How to Find the Best Wines from Oregon

From Pinot Noir and Syrah to Pinot Gris, Riesling, and beyond, Oregon is a land of vinous riches.

Whether it’s red, white, or sparkling, the wines of Oregon have it all.
Photo: Jim Fischer / Getty Images

Ask Pinot Noir lovers where their favorite wines are produced, and you're likely to hear one of three places: Burgundy, Sonoma County, and…Oregon. This would have been unthinkable a generation ago, but the proof is in the liquid: Oregon, and the Willamette Valley in particular, have become sources of some of the most exciting, exacting, and terroir-specific Pinots in the world. Yet Oregon is home to so much more than just epic Pinot Noir; from white wines crafted from Riesling, Pinot Gris, and beyond, to sparklers of serious accomplishment, Oregon has evolved into an unlikely superstar in the world of wine.

Let's Talk About the Willamette Valley

Oregon's most famous wine region is the Willamette Valley, about an hour's drive south of Portland. It stretches 150 miles (and 60 miles across at its broadest spot), is home to more than two-thirds of wineries in the state (700-plus!), and is considered to be one of the greatest regions in the world for the production of Pinot Noir.

Like all great wine regions, the Willamette Valley is not a monolith: There are 11 nested AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) within the larger region, and each of them benefits from a different set of geological, geographical, and microclimate factors that make the wines that are grown there unique. Among the most important are the Eola-Amity Hills, Yamhill-Carlton, Chehalem Mountains, Van Duzer Corridor, Ribbon Ridge, McMinnville, Dundee Hills, and Tualatin Hills.

In addition to the Willamette Valley, Oregon's other key wine regions are the Columbia Gorge, east-southeast of Portland; the Walla Walla Valley, which can also be found across the border in Washington State; Umpqua Valley, which is south of Willamette Valley; and Rogue Valley, in the far southwest of the state.

Oregon Has More To Offer Beyond Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is Oregon's vinous calling card, but according to the Oregon wine board, more than 100 grape varieties are grown within the state's borders. Among the most important are Pinot Gris, which is produced in a wide range of styles; Chardonnay, which runs the gamut from rich and oak-kissed to more linear and mineral; Syrah, which leans more in the savory French stylistic direction than the Australian one, though there are of course exceptions; Cabernet Sauvignon; and Riesling.

Still, it's Pinot Noir that has led the proverbial charge in helping Oregon make its name among sommeliers, collectors, and consumers. This is because the famously finicky grape benefits from a range of appellations within the Willamette Valley that each allow it to shine in unique and memorable ways.

Like the best wine regions around the world, the appellations found within Oregon offer a phenomenal range of stylistic options for Pinot Noir. For example, Pinot from the Chehalem Mountains, according to the Oregon wine board, benefit from "the cool climate and endless combinations of soils and elevations [which] produce wines with defined structure, offering notes of strawberries and cherries in cooler vintages and darker fruit in riper years." The Eola-Amity Hills, on the other hand, leverages the Van Duzer Corridor to the west, which funnels in cool Pacific air and results in vibrant Pinots that often have the structure to age brilliantly. Yamhill-Carlton is warmer, and the Pinots grown there tend to be a bit more perfumed alongside their ripe, generous fruit and spice. Exploring the full breadth of Pinot Noir styles and producers is a lifetime effort, and a delicious one, at that.

Forward-Thinking Producers

Oregon is home to producers who not only increasingly dial in on specific vineyard sites for their wines, but who also take full advantage of the range of possible grape varieties that can thrive in the state. Producers like Authentique are doing brilliant things with orange wine, while Chemistry, a collaboration between Chehalem Winery and Stoller Family Estate, recently released the joyous Pinot Noir Rosé Bubbles. The list goes on.

To more fully understand everything that Oregon is capable of, here are 11 wines to get started with. Just don't make these an end point, but rather a start.


One of Oregon's most well-known producers, Argyle crafts a wide range of wines, including the gulpable 2021 Rosé of Pinot Noir, which drips with compressed watermelon, fresh red cherries, and dried oregano suggestion on the finish.

Domaine Drouhin

There has been a fair bit of French investment in the Oregon wine world, and among the most notable is Domaine Drouhin. (Nicolas-Jay is another important one.) The 2017 Domaine Drouhin "Laurène" Pinot Noir, from the Dundee Hills, is a sappy charmer, with a subtle floral perfume hovering above sweet baking spices thrumming below mixed mountain berries, dark cherries, and figs.

Domaine Serene

One of the highly regarded stalwarts of Oregon, Domaine Serene is well-respected for a reason. Their 2017 Jerusalem Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir shows forest floor and mushrooms, black raspberries, and a hint of dark spice, all preceding a palate with a serious core of black licorice and cherries, tea-like tannins, and toasted allspice and star anise.

Evening Land Vineyards

From Raj Parr and Sashi Moorman, the wines from Evening Land are consistently excellent across the entire portfolio. The 2019 Seven Springs Pinot Noir, from the Eola-Amity Hills, is a fantastic example of what makes them so exciting: Aromas of purple berries and tomato vines are gently seamed with green peppercorns and set the stage for an energetic palate, bright with blood oranges and cherries, and anchored by toasted coriander seeds, more of that peppercorn from the nose, and grace notes of dried flowers, forest floor, and scorched earth.

Gran Moraine

Not only does winemaker Shane Moore produce fantastic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but his 2014 Blanc de Blancs from Yamhill-Carlton is stunning, an estate-grown gem with aromas that are reminiscent of warm scones, brioche, lemon clotted cream, and mineral. The palate is lively and fresh, with fantastic concentration and propulsiveness to flavors of lemon oils, phyllo dough just out of the oven, brown butter, and green apples.

J. Wright, Vintner

The fascinating 2018 White Pinot Noir from the Van Duzer Corridor AVA boasts notes of pineapple, fennel seed, a touch of jasmine, golden chanterelles, and yellow grapefruit, all carried on a mouth-watering frame.

Raptor Ridge

The 2018 Zenith Vineyard Auxerrois is so crisp and mineral on the nose, with a distinct oyster-shell character to the lemon pith and slate. This LIVE Certified wine is bracing and linear yet lightly creamy, too. Flavors of green-melon pith and a subtle brininess ring through the clean, clear finish.

Soter Vineyards

One of the classic producers of Oregon, Soter has crafted a savory, spice-flecked wine with their 2018 Mineral Springs Ranch Pinot Noir. It's silky in texture yet with the tannins to age for another decade-plus, and brings together cracked peppercorns with flavors of brambly berries, black cherries, and assertive minerality.

Stag Hollow

Owned by committed environmentalists Jill Zarnowitz and Mark Huff, this family-owned estate (set on a former sheep farm) produced a seriously memorable wine in their 2012 Stag Hollow Reserve Pinot Noir from the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. A decade into its life, this wine is savory and brooding in the best possible sense, with peppercorn and woodsy spices deliciously complicating dried figs, cherry pits, licorice root, and lavender.


The brainchild of Michael Kennedy, president and founder of Vin Fraîche Wine Group, SOM (formerly State of Mind) produces wines in Oregon, California, and Washington. Their 2017 LS Vineyard Chardonnay, from the Eola-Amity Hills, is like looking at Burgundy through the lens of Oregon: Lemon curd and verbena are cut through with a serious seam of mineral, and flecks of fresh herbs are countered by hints of lime zest and lent plushness from excellent work with the lees.

Lange Estate Trouvère

The 2018 Artist's Series Indigine highlights a mutation of the Pinot Gris variety. It's excellent: Lively yet structured, with enough nectarine and almond blossom to keep every sip mouthwatering and interesting, especially as the chill starts to diminish and its aromatic profile really has a chance to shine.

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