1991: Eighteen Oregon wineries join forces to plan a charity auction modeled on the Hospices de Beaune, the annual barrel sale in Burgundy that is said to be the oldest charity auction in the world. ¡Salud! raises funds to provide free, in-the-vineyard healthcare to migrant laborers, the only program in the nation of this kind. The same year, a 50-seat restaurant called Tina’s opens in a little red cottage in Dundee.
1992: Construction of King Estate winery is underway. A decade later, in 2002, the vast property will achieve organic certification. Only in Oregon would the state’s largest winery farm all of its vineyards organically.
1993: Renovations of the former Multnomah County Poor Farm are complete and McMenamins Edgefield opens its 100 guest rooms to overnight guests. Visitors to the sprawling Troutdale resort can watch winemaking, brewing and–soon–distillation happening on site while enjoying house-made wines, beers and spirits.
1994: Harry Peterson-Nedry, Judy Nedry and Bill and Cathy Stoller open Chehalem winery in Newberg. In a then-unusual move, the partners bring in a consulting winemaker from Burgundy, Patrice Rion, to assist with the startup. Their original fruit source is Ridgecrest Vineyard, planted by Peterson-Nedry in 1982.
1995: Earl and Hilda Jones plant the first Tempranillo vines in the Pacific Northwest at Abacela winery in Roseburg. Their Iberian varietals go on to win international acclaim.
1996: Sokol Blosser is the first winery to achieve the Salmon-Safe sustainable farming designation.
1997: Ted Casteel of Bethel Heights leads a group of vineyards to form LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology), a wine-grape specific eco-designation.
1998: As “celebrity chefs” begin to spend more time in front of the camera than the stove, Oregonians begin to take a keen interest in their own top toques. At events like the IPNC, chefs like Philippe Boulot and Pascal Sauton enjoy top billing.
1999: Bill Holloran more or less launches the “garagiste” movement in Oregon when he converts his West Linn horse barn into a winery, blurring the lines between suburban and rural; he hires Jay Somers (today of J. Christopher) as winemaker. The same year, another suburban winery–Cooper Mountain Vineyards in Beaverton–is the first in the state to achieve Demeter-Certified Biodynamic status.
2001: Portland Wine Storage opens in Portland’s Central Eastside, introducing Oregonians to a new concept: temperature-controlled, secure storage for their ever-growing wine collections.
2002: The winemaking business reinvents itself, twice. When the eco-built Carlton Winemakers Studio debuts, it’s the first multiple-winery facility in the state. And the arrival of A to Z Wineworks takes the negociant model–purchasing finished wine in bulk and creating value-oriented blends–all the way to the bank, quickly growing to be Oregon’s largest winery.
2003: Another new business model: Laurent Montalieu and his partners take the “custom crush” business from vineyard to bottle with the new NW Wine Company in McMinnville, which will source, farm, crush and vinify fruit for you, then bottle and label it, too.
2004: The release of the film “Sideways” sparks Pinot mania. Also: The Willamette Valley begins to subdivide. By 2006, the large AVA has six additional sub-appellations: Chehalem Mountains, Eola-Amity Hills, Dundee Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge and Yamhill-Carlton.
2005: The Portland Indie Wine and Food Festival arrives, offering a showcase for the best of Oregon’s many pint-sized wineries.
2006: The Wine and Spirit Archive opens its doors, offering WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) accreditation and joining the International Sommelier Guild in establishing Portland as a center of wine education on the west coast.
2007: Celebrity chefs are so yesterday. A series of “Dueling Sommelier” dinners held in Portland this year calls attention to the rising prominence of sommes. Also: Riedel rolls out its first region-specific design ever: the “Oregon Pinot Noir Glass.” Local tasting rooms begin to sell the glass version, stamped with their winery logos, for $15; the crystal version sells for $30 per stem.
2009: The Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine (OCSW) certification debuts, simplifying the state’s many eco-certification options by offering a single umbrella designation. Fourteen wineries–representing approximately 20 percent of Oregon wine production–join forces with the Oregon Environmental Council to kick off the Carbon Neutral Challenge, the first wine-industry carbon-reduction program in the United States. Solar panels begin to pop up all over wine country. And Willamette Valley Vineyards cofounds what is said to be the world’s first cork recycling program, entitled Cork ReHarvest. Also, The Allison Inn and Spa opens in Newberg, nudging the Willamette Valley a centimeter closer to the impossibly high bar of “Napa Valley luxury.” Also, the British wine magazine Decanter names Southern Oregon University geologist Greg Jones, an international expert in vineyard climatology, to its “Power List” of the 50 most influential people in the world of wine.
2010: Who said wine had to come in a bottle? Oregon restaurants start serving wines by the glass that are fresher than ever thanks to packaging in boxes and kegs. The new wines on tap are lighter on the wallet and the environment, as well. Also, wineries like Boedecker Cellars, Chehalem and Troon roll out refillable bottle programs for regular customers.
2011: Oregon is now home to more than 400 wineries and a $2.7 billion industry, bringing tourist dollars and jobs to the region. Wineries remain focused on quality, with the average winery’s production at a mere 5,000 cases annually–tiny by national standards. In Portland, a new group, PDX Urban Wineries, forms; it’s an indicator of the fast growth of the boutique urban winemaking trend. And in McMinnville, Linfield College publishes the Oregon Wine History Project, a collection of interviews, documents, exhibits and photographs archived online for the public to browse and for scholars and reporters to refer to.
2012: The new year kicked off with the USGA’s annual vineyard survey, reavling that the 2011 harvest was the largest in Oregon history at 41,500 tons. In January, Gov. John Kitzhaber proclaimed May Oregon Wine Month, reviving a tradition that had been dormant for more than two decades. In February, the Oregon Wine Industry Symposium was held in Portland for the first time and attracted a record attendance of 1,300 industry registrants. OWB hosted the state’s largest tasting of Oregon wine under one roof in April to kick off Oregon Wine Month. In May, the first-in-the-nation Oregon Wine Country license plate was made available by the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles. More than 800 consumers and 91 wineries attended. In August, Oregon hosted the fifth Wine Bloggers Conference, attracting bloggers from all over the world. In November, Wine Spectator devoted its cover to Oregon, proclaiming Oregon the home of American Pinot noir and marking Oregon’s first cover story.
2013: Elkton Oregon became the state’s newest American Viticultural Area after receiving approval from the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau this week. The new Elkton Oregon AVA is entirely contained within the Umpqua Valley AVA, which is entirely within the Southern Oregon AVA. Oregon has a total of 17 AVAs.