Oregon wines hold a distinct charm that sets them apart from other wine regions. From the cool, rainy climate of the Willamette Valley to the warmer vineyards of Southern Oregon, the state offers a diverse range of growing conditions that produce exceptional wines. Let’s delve into what makes Oregon wine so special.

Oregon’s Climate

The climate of Oregon plays a pivotal role in shaping the character of its wines. In the Willamette Valley, where cool, wet winters transition into drier summers, conditions are particularly ideal for early-ripening grapes like Pinot Noir. The valley experiences plenty of sunshine during the day, balanced by cool evenings, providing the perfect environment for grape cultivation. For all wine growing, warm temperatures, low risk of frost damage, and no extreme heat are desired conditions.

The growing seasons can be broken down like this: In May and June, the vines in Oregon begin their growth, with shoots developing and flowering. Fruit set occurs in July, and by August, the grapes ripen and take on their characteristic color. Throughout this time, vineyard workers meticulously prune and trellis the vines to ensure optimal growth conditions. Harvest typically spans from September to October, influenced by the year’s weather conditions. Thus, if you’re looking for a good time to visit wine country, try fall! 

Oregon’s Geography

Oregon’s geographical features, especially in the Willamette Valley, closely resemble those of Burgundy, France. Both regions share the same latitude, enjoying mild climates conducive to grape growing. The valley’s fertile soil, known as Jory soil, is rich in iron and magnesium, thanks to volcanic activity during the Pleistocene era. This unique soil composition contributes to the distinctive flavors found in Oregon wines.

The flavors of the state are broken up into 23 different AVAs, or American Viticultural Areas, each associated and broken up based on their specific attributes. For example, while the Willamette Valley is renowned for its Pinot Noir, Southern Oregon offers a different wine experience. With warmer climates, Southern Oregon is capable of producing bolder, full-bodied wines, expanding the state’s wine portfolio. Additionally, Oregon’s Northern Border Wine Country, including the Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley, offers a wide range of growing conditions, allowing for diverse wine styles. Typical varietals seen across the state include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Tempranillo, and Syrah.

Influence of the French

The presence of French winemakers in Oregon has significantly contributed to the region’s reputation for quality wines. Joseph Drouhin was one of the pioneers, establishing Domaine Drouhin in 1987. Since then, more French winemakers have followed suit, drawn to Oregon’s potential for producing exceptional Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, among other varieties. While Burgundy and the Willamette Valley share key grape varieties, Oregon’s more flexible regulations allow for experimentation beyond traditional French standards.

Oregon’s wine industry embodies a harmonious blend of climate, geography, and winemaking expertise. From the renowned Pinot Noirs of the Willamette Valley to the diverse offerings of Southern Oregon, each region contributes to Oregon’s reputation as a world-class wine destination. Whether you’re a seasoned wine enthusiast or new to the world of wine, exploring Oregon’s vineyards promises a journey filled with discovery and delight.

Here at Capers, we are proud to carry mostly Oregon-made wine. Among these, our favorites include (our Willamette Valley favs):

Ayoub Wines in Dundee, OR

Alexana Vineyards in Newberg, OR

Soléna Estate in Yamhill, OR

Tendril Wine Cellars in Carlton, OR

Archery Summit in Dayton, OR

Ponzi Vineyards in Sherwood, OR

Van Duzer in Dallas, OR

Penner Ash in Newberg, OR

WillaKenzie in Yamhill, OR

Eyrie Vineyards in McMinnville, OR

ROCO Winery in Newberg, OR

Bergström Wines in Dundee, OR