A tour of Oregon’s wine regions will lead you not only to some amazing vineyards, your adventure will take you through some of the Beaver State’s most beautiful countrysides. With wineries along the majestic Columbia River Gorge and through the fertile Willamette Valley, you’ll never run out of scenery and small towns to explore. While Oregon might not be the first state that comes to mind when you think of wine producers, the state’s latitude provides the long days of sunshine and crisp nights wine grapes need to mature with perfectly balanced flavors. Find out for yourself at an Oregon tasting room.
Today, the state has over 700 wineries producing 70 varieties of grapes, with different regions focused on different variations, including Bordeaux, Pinot noir, and Chardonnay. You’ll find 18 American Vitacultural Areas (AVAs) running in the valleys between the coastal mountain ranges and the interior ranges and along the Columbia River. Pick a region to explore, or take a grand tour and hit them all.
Come for Oregon Wine Month
May is Oregon’s official statewide month for celebrating the wine-making industry across the state. Tasting rooms, restaurants, and vineyards roll out the red carpet, welcoming visitors with unique opportunities to experience Oregon’s wines. Local restaurants mark the occasion with special wine flights and concoct divine pairings featuring local wines, while regional wine tastings feature stellar vintages from as many as 40 local vineyards.
Hitting the Water not the Wine
When your taste buds can’t take anymore wine (does that ever happen?), you might be ready to soak in the natural beauty of one of the Oregon wine regions. The Columbia River Gorge is an obvious choice, as the massive river cuts through the Cascade Mountains. Breathtaking waterfalls abound, as do opportunities for paddling and fishing.
Paddling and Angling
While boaters can enjoy cruising the wide, flat waters of the main channel, paddlers might find more rollicking adventures in one of the creeks and rivers that cascade down the mountains into the valleys. Anglers can find bass, trout, salmon, steelhead, walleye and more in the Columbia River, its tributaries, and the regional lakes.
Hiking and Biking on the Agenda
Travelers who prefer adventure on land will find no shortage of scenic hiking and biking trails that wind through wine country. Hit one of hundreds of hiking trails. Don’t miss Multnomah Falls, located just 30 minutes outside of Portland. A dramatic wisp of water plunges over 600 feet with two falls. A graceful bridge takes you to an overlook. Look up to see the massive first cascade, and then turn around to peer at the plummet below. Bicyclists will want to hit the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway or the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, both of which cross right through bountiful wine regions. Choose your speed as you coast along country roads.
Wine Country Retreats
Oregon Wine Country is home to its largest city (Portland) and a number of small towns, each with their own vibe. Head to Portland if urban action is your desire. Portland has an eclectic character, reflected in its motto, “Keep Portland weird.” Here, you’ll find dynamic nightlife and a hip foodie scene, while places like the Japanese Garden and the International Rose Test Garden providing more tranquility.
For small town flair, head over to McMinnville in the Willamette Valley. The downtown historic district oozes charm, transporting you back to simpler times. Stroll the local shops and galleries or grab a meal in a cozy café. In the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon, Ashland is a gorgeous retreat, offering views of the surrounding mountains and an artsy vibe. Visit during the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (held March through October) for a taste of culture alongside your wine.
Renowned Wine Celebrations
Any calendar of wine festivals and celebrations in Oregon will be bursting with events, but a couple of events should be on your don’t-miss list. Each July, the town of McMinnville celebrates its local grapes with the International Pinot Noir Celebration. The word “international” is there for good reason, as this event attracts wine producers and wine aficionados from around the world for three days of divine northwest cuisine, relaxed tasting events, reputable guest speakers, and more.
Jaunts in Eugene
If you keep heading south through the valley, you’ll eventually find yourself in Eugene, the second-largest city in Oregon and home to the University of Oregon. This compact town offers plenty of interesting things to see and do, including the University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History, which focuses on the anthropological and natural history of the region. The Native Plant Courtyard contains flora that represents each of Oregon’s regions. During the weekend, visit the Eugene Saturday Market, which offers local crafts and food carts, plus plenty of live entertainment.
Southeast of Eugene, the 209-acre Mt. Pisgah Arboretum is a living tree museum featuring riverside paths through evergreen forests and wildflower meadows on the slopes of Mt. Pisgah. Each fall, the Arboretum hosts the Mushroom Festival, with over 400 varieties of wild fungus starring in the celebration.
Quick Nature Fixes
Eager for a quick way to burn off some of those wine-and-cheese calories? Eugene is home to the Spencer Butte, a 1.7-mile loop hike that’s at the edge of the city. The steep hike takes you to a summit with stellar views of the surrounding area. For a forested setting, Hendricks Park features a rhododendron garden with some flowers towering over 6 feet.
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.
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.
Wealthy With Wineries
In the north of the valley, Elkton is home to a concentration of four wineries, producing everything from Riesling to Pinot Noir to Baco Noir. It’s estimated that the area has the highest number of wineries per capita, and visitors are welcome to tour the region to explore the local vintages. It also attracts sport fishing enthusiasts to the banks of the river.
Rivers Crash Through It
Following the waterway about 48 miles south, you’ll encounter the “Colliding Rivers,” which describes the contact point between the north-flowing Little River and a south-flowing segment of the North Umpqua River. The two rivers merge at a nearly head-on angle, resulting in a turbulent confluence of two strong currents. The Colliding Rivers Information Center, housed in the Glide Ranger Station, offers insights into the geological history of the region and the people who have made the area their home.
When you’re not marveling at smashing currents, travel 11 miles west to Roseburg, home to 25 wineries. Vintners in the area are known for award-winning Baco noir, Syrah, Tempranillo, Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. Pick up a wine map at the chamber of commerce and set out on an unforgettable winery tour.
Approximately 180 wineries are found along the Rogue River, 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, Dana Campbell Vineyards and Irvine & Roberts Vineyards.
Located along the middle Rogue River across Jackson and Josephine counties, the Rogue Valley AVA is the southernmost grape-growing region in Oregon as well as the largest within the Southern Oregon AVA. Traversed by Interstate 5, it’s made up of three adjacent river valleys — Bear Creek, Applegate and Illinois valleys.
For More Information
Oregon Wine Board
Oregon Tourism Commission