Columbia Gorge

Columbia Gorge AVA Map

Location: Just 60 miles east of Portland, the Columbia Gorge Wine region lies in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, a dramatic river corridor that straddles the Columbia River for 15 miles into both Oregon and Washington. This region, which encompasses 40 miles, includes both the Columbia Gorge AVA and part of the Columbia Valley AVA. Lewis and Clark first made the Columbia Gorge famous when they passed through on their way to the Pacific Ocean in 1805.

Wine history: Grape growing in the Columbia Gorge area dates back to the 1880s when the Jewitt family, who founded the town of White Salmon, Washington, planted American vines they had brought with them from Illinois. Other pioneer families followed suite and today some of their original vines are still alive and have withstood sub-zero temperatures. It wasn't until the 1970s that post-prohibition pioneers started experimenting with wine grape vineyards on the south facing slopes of the Underwood Mountain in Washington. Over the next two decades, well-known winemakers started to discover the incredible grapes of this region. The Columbia Gorge appellation became official in 2004.

Climate: Within the winegrowing region, the climate in the Columbia Gorge appellation changes drastically. To the west is a cooler, marine-influenced climate where it rains 36 inches per year; to the east it's a continental high desert climate with just 10 inches of annual rainfall. This extreme variance of climate means this area can successfully grow a wide range of classical varieties.

Soils: The Columbia Gorge wine region soils are generally silty loams collected over time from floods, volcanic activity and landslides.

Topography: The Columbia River Gorge is a narrow, winding river valley whose walls range from steep volcanic rock faces to more gentle-sloped, terraced benchlands that are typically well suited for grape growing. The Gorge is the only sea-level passage through the Cascade Mountain Range. From north to south there are two iconic geographical features: Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood, both part of the central Cascade Mountain range.

Predominant varieties

  • Pinot noir 
  • Syrah
  • Pinot gris
  • Riesling

While you're here...

The Columbia River Gorge is the nation's only National Scenic Area, and is home to one of the country's largest concentrations of high waterfalls, many of which you can reach via hiking trail from the Historic Columbia River Highway. Nearby to the southwest is Oregon's tallest peak, Mt. Hood, which has four ski resorts and offers North America's longest ski season and biggest night-skiing area. It's an ideal place to learn to ski or snowboard, or to go sledding or snowshoeing at one of the many sno-parks. At its foothills lies the Hood River Valley, one of the largest fruit-growing regions in Oregon (it's famous for its Bing and Rainier cherries and for having the nation's most prolific winter pear crop). Visitors can experience the area's farms, orchards and roadside fruit stands by driving the 40-mile Fruit Loop, or by taking a scenic ride on the Mt. Hood Railroad.  At the heart of the Columbia River Gorge is Hood River, an outdoors lover's dream town that overlooks the world-class windsurfing and kite boarding waters of the Columbia. In addition to its many surf shops, charming bookstores, coffee and ice cream shops, Hood River has become quite a foodie town. Here, visitors and locals have their pick of restaurants that serve market-fresh, wine-friendly food in relaxed, yet sophisticated dining rooms and patios.

Below are some links to help you plan your trip:

Columbia Gorge Winegrowers Association

America's Most Unique Wine Region, the Columbia Gorge Growing Region (AVA) 
is located less than an hour east of the Portland area through some of the most amazingly scenic areas in the Northwest.

Columbia Valley Wineries

The arid soil, warm days, and cool nights of the Columbia Valley provide the perfect climate for growing world-class wine grapes.  Whether you are looking for a small boutique winery or one of the largest enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and friendly staff. 

Travel Oregon - Columbia Gorge Page

The mighty Columbia invites windsurfing, sailing, parasailing and hang-gliding across itself.  And when the day is done, be sure to enjoy the charming towns, outstanding wines, hand-crafted beers and spirits, and hot tubs of Mt. Hood's endless cabins.

Featured Content

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    Check a case of Oregon wine for free on Alaska Airlines. Learn More »

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Jun 2015

Clink! A Taste of Oregon Wine at Linfield College Oregon Wine Historical Archive

June 1, 2015 | Location

Due to the overwhelming response to Clink! A Taste of Oregon Wine, the Oregon Historical Society has developed a traveling version of the exhibition to travel the state.
Learn More »

Regional Associations Nearby

Columbia Gorge Winegrowers Association

Walla Walla Wine Alliance

Get in on the OWB Social Conversation

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4640 SW MACADAM AVENUE, SUITE 240, PORTLAND, OR 97239 | PHONE: 503.228.8336 | FAX: 503.228.8337