ASHLAND Ore. – The Oregon wine industry set more records in 2015, and its annual census report shows 702 licensed wineries pulling from 28,034 acres of vineyards.
This year’s Oregon Vineyard and Winery Census Report, released just prior to harvest, indicates continued but more modest growth compared with the 2014 analysis, which pegged the grape harvest increase from the prior year at a whopping 39 percent.
The 2015 vintage reported 84,949 tons of grapes harvested. That denotes an increase of 8 percent, which snapped a streak of three consecutive vintages of double-digit growth.
The Southern Oregon University Research Center (SOURCE) continues to compile and prepare the report for the Oregon Wine Board. Research analyst Rikki Pritzlaff is credited with producing the report on behalf of the Ashland school in the Rogue Valley.
Oregon vs. Washington
The Washington wine industry, the nation’s second-largest producer, saw a slight decrease of 5,000 tons last year, crushing 222,000 tons in 2015 from about 50,000 acres of vines feeding more than 900 wineries, according to the Washington State Wine Commission.
Oregon’s diversity also is reflected in its number of growers. There were 25 new vineyard operations in Oregon in 2015, which gave the state a total of 1,052 sites, three times the number in Washington. Both the number of sites and the acres planted increased in Oregon by 2 percent in 2015, and most of that growth was generated from the Umpqua Valley and the southern portion of the Willamette Valley, according to the report.
However, wineries in the Rogue Valley reportedly crushed nearly 1,000 fewer tons of fruit in 2015 over the previous year. The region was plagued by wildfires battled by more than 5,000 firefighters.
Overall, growers didn’t do quite as well last year in terms of price per ton. The average fell from $2,316 per ton in 2014 to $1,958 last year. That lined up with the average price per ton for Pinot Noir – $2,518 in 2014 to $2,280 in 2015.
Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley remain kings
Findings for the 2015 harvest prove Pinot Noir grown in the northern Willamette Valley remains the most important grape of the Oregon wine industry. Wineries in those six American Viticultural Areas crushed about 75 percent of the state’s wine grapes.
Overall, the delicate red grape was responsible for 67 percent of the state’s production, and while it commanded the highest reported price per ton ($5,200), it was not the most expensive variety on average.
Cabernet Sauvignon commanded an average of $2,608 per ton, with Pinot Noir second at $2,280, followed by Cabernet Franc ($2,267) and Syrah ($2,261).
Viognier was the most expensive white grape on average at $1,810 per ton, with Chardonnay close at $1,805. However, the highest reported price paid per ton of Chardonnay stood at $3,750. Next was Riesling at $3,234.
Statewide, the average price for a ton of wine grapes in Oregon was $1,958.
Pinot Noir planted acreage in Oregon for 2015 – which increased by 306 – totaled 17,452, and no variety is even close. Next is Pinot Gris at 3,615, followed by Chardonnay at 1,564. Riesling showed up with 724 acres and Cabernet Sauvignon at 630, overtaking Syrah at 620 acres.
Other noteworthy trends showed Chardonnay acreage increasing by 211, Sauvignon Blanc rising by 41 acres to 114 (a bump of 56 percent), Riesling dropping by 30 acres, and Tempranillo going up from 344 acres to 414 acres – an increase of 20 percent.
Sales, DTC show promise
For proprietors, the most important results within this year’s vineyard and winery report were sales increases. In 2015, sales increased 9 percent to 3.1 million cases. (Washington reported 16 million cases of wine sold last year). And more than half of cases sold where shipped outside of Oregon (1.7 million).
The biggest growth channel also brings the most profit, showed Oregon saw an increase of 14 percent in direct-to-consumer sales. Wine club sales were up about 25 percent, and tasting room sales accounted for 421,178 cases, resulting in an increase of approximately 20 percent from 2014.
And Canada is the largest foreign market for Oregon wines, accounting for 44 percent of the state’s export sales, signaling a growth of more than 21 percent in the past two years. All export sales in 2015 of Oregon wine totaled 70,068 cases, accounting for 2 percent of Oregon wine sold in 2015.
Total dollars in Oregon wine sales were pegged at $470 million, up from the $430 million reported from 2014 – again a growth rate of 9 percent.