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
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.
- Pinot noir
- Pinot gris
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
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.