Oregon is a place fraught with challenges regarding growing grapes. With a short growing season where sunlight and heat are often in short supply, it is difficult to develop ripe fruit for wine making. Frost is often a threat during both the spring and fall. Weather patterns are erratic from year to year.
When grape vines do not have all the sun, water and ideal soil composition they need, they struggle to slowly mature. This stress can produce small yields of concentrated fruit. Despite these challenges, Oregon wine makers are happy to find ways to overcome the climate. Because of this, they are able to produce wines of stunning beauty and finesse.
The modern wine industry in Oregon began in the early 1960s. Today there are more than 140 wineries in the state. The white wine Oregon is most known for is Pinot Gris, where the leading white variety is typically Chardonnay. There are also some excellent Pinot Blanc and Rieslings produced there. The red grape that Oregon is most famous for is Pinot Noir. Nearly every winery produces Pinot Noir. Oregon – like Burgundy France – is ideally suited to growing this grape.
There are five appellations, but the most important is the Willamette Valley that runs for a hundred miles south of Portland. The valley follows the Willamette River with the Cascade Mountains to the east and the Coast Range on the west. It’s the Coast Range which blocks the worst of the rain and cold and allows for a very different climate than Seattle.
Most Oregon wineries are very welcoming and down-to-earth. It’s best to call ahead if you plan to visit because often they are only open by appointment.
Wine Quote of the Month– “My only regret in life is that I didn’t drink more wine”
I’m very excited to present the January Wines of the Month because they are both outstanding.
The White Wine of the Month is Quivira, 2013, Sauvignon Blanc from Dry Creek, Sonoma, CA. This wine has notes of herbs and grassiness with a clean tart finish of tropical fruit and lime.
The Red Wine of the Month is Steelhead, 2013, Pinot Noir, also from Sonoma, CA. It is complex, with bing cherry and black raspberry flavors, leading to a rich long finish.
Wine club members come in early to pick up your bottles before they’re gone!
Sommelier, Maynards Market and Kitchen