The History of Oregon wine and Vineyards: 5 Facts to know

If you think Oregon is only for the coffee and craft beer lovers, think again! You might be surprised to learn that this beautiful state has a thriving wine and vineyard scene. From its wineries to tasting rooms, it is becoming a major player in the world of wine. So, if you’re curious to know more, read on to learn five facts about the history of Oregon wine and vineyards!

The Beginnings of Oregon Wine and Vineyards


Oregon wine and vineyards have a fascinating history that dates back more than 150 years. While winemaking in this state has not been as prevalent as other wine growing regions like California, Oregon has a unique terroir and an abundance of native grapes. Over the last five decades, this state vintners has developed award-winning wines from the region’s Willamette Valley and its diverse appellations. Here are 5 facts you should know about the beginnings of their wine and vineyards:

1) In 1847, the first grapes were planted in the Oregon Territory by Peter Britt. Valley View, the first recorded winery in OR, was established by him in the late 1850s in Jacksonville.

2) Britt’s plantings were of the Mission grape, a varietal brought to the region by Catholic missionaries who had established missions along the California coast. The Mission grape found its way north into Oregon, where it found a suitable climate for growing in the Willamette Valley.

3) Unfortunately, wine production in this state came to a halt during Prohibition (1919-1933). Many of their vineyards were destroyed during this time, and it would take many years for the industry to recover.

4) It wasn’t until the 1960s that the wine industry began to rebound. In 1965, David Lett planted Pinot Noir vines at his Eyrie Vineyards in the Willamette Valley, kickstarting a renaissance in Oregon winemaking. Today, it is home to hundreds of wineries and is internationally recognized for its high-quality wines.

5) The growth of Oregon’s wine industry was spurred by a number of factors, including the state’s favorable climate for grape-growing, its proximity to major markets like California and Washington, and an influx of investment from out-of-state investors. The industry has continued to thrive in the 21st century, with Oregon wines receiving international acclaim and winning numerous awards.

The Growth of Oregon Wine and Vineyards


Oregon wine is grown in couple viticultural areas including the Willamette Valley, Rogue Valley, Southern Oregon and Walla Walla valley. These regions are home to approximately 900 wineries and are recognized for their various wine varieties.

State’s cool climate allows grape varieties such as Pinot Noir to flourish, but there are also many other popular grapes in the region. Wine styles vary from sparkling through dry white and renowned dessert wines such as Muscat and Riesling. Growers also produce many classic red varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel.

The history of Oregon’s wine industry has been tremendous since its start in the late 1840s. The number of wineries operating in Oregon doubled between 1990 and 2005 alone, resulting in an exponential increase in available styles to suit any palate or budget. As of 2019, nearly 110 of the 690-plus wineries within the state were producing award-winning wines with a focus on organic production techniques. This number is forecasted to continue rising due to favorable climate conditions and plentiful resources for growing grapes throughout the region.

The success of Oregon wine over the past 20 years has enabled real estate prices in surrounding areas to rise significantly—some reports state that real estate values have increased by up to 30%. This influx of capital has allowed many vineyards nearby established urban areas like Portland or Eugene opportunity for improved visibility due intense tourism demand along with international recognition as a premier boutique regional producer.

As more attention is brought towards this profitable industry within America’s Pacific Northwest region—especially amongst restaurant professionals—expect schools providing training classes on viticulture along with sommelier courses rapidly growing alongside this flourishing market sector!

The Varieties of Wine Produced in Oregon


The Willamette Valley is the main wine producing region in Oregon and produces a variety of styles including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The appellation (also known as the AVA) covers 15 sub-regions that stretch from Portland to Hillsboro in the north and Salem to Corvallis in the south. Each region has its own unique mix of soil conditions and climates that create distinct flavors for each wine.

It is heralded for its cool climate wines such as Pinot Noir, which can drink well when young or develop into complex wines with bottle aging. Vineyards across the state also produce Riesling, Merlot and Gewürztraminer which all thrive in Oregon’s climate. Other white varieties grown include Müller-Thurgau, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc.

The state’s position on the Pacific coast means it is subject to cooler temperatures than most other US regions resulting in slow ripening of grapes with tart flavors taking center stage among many whites. In addition to this cooler weather, reds are generally more elegant with lighter body and tannin structure than those from California or Washington state.

In recent decades explorations into new varieties from around the world have been gaining popularity among winemakers in Oregon. This includes Torrontes & Albariño from South America along with Aglianico & Nero d’Avola from Southern Italy just to name a few – providing an array of flavorful options for wine lovers to discover!

Oregon Wine and Vineyard Regulations


The state wine industry has come a long way since its first commercial vineyard was planted in 1847. Today, the state is internationally recognized for its viticulture prowess and boasts some of the most stringent regulations in the US. Here are five important facts to know about Oregon wine and vineyard regulations.

  1. The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) oversees regulation and enforcement of all business involving alcoholic beverages and cannabis growing in the state, including wineries and vineyards.
  2. The OLCC requires all wines imported to or sold in Oregon to comply with labeling requirements, including basic information such as the alcohol content, ingredients list and source of the grapes or other ingredients used in winemaking.
  3. Winemakers are also required to ensure that their vines are free from disease and disease-causing organisms by employing practices such as regular pruning and soil testing.
  4. It is illegal for any establishment to accept payment for alcoholic beverages without a valid license issued by the OLCC. The winemaker must also pay taxes on all sales of alcohol products at applicable rates set by the ORCPM Taxes & Fee Division.
  5. Lastly, winemakers must abide by strict standards for cellulose waste management as mandated by local public health agencies designed to protect air quality in nearby communities from potentially hazardous emissions associated with fermentation processes, steeping liquids etcetera associated with winemaking operations.


Due to the short amount of time that Oregon has been producing wine, there is still much more to learn about this unique region’s offerings. From pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot gris, to a wide array of newer varietals like riesling, syrah, viognier, and tempranillo – there are seemingly endless opportunities for exploration when it comes to Oregon wine. With its enviable climate and vineyards committed to sustainability practices – its future certainly looks bright!