Oregon is a relative newcomer to the New World wine scene, producing close to 2 million bottles of wine a day. While that seems like a king's ransom worth of wine, it's actually a small sum when considering that California produces 84 percent of the country's wine. Still, Oregon's out to prove that it's about quality, not quantity, and that slow and steady wins the race.
Oregon's vineyards comprise about 30,000 acres of farmland, stretched across three distinct regions, known as American Viticultural Areas (AVA). The Columbia Gorge AVA sits on the border of Washington, while the Southern Oregon AVA straddles California. However, it's the Willamette Valley AVA that garners most of the acclaim. Home to two-thirds of Oregon's vineyards and over 500 wineries, it's where you'll find the most varietals and flavors.
To begin your journey into Oregon wines, you may as well start with the biggest and baddest: Pinot Noir. This red grape accounts for roughly 40 percent of the wine produced in the state. Regardless of the region, Oregon Pinot Noir is more subtle and nuanced, featuring higher alcohol and less of a fruity explosion than California's Pinot Noir.
If you aren't a fan of red wines or you like to go against the grain, head for Oregon's second-most-popular wine: Pinot Gris. With about 3,000 acres, Pinot Gris is also the second most-produced wine in the state. In fact, Oregon is the only place in the world where Pinot Gris is the second-most-cultivated viticultural crop. That's a lot of seconds for Pinot Gris, but you don't have to worry about it offering a silver medal in taste.
When you dive into a bottle of Pinot Gris, you're immersed in a flavorful world of melon, peach, apricot and citrus fruits, but it's not as forward as some. A rich, acidic background brings it back to down, balancing it without diminishing its flavor.
Chardonnay is the other popular wine in Oregon, although it only accounts for about 3 percent of the state's total production output. However, it has two different flavor profiles that separate Oregon from other regions of the world. Either full-bodied and rich or minerally and fruity, this Chardonnay is unlike anything you'll find — even if you went to France.