusual varietals listed above:
Müller Thurgau: Kramer Vineyards
Baco noir: Girardet Wines
Riesling: Brooks Winery
Pinot blanc: The Eyrie Vineyards
Tempranillo: Abacela Vineyards & Winery