Description 1 of 2

The history of Oregon wine-making dates back to the mid 1800s. Horticulturalist Henderson Luelling is credited with planting the first grapes in 1847 in Willamette Valley. His son-in-law, William Meek, won a medal in the 1859 California State Fair for wines made from the Isabella grape (an American hybrid). By the 1880s, vineyards began to take shape throughout the Willamette and Umpqua valleys, with Vitis vinifera stocks imported from Europe for the first time. 

But as with California, the Oregon wine industry was all but wiped out during the Prohibition from 1919 to 1933. In the era following the Repeal, the government allowed fruit-based wines (mostly from berries and Concord grapes) with licenses to “Farmer’s Wineries.”  A handful of vintners worked with vinifera-based wines, but with only a modicum of success. 
 
By the early 1960s, California oenologists at UC Davis became interested in Oregon terroir, even though studies had determined the climate to be too cool for quality grape-growing. One of them, Richard Sommer, established Hillcrest Vineyard in what is now Umpqua Valley, growing varietals UC Davis had deemed inappropriate such as Gewurtztraminer, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. 
 
In 1965, David Lett, another UC Davis ex-pat, who had done extensive research in Burgundy and Alsace, determined that certain grapes such as Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir had an excellent chance at long ripening in the climate of Western Oregon. He established Eyrie Vineyard in the Dundee Hills where he was the first to plant the Pinot Gris varietal in the US. By the mid 1970s, he was entering his Pinot Noir in French “Wine Olympics” blind tastings and scoring well, if not first place. In 1980, his Pinot Noir placed second against Robert Drouhin’s 1959 Chambolle-Musigny, which was enough to draw attention to Oregon for the first time as a quality wine region.
 
By the early 1970s, several other notable producers established their vineyards, many of them also from California: Dick Erath (Erath Vineyards Winery), Nancy and Dick Ponzi (Ponzi Vineyards), Susan and Bill Sokol-Blosser (Sokol-Blosser Winery), Ginny and David Adelsheim (Adelsheim Vineyards), Pat and Joe Campbell (Elk Cove Vineyards), Virginia and Bill Fuller (Tulatin Estate Vineyards), Ann and Jerry Preston with Myron Redford (Amity Vineyards), and even Robert Drouhin.
 
The success of the 1980 blind tasting has led to the growth of Oregon as a destination for high quality viticulture. Wine-makers have learned how to work with the cool-climate and rainfall factors to produce excellent wines in most vintages from the grapes they find most suitable to the conditions. Pinot Noir is the gem of the region, along with Alsacian grapes Pinot Gris, Gewürtztraminer and Riesling. Many German grapes also do well in the climate such as Müller-Thurgau. In addition, traditional varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and Chardonnay are also successful.
 
The regions of Oregon are:
Columbia Gorge (includes Hoode River County)
Columbia Valley (includes Walla Walla Valley)
Snake River Valley 
Southern Oregon (includes Rogue and Umpqua valleys)
Wilamette Valley (includes Polk, Washington and Yamhill counties)
 
– Description from Amanda Schuster

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Description 2 of 2

Oregon’s wine industry has been built on small wineries producing wines of impeccable quality. The state ranks third in the U.S. in number of wineries, but only fourth in wine production. Oregon winegrowers have identified a range of growing conditions within the state, which is a hotbed of AVA delineation with a steadily growing number of approved appellations, including the Willamette Valley (and its multiple sub-AVAs), Umpqua Valley, Rogue River Valley, Applegate Valley and small sections of Walla Walla and the Columbia Valley. Most of the state’s production is in the northern Willamette Valley, from vineyards on lush rolling hillsides in the foothills of the Coastal Range. In this cool environment, Pinot Noir has made the wine industry justly famous. Umpqua, south of the Willamette, is generally considered a cool-climate region, as Pacific breezes and rainfall nourish the land. Even further south, in the Rogue Valley, a mixture of climates exists. In its sub-AVA, the Applegate Valley, red Bordeaux varietals and Syrah ripen at higher elevations with high diurnal temperature variations, giving these varietals structure. With several more AVAs in the petition process, Oregon has become the leader of appellation consciousness in North America. – Description from Appellation America (view original content)

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