In the mid-1960s when the first vineyards of Pinot Noir were planted in the Willamette Valley, there were virtually no wineries producing vinifera wines in the Pacific Northwest states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Although Oregon made wine in the early 19th century, Prohibition effectively wiped out its wine industry. The Oregon wine pioneers of the Sixties were an iconoclastic crew, fascinated by the challenges of the climate, and the prospect of taming a new wine frontier. Temperamental Pinot Noir was the daring choice. The grape, its growers and winemakers work hard for their money, but it shows to their advantage in the wines. The distinguished white varietal of Oregon is elegant, spicy, crisp Pinot Gris.
Oregon's climate is defined by two conditions: cool growing season and plenty of rain. Uneven ripening is the rule; picking can begin as early as September or as late as November. The Pacific Ocean keeps frost at bay; but can bring lots of rain, fog and wind into the wine-growing regions which lie west of the Cascade Mountains. As a result, growers have to be discerning where they plant. You won't see the wide vineyards tracts that are the rule in California. Oregon vineyards are dotted in pockets here and there to take advantage of the best conditions.
Rogue River Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have found a good home in the much warmer Rogue Valley. Yields will always be small, so consumers who are interested in exploring these wines should be prepared for high quality/limited availability.