When the first vintners came to Oregon, they discovered something special: fertile soil as far as the eye could see, long hours of summer sunlight and climate-controlling marine breezes. In short, the region has everything required for producing phenomenal wine. Today, Oregon is home to 725 wineries and is renowned for its award-winning vintages, picture-perfect vineyards and diverse growing regions. But a great glass of pinot noir isn’t the only thing you’ll discover here. Packed with rolling hills, rugged peaks and dramatic rivers, this part of the Beaver State will excite every kind of nature lover. Whether it’s wine you’re searching for or an epic outdoor adventure, you’re guaranteed to find both in Oregon’s wine regions.
The Umpqua Valley
What do you get when the Klamath, Cascade and Coastal mountain ranges converge? The beautiful Umpqua Valley. If you look closer though, you’ll realize this isn’t a valley at all. Sprawling 65 miles from north to south, the Umpqua is actually a vast collection of hills and river drainages. Locals refer to it as the “Hundred Valleys of the Umpqua,” which paints a more accurate picture of the area.
Beyond its pretty exterior are the key ingredients for making world-class wine. Warmer than the Willamette Valley, cooler than the Rogue and Applegate regions, and carpeted with over 150 soil types, the Umpqua Valley offers a variety of microclimates, making it a fantastic place to grow both cool and warm grapes. It’s one of the few places where you can drink cool varieties like pinot noir and chardonnay and instantly switch to warm ones such as merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Mix that in with sweet Rieslings and fruity gewürztraminers, and you’ve got a complex wine region that will satisfy everyone’s taste buds. There are about 30 wineries here with notable ones being Henry Estate Winery, Girardet Vineyards & Winery, and HillCrest Vineyard, Oregon’s oldest estate winery, founded in 1961.
When you’re done sipping through the hundred valleys, swap your wine glass for a fishing rod and journey to the fabled waters of the Umpqua River. Made up of the South Umpqua, North Umpqua and Main Umpqua, this river is one of Oregon’s top fly-fishing spots with salmon and steelhead ready for the taking throughout the year. Hikers will want to traverse the North Umpqua Trail, a 79-mile path that snakes along the river’s edge and takes you into the center of the majestic Cascades.
Willamette Valley: Winery Heaven
Serious wine enthusiasts should put the Willamette Valley at the top of their lists. Spanning all the way from Portland to Eugene, the Willamette Valley is Oregon’s largest and most-visited wine region, with over 500 wineries just waiting to be discovered. It’s also considered one of the best pinot noir-producing regions on the globe, thanks to its unique maritime climate. Not a fan of reds? The Willamette Valley has you covered, as its varied climate makes it a prime destination for Riesling, pinot blanc, pinot gris, chardonnay and other varietals.
McMinnville is among the most charming cities in the area, with an old-style movie theater, cute shops, and lots of great restaurants, from fine-dining at Thistle to casual American fare at the Oregon Hotel (run by Oregon’s popular family-run pub/hotel chain, McMenamins). Just outside the city is the Evergreen Aviation and Air Museum, home of the famous Spruce Goose, a flying boat that was built by Howard Hughes for use in World War II.
The Rogue River
The possibilities for outdoor adventure continue on the Rogue River. One of the first rivers to be protected by the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, this slice of paradise offers some of Oregon’s best rafting, fishing, hiking and camping. One of the biggest draws here is the 40-mile Rogue River Trail. Multiple ridges give you a bird’s-eye view of the roaring river below, while oceans of wild flowers and plenty of wildlife transport you to a world of natural splendor. Anglers will want to get right in the river to reel in champion-size chinook salmon, coho salmon and steelhead trout.
Approximately 180 wineries are found here with most located around Grants Pass, Medford, Ashland and Jacksonville. In Grants Pass, feast on delicious flatbreads with your wine flight at Schmidt Family Vineyards, bring your four-legged friend along to Serra Vineyards or check out grapes and cattle at Plaisance Ranch, a working ranch dating back to 1858. Medford promises exquisite views of Mount McLoughlin, especially from Agate Ridge Vineyard, while Jacksonville’s Dancin Vineyards was named the 2017 Oregon Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest. Popular wineries in the Ashland vicinity include Paschal Winery and Vineyard (famous for its pear and honeydew viognier), Dana Campbell Vineyards, and Irvine & Roberts Vineyards.
For More Information
Oregon Wine Board
Oregon Tourism Commission