Wines from Oregon often live in the shadows of their California counterparts, though that should change. Oregon is putting out some of the most exciting and terroir-reflective bottles to come out of the United States. From Burgundian-inspired pinots to crisp bubbles and a handful of fun natural wines in between, we’ve gathered the Oregon wines that need to be on your radar.
First, the basics. Oregon’s viticultural zones are broken down into five major growing regions: Columbia Gorge, Columbia Valley, Snake River, Southern Oregon, Willamette Valley. Although the majority of Oregon’s production takes place in Willamette, each of these overarching AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) is unique in its own right. Today, Oregon is the fourth-largest wine-producing state in the country, behind California, Washington and New York.
Oregon’s winemaking scene is often compared to that of Burgundy, as the two regions sit on similar latitudes and are both known for their pinot noir production; though make no mistake, Oregon’s wines are certainly worthy of their own recognition. The most commonly planted varieties in Oregon are pinot noir, pinot gris and chardonnay, though winemakers across the state are working with many experimental plantings including syrah, cabernet franc, gewurztraminer, viognier, riesling and more. Although the majority of Oregon’s wine production is red, there’s plenty of white, rosé and delicious sparkling to go around.
Now for the fun part: As always, knowing which producers’ wines to drink is the key. We’ve rounded up seven of our favorite Oregon wines that are helping to shape the state’s ever-growing viticultural scene. To add an extra layer to your tasting journey, pop some of your favorite California and/or Burgundian expressions of the varieties in question and taste them side-by-side with these. You might be amazed at the similarities and differences you’ll find.
Analemma “Atavus” Blanc de Noirs
This delicious blanc de noirs from Analemma is produced entirely from pinot noir via the méthode Champenoise. Sur-lie aging for 40 months adds texture, weight and complexity to this single-vineyard wine. Notes of red apple skin, strawberries, underripe pears and toast lead to a yeasty smoke-tinged finish. Serve cold before dinner for an epic premeal aperitif.
Brick House Gamay Noir
Love the delicious glouglou wines of Beaujolais? Then this varietal gamay noir from Brick House needs to be on your radar. This floral-driven wine hails from the Ribbon Ridge area of Oregon and is loaded with flavors of meaty cherries, licorice, anise and damp earth. Serve chilled with charcuterie boards or happy-hour snacks.
This affordable dry riesling is perfect for skeptics of this variety looking to give it a go. The wine is loaded with flavors of citrus blossoms, lime leaf, sea salt and crushed rocks. Brooks Winery is the brainchild of Jimi Brooks, a Portland native passionate for organic and biodynamic farming.
Day Wines “Vin de Days” L’Orange
Can’t get enough of skin-contact wines? Then this exotically aromatic and nuanced orange wine from Brianne Day is just for you. This blend of riesling (37%), müller-thurgau (32%) and gewurztraminer (31%) is loaded with flavors of tropical fruits, lychee, grapefruit skin, dried apricots and white flowers. The wine finishes firm and grippy and is perfect for serving with Mediterranean-inspired mezze platters.
Division “Béton” Red
Division Wine Co. is pioneering Oregon’s urban winemaking scene, and we can’t get enough of what it’s doing. Produced in the heart of Portland, this Loire-inspired red blend is produced from carbonic and whole-cluster fermented gamay and cabernet franc. The juice is aged in concrete (“béton” in French) and is juicy, floral-driven and loaded with flavors of red fruit, crushed violets, pepper and wet earth. Serve chilled and live out your best Parisian-bistro-inspired memories at home.
Evening Land “Seven Springs” Pinot Noir
For delicious Oregon pinot that overdelivers for the price, look no further than this expression from Evening Land. Produced at the hands of Sashi Moorman and Rajat Parr, this epic bottle is loaded with smoky flavors of tart cherries, red currants, potting soil and sweet spice. Fruit comes from the winery’s own-rooted pommard and wädenswil vines planted in 1984. Think of this bottle as Burgundian-inspired yet uniquely Oregonian in its own right.
Walter Scott “La Combe Verte” Chardonnay
Walter Scott’s small-production chardonnay from Willamette’s Green Valley is loaded with flavors of green apple, lemon rind, orchard fruit and sea salt. The wine is produced from sustainably farmed fruit, fermented with native yeasts and aged in large barrels. This rich and round wine provides a perfect introduction to the world of Oregon chardonnay.