Wines of Oregon and Washington
Oregon’s 13,400 acres are located primarily in western Oregon between the Coast Range and the Cascades. The Willamette Valley, which runs south from Portland roughly 100 miles, is the home of Oregon’s most recognized wineries. The climate is moderated by the maritime influence of the Pacific Ocean, and rain is plentiful. Vineyards are dry-farmed, and the keys to producing superior fruit and wine are clonal selection and controlling the vigor of the vines. Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are the standouts here, although the introduction of French Dijon clones of Chardonnay holds promise for this variety. Look for the wines of Adelsheim, Argyle, Panther Creek, Elk Cove, Ponzi, and Domaine Drouhin in your local wine shops for prime examples of the quality of wine being produced in this burgeoning wine region.
Washington’s 30,000 acres of vineyards are located primarily in the high desert of eastern Washington’s Columbia Valley. The climate there is characterized by hot days and cool nights that help to maintain the necessary acidity of the grapes. In contrast to Oregon, where a moderate climate and ample rainfall make controlling vine vigor a priority, the high desert vineyards of eastern Washington are irrigated in a controlled fashion to regulate vigor and produce superior fruit. White varieties, Chardonnay primarily, were Washington’s initial focus, but now the emphasis has tipped to red with a ratio of 57% red to 43% white. Cabernet and Merlot are planted and produced in almost equal proportions, and there is growing acreage of Syrah, which has proven itself well adapted to Washington’s climate and soils, and is producing engaging full-bodied wines with dark fruit, sweet spice and alluring mocha notes. You can find many stellar examples of Washington wines, including but not limited to Apex Winery, L’Ecole Vineyards, Château Ste. Michelle, Covey Run, Hedges and Hogue Cellars.