2021 Oregon Wine year in review

Photo of a vineyard with text overlay that reads, "2021 Year in Review"

Oregon Wines on the World’s Most Prestigious Lists

Oregon only produces 0.15% of the world’s wine, yet represents 6% and 5% of last year’s most prestigious awards lists. Six Oregon wines made the Wine Spectator Top 100, five made the Wine Enthusiast Top 100. Further, two were honored on the James Suckling Top 100, and Erin Brooks who covers Oregon Wine for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate selected two of her five favorites from Oregon.

Wine Spectator

  • Alexana 2018 Pinot Noir Dundee Hills, Revana Vineyard (#14)
  • Cayuse 2018 Syrah Walla Walla Valley, Cailoux Vineyard (#19)
  • Arterberry Maresh 2018 Pinot Noir Dundee Hills, Old Vines (#22)
  • Evening Land 2018 Chardonnay Eola-Amity Hills, Seven Springs (#27)
  • Zena Crown Vineyard 2017 Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills, Slope (#34)
  • Chehalem 2020 Chardonnay Willamette Valley, Inox Unoaked (#58)

Wine Enthusiast

  • The Eyrie Vineyards 2019 Estate Pinot Gris (#4)
  • Ridgecrest 2020 Estate Dry Riesling (#16)
  • REX HILL Vineyard 2018 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (#26)
  • Walter Scott 2019 X-Novo Vineyard Chardonnay (#48)
  • Quady North 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (#67)

James Suckling

  • Antica Terra 2018 Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills, Antikythera
  • Cristom 2018 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Eola-Amity Hills Jessie Vineyard

Erin Brooks for Wine Advocate

  • Audeant 2019 Pinot Noir, Luminous Hills Vineyard
  • Brick House 2019 Pinot Noir Les Dijonnais

Oregon Wines in the World’s Most Prestigious Papers

A screen grab of two NY Times online articles.

The NY Times published two Oregon spotlights by wine critic Eric Asimov in the same week. The first found Asimov exploring the Applegate Valley AVA in Southern Oregon. The second profiles the cross-border Columbia River Gorge AVA. Both pieces pull back the curtain on Oregon winegrowing and winemaking regions that may be less recognized but are critical to the state’s diversity and distinctiveness.

Oregon Regions Approved in U.S. and E.U.

National and international recognition of Oregon as a winegrowing region continues.

An illustrated map of the Lower Long Tom AVA
Lower Long Tom AVA map

Lower Long Tom, the newest appellation in Oregon, recently received federal recognition as Oregon’s 22nd American Viticultural Area (AVA). Drawn to reflect distinct soil, topography, and climate attributes, Lower Long Tom joins nine other Oregon AVAs within the larger Willamette Valley AVA, and is the first in the Southern Willamette Valley.

Long Tom is a regional name associated with the Kalapuyan people who have lived in the area for more than 10,000 years. The name is used in recognition of the ongoing contributions of the Kalapuyan people in the local community and across Oregon. Keep reading >>

And the Willamette Valley AVA became only the second American wine region to receive Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Status in the European Union. It’s a major breakthrough in global brand awareness and a milestone for the Valley’s many hardworking winegrowers and winemakers. The PGI system protects iconic names of agricultural products, spirit drinks, and wines with a link to their geographical origin, including well-known products such as Champagne and Barolo. Only two American wine regions, Napa Valley and now the Willamette Valley, carry this distinction. Keep reading >>

The Home that Wine Country Built

A family of two parents and three kids stands inside a house under construction
Courtesy Willamette Valley Wineries Association

In the aftermath of a global pandemic that illuminated widespread housing insecurity, the Willamette Valley Wineries Association, in partnership with the McMinnville affiliate of Habitat for Humanity, committed to sponsoring a new home build for a local family. The Willamette Valley community and friends across the U.S. raised $100,000 to fund the build of The Home That Wine Country Built for parents Maria Ana Gonzalez and Eliazar Saldana and their three children. Keep reading >>

Tiquette Bramlett is Setting the Stage

A smiling woman leans against a brightly painted wall
Photo by Foundry 503

When Tiquette Bramlett started studying wine she consistently gravitated towards the wines of the Willamette Valley. So six years ago she moved to Oregon to immerse herself in the industry. In 2020, Tiquette founded Our Legacy Harvested, an education and empowerment organization for BIPOC wine professionals. In 2021, she was named to Wine Enthusiast’s 40 Under 40 Tastemaker list, appointed by Oregon Governor Kate Brown to the Oregon Wine Board of Directors, and became the first Black woman hired to run a winery in a major U.S. region when given the helm at Vidon Vineyards. Prior to her career in wine, Tiquette was trained as a vocalist and performed on some of the world’s premier stages. She’s no stranger to the spotlight. Keep reading >>

Oregon Auctions Raise $2.4 Million for Healthcare

A group of Salud workers in mixed seated and standing pose facing the camera
Leda Garside and ¡Salud! team members

In response to the pandemic’s restrictions on social gatherings, critical fundraising events found ongoing success with virtual formats.

In the Willamette Valley, The 30th annual ¡Salud! The Pinot Noir Auction connected with a grateful community nationwide to raise $850,000 for healthcare services for local vineyard workers and their families. If you’d like to support the program’s work you can make a donation at any time. Keep reading >>

In Southern Oregon, the Oregon Wine Experience presented a multi-day virtual event raising $1.6 million to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network, including a new children’s hospital-within-a-hospital, and other child healthcare programs supported by the Asante Foundation. Keep reading >>

Winemakers Celebrate Oregon Wine Month with Videos

A 4x2 grid of Instagram post thumbnails

For Oregon Wine Month in May 2021 we corralled 31 winemakers to share with you a short Instagram video profiling an Oregon Wine made by one of their peers. The result was a daily chain of Oregon winemakers recommending the Oregon Wines that inspire and excite them.

Walla Walla Valley Named Best Wine Region

Walla Walla, WA named Top Wine Reigon in U.S. by USA Today

The cross-border Walla Walla Valley AVA may be better known for big Cabernet from Washington, but the Oregon side is home to the nested Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA, “the most distinctive AVA in the United States” according to Wine Spectator. Wine drinkers and USA Today agree that this warm, dry grapegrowing region in eastern Oregon and Washington is a must for serious wine travelers. Keep reading >>

2021 Harvest Reflections

Two vineyard workers harvesting grapes
Harvest at Troon Vineyard by Craig Camp

Vintners across the state share a bright outlook for the 2021 vintage now in tank and barrel. From the Applegate Valley to Walla Walla, Oregon wineries reported slightly reduced yields but optimal fruit quality across all varieties.

The positive outcomes of the 2021 harvest are cause for celebration, especially after a challenging growing season. Rain events at the beginning of bloom diminished yields, and a dry summer across the state was punctuated with unprecedented heat waves. Timing, however, worked in vintners’ favor: “The heat happened pre-veraison and the vines all handled it just fine,” said Todd Alexander of Force Majeure in The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, a region known for warmer climate varieties like Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Grenache.

“Even though the temperatures were historically high, the berries were still hard and not at a vulnerable stage, so we had little if any sunburn,” said Sam Tannahill, winemaker at A to Z Wines. “The ground was also fairly wet, and the vines did not suffer any kind of drought stress.”

“No disease, high sugars, balanced acids, and great flavors. 2021 will certainly rank as one of our top five vintages. It’s certainly a great vintage in the making and I don’t say that lightly.”

– Sam Tannahill, A to Z Wines

“I have been utterly amazed by how well our unirrigated vines handled the drought and early season heat with aplomb, remaining green and vibrant throughout,” added Dyson DeMara at HillCrest Vineyard in the Umpqua Valley.

Harvest for most Oregon wineries started in early September, but lower temperatures across the state allowed for a long and measured harvest season. “With the heat tapering off, harvest started early and fast,” said Todd Alexander. “The heat helped sugars to get where we wanted them, and with the cooler weather following that heat we’ve seen phenolic ripeness catching up as we hoped.”

“I am excited about the quality of the Pinot noir this year,” said Ximena Orrego of Atticus Vineyards, who also founded Celebrating Hispanic Roots. “I see beautiful balance, aromatics, and flavors and I can’t wait to see how things develop.”

Tannahill, who buys fruit from Southern to Eastern Oregon and everywhere in between is impressed with the fruit in 2021: “No disease, high sugars, balanced acids, and great flavors. 2021 will certainly rank as one of our top five vintages. It’s certainly a great vintage in the making and I don’t say that lightly.”

Happy new year.