Learn about Oregon wine

Tanya Morning Star
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Oregon wine is more than Pinot Noir and Chardonnay


Compared to other wine regions worldwide, Oregon is the new kid on the block and just beginning to prove that it has something to say and contribute to the international wine community. Vines were first planted in the Willamette Valley, in the North-Western part of Oregon, in the 1960s. Among the first varietals grown in the region were French Burgundy-style grapes such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This makes sense since Oregon shares a similar geographic latitude and climate as Burgundy and other French wine regions that produce some of the best wines in the world. Mildly warm summers and cold winters with the occasional threat of snow, hail, and freezing temperatures, the vines found in Oregon are in constant struggle, and colder temperatures produce grapes with concentrated flavors of fruit, earthiness, clean minerality, and slightly high acidity.

Rising Wines Collective map of Oregon AVAs

Pinot Noir

Oregon is most famous for the Pinot Noir produced in the Willamette Valley. The pinots in this region are light-bodied but still very complex in structure and flavor profile. These pinots are fruit-forward with cherry and pomegranate and well-balanced with earthy hints of soil and warming accents of vanilla and baking spices. These versatile red wines of Oregon are among the best pinot noirs globally and should not be missed by wine lovers.


The Chardonnay from Oregon, unlike their Californian neighbors to the south in Napa Valley, is not oak-aged and has a clean, crisp flavor and finish. Often compared to white Burgundy wines due to their more subtle fruit flavors and higher levels of minerality and acidity, these Oregon Chardonnays are on par with some of the best chardonnay France has to offer. Due to the cold breeze coming from the Pacific Ocean over the Oregon Coast Mountains and frequent fog from the area’s humidity, the Willamette Valley is the ideal location for producing chardonnay grapes with incredible depth of flavor and complexity.

Beyond the Willamette Valley

Oregon also sees wine production from other wine regions, such as the Snake River Valley in eastern Oregon on the border of southern Idaho. It produces full-bodied varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. With no cold winds or fog cover coming from the Pacific, Snake River Valley has Cabernet Sauvignon with dark berries, baking spices, cedar, and earthy tobacco flavors. These full-bodied reds with firm tannins are perfect for pairing with red meat and hearty stews or just sitting near a fire with a good book.   

The Columbia Valley borders Washington and the Walla Walla wine region and also produces Cab Sav and Pinot Gris and Syrah varietals. The Pinot Gris from the Columbia Valley is full of light fruit and citrus flavors such as Meyer lemon, key lime, and pear, with a slight minerality making it a drinkable, refreshing white wine. On the other hand, Syrah is full-bodied and features flavors of plum, cocoa, tobacco, and slightly spicy peppercorns. The Syrah from the Columbia Valley is another example of dark, rich, complex red wines that are a staple of Oregon wine production. 

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About Tanya Morning Star

Founder & CEO of Cellar Muse, CWE, FWS, IWS, SWS, WSET Diploma Instructor

Certified by the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne as one of 60 global Official Ambassadors of Bourgogne Wines, the only Official Ambassador of Orvieto Wines, and a Vinitaly International Italian Wine Ambassador. 

Tanya Morning Star has been working in the wine industry; in restaurants, retail, and education for more than two decades. She has been teaching about wine since 2004. Her love of classical wines, passion for history, nature, and gastronomy inspires her educational approach. In 2018, she was bestowed the French Wine Scholar Instructor of the Year.