Looking deeper at the Oregon wine industry

By on December 14, 2012
David Adelsheim check Pinot Noir in 2011

David Adelsheim, owner of Adelsheim Vineyards, checks the progress of his estate Pinot Noir grapes in July 2011

This week, Southern Oregon University in Ashland released a combined 2011 winery and vineyard report.

Digging into the numbers reveals some interesting finds. For example:

  • While Oregon increased its number of wineries from 419 to 463, the growth was everywhere except the state’s traditional region: the North Willamette Valley. In fact, the area where most of Oregon’s wine industry resides contracted to 270 wineries (from 273). And the South Willamette Valley gained only one winery, growing to 46. (The South Willamette Valley is generally defined as south of Salem to Eugene, while the North Willamette includes the six small AVAs north of Salem.)
  • The Umpqua Valley grew marginally, moving from 26 to 33 wineries. Meanwhile, the Rogue Valley saw strong growth, going from 45 to 55 wineries.
  • The area defined by the report as “Columbia River and at large” increased from 30 wineries to 59. We’ll assume this takes in the Columbia Gorge, the Oregon side of the Columbia River and the southern Walla Walla Valley.
  • Lest anyone think the center of power in Oregon is shifting, the North Willamette Valley crushed 27,719 of the state’s 42,033 tons. Next in line was the South Willamette with 6,683 tons.
  • While the statewide increase from 29,800 tons in 2010 to 42,033 in 2011 is impressive, many will remember that 2010 was a terrible year for Oregon, when bird damage alone cost the state a stunning amount of grapes. In fact, the 2009 harvest brought in 37,000 tons.
  • Regardless of what non-Pinot Noir producers say, the red grape of Burgundy is Oregon’s grape more firmly than ever. In 2011, the state crushed 25,282 tons, dwarfing Syrah at 1,377 tons (the next largest red variety). No other red variety amounted to even 1,000 tons. Tempranillo, often associated with Oregon because of its quality in the Umpqua Valley, came in at just 323 tons in 2011.
  • Pinot Gris moved to 7,098 tons from 5,127, but it was actually down from 2009’s amount (7,385). Chardonnay, once the No. 1 white wine grape in Oregon, crushed 1,939 tons. Riesling, meanwhile, dropped to 1,377 tons in 2011 from 1,571 the year prior and 2,289 in 2009, a trend that is just the opposite in neighboring Washington.
  • Little Oregon wine is sent beyond the U.S. borders. In fact, in 2011, the state exported 58,773 cases, down from 59,537 in 2010. Both of these, however, are up significantly from 2009, when a paltry 35,664 cases went to other countries. Canada is, by far, the largest importer of Oregon wine, taking in 20,613 cases in 2011. No. 2 is Japan, which purchased 12,212 cases. Other Asian nations imported more than 9,000 cases in 2011, up from 6,000 cases in 2010.

About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is the editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine. He is a third-generation journalist who has worked at newspapers since the mid-1980s and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Eric Degerman and served as its editor-in-chief for 15 years. He is a frequent judge at international wine competitions. He is the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books. He writes about wine for The Seattle Times. You can find him on Twitter and .

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