Oregon wine country is a joy to explore. There are 4 major wine regions in Oregon worth exploration to get a taste of the award-winning wine churning out of the state. The variety spans the gamut, from memorable Pinot Noirs to perfectly refreshing Chardonnays, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
This helpful post roundups Oregon’s wine regions and explains what each area is known for. Allow me to take you on a tour through the rolling hills of Willamette Valley to the epic panoramic views offered at the wineries in the Columbia Gorge. Let’s get to it!
Where to stay while exploring Oregon wine country
Oregon’s premier wine region, without doubt, is the Willamette Valley. As such, this is the area most locals and out-of-town visitors gravitate to. If you find yourself in the same boat, you may be wondering where to stay while exploring Oregon wine country and I’d suggest McMinnville.
The location can’t be beat and the downtown area is charming to boot. The town has plenty of restaurants and hotels to choose from, not to mention some beautiful tasting rooms. All told, this is the area I would bunker down while exploring Oregon wine country.
Wine Regions in Oregon
As mentioned, the Willamette Valley is often regarded as the premier wine growing region in Oregon. This area has the most wineries (500+) and specializes in Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.
What makes this Oregon wine region so unique is the geographical reach. Spanning from the Columbia River (to the north) to south of Eugene, bordered by the Oregon Coast to the west and the Cascade Mountains to the east, the breadth of geography is striking.
As you can imagine, the variety is equally impressive. From wind-blown coastal breezes to the wet climates along the cascade range, there’s a great diversity of grapes grown in Oregon wine country.
Chief among them is the Pinot Noir, which seems to have taken the nation by storm. Folks can’t get enough of the Pinot Noirs churning out of Willamette Valley.
The area is so large in fact that folks tend to break it up into north and south sections. Salem serves as the unofficial dividing line, so whenever you hear someone refer to southern Willamette Valley they’re talking about the area south of Salem.
Many of the wineries in the Willamette Valley are beautiful, downright stunning! But they’re also some of the most expensive of all the wine regions in Oregon. We were surprised to see tastings averaging $35-40 per person, which seemed to be par for the course.
Regardless, that doesn’t stop the crowds from coming. You’ll want to reserve tastings well in advance if visiting during the summer because this is one of the most popular wine regions in Oregon.
Where to stay near Willamette Valley: I suggest staying in McMinnville (here’s the hotel I typically stay at).
You May Enjoy Reading: 10 Memorable Willamette Valley Wineries Worth Visiting
Columbia Gorge (Nearest Town: Hood River)
While the Willamette Valley is the most famous wine region in Oregon, the Columbia Gorge is my personal favorite. There’s no denying that the award-winning wines from the Willamette Valley are worth a drive, but I’d argue that the Columbia Gorge is producing some of the best wines in Oregon.
Firstly, the area is stunning. Straddling the border between Washington and Oregon, this area gets the best of both worlds. Surrounded by valleys, forests, charming farms and epic mountain views from practically every angle, this is one of the prettiest areas in the state.
Secondly, the variety of Oregon wines churning out of the Columbia River Gorge is impressive! Home to more than 40 wineries, the drier climate (compared to the Willamette Valley) allows different varietals to thrive.
You’ll still find Pinot noir, of course, but you’ll also find expert Syrah, Gewurztraminer, Sangiovese, Riesling and Zinfandel.
Nothing beats enjoying interesting Oregon wines next to a cozy fireplace while taking in stunning views of the most famous mountain in the state (Mt. Hood). The best part? Being a mere 1.5 hour drive from Portland makes this one of the most accessible wine regions in Oregon.
Where to stay for the wineries in the Columbia Gorge: I suggest staying in Hood River (this is my favorite hotel in town).
You May Enjoy Reading: 18 Breathtaking Hood River Wineries
Southern Oregon Wine Regions
Known for delightful scenery of rolling hillsides surrounded by striking mountains and picturesque rivers, the Rogue Valley is a sight for sore eyes. Although, admittedly, it’s hard to get sore eyes in our beautiful state.
One of the driest wine regions in Oregon, the scenery alone attracts visitors from all parts of the state. There’s around 32 wineries in the area and most are found along three tributaries that feed the Illinois River, Bear Creek and Applegate River.
Rogue Valley Wineries to Visit:
- Eden Vale Winery
- 2 Hawk Vineyards & Winery
- Quady North
Applegate Valley (Nearest Town: Jacksonville)
The Applegate Valley is found in the southern reach of the state, surrounded by the charming towns of Ashland and Jacksonville.
Spanning mere miles long, there’s about 18 wineries in the area, which makes it one of the smaller wine regions in Oregon. Starting at the border of Oregon and California, the valley follows the Applegate River. Nestled in the midst of abundant forests that grow wild on fertile ground, the temperate climate is ideal for wine-growing.
The Applegate Valley AVA is contained within the Rogue Valley AVA. Small but mighty is the best way to describe the 18 wineries from this Oregon wine region. Producing hand-crafted wines with a focus on quality over (mass) quantity, this is some of the best wine in Oregon.
Here’s some of the best wineries in Applegate Valley, one of the charming wine regions in Oregon.
- Red Lily
- Schmidt Family Vineyards
- DANCIN Vineyards
- Hummingbird Estates
- LongSword Vineyard
Where to stay for the wineries in the Applegate Valley: I suggest staying in Jacksonville (here’s the hotel I recommend).
Of all the wine regions in Oregon it can be argued that the Umpqua Valley is the least accessible and, outside of Oregon wine country, doesn’t offer much by way of tourism. As such, it often gets overlooked by out-of-town visitors, but it’s understandable (this area is remote!).
Found along the basin of the Umpqua River, the warmer climate in this region of the state is great from growing the much-loved Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, but also lesser grown Baco Noir and Tempranillo.
Snake River Valley
Officially established in 2007, Snake River Valley is one of the newest wine regions in Oregon. Regardless, no list outlining the gems in Oregon wine country is complete without this mention.
Found along the Snake River, which divides Oregon and Idaho, this Oregon wine region is known for its cooler and drier climate. Resulting in a short growing season ideal for grapes that thrive in cooler temperatures.
You’ll find your fill of Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Riesling, but don’t sleep on Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon if you see it on a menu. I find them quite memorable and unique!
Oregon Wine Regions FAQ
All told, there are 21 official wine growing regions in Oregon. The biggest regions are found in Central Oregon, the Columbia Gorge and Southern Oregon. Within each of those regions, different American Viticultural Area (AVAs) name specific subsets, like Willamette Valley, Walla Walla Valley, etc.
The wine regions in Oregon (Post Summary)
In sum, here’s a roundup of the wine regions in Oregon.
- Willamette Valley
- Columbia Gorge
- Rogue Valley
- Applegate Valley
- Umpqua Valley
- Snake River Valley
Map of Oregon wine regions | Oregon Wine Country
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