If your travel plans take you to Oregon in summer or fall, 2012, consider a visit to some of its exceptional wine-producing regions. Said to be one of the most diverse grape-growing and wine-producing areas in the world, Oregon has a variety of elevations and climactic conditions that lead to the creation of an impressive number of wines not usually available for tasting on wine tours elsewhere.
The area with the biggest national distribution is the vast and productive Willamette (pronounced will AM’ et) Valley with such renowned names as King Estates, Amity, etc. It’s especially known for its Pinots. But there are half a dozen other Oregon wine regions worth getting to know. One of my favorites is the Umpqua.
South of Willamette and about 45 miles long and only 1/3 as wide, the Umpqua Valley is actually the Northwest’s oldest wine region. Commercial wine has been coming out of this fertile oval for about 140 years thanks to what the Southern Oregon Winery Association calls, “multiple ecosystems”. Google Southern Oregon Winery Association for a detailed map of the Umpqua.
Three relative newcomers are taking Umpqua wines to a higher level. The cooler north end’s Brandborg produces especially vibrant whites. The Umpqua’s definitely eclectic mid-valley allows Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards to successfully explore many varietals. South-end Spangler produces outstanding, award-winning reds. All have tasting rooms as do most of the other dozen or so wineries of the Umpqua.
In Elkton, Oregon, Brandborg crafts what it calls “Coolest, Cool Climate Varietals”. Ten years ago Terry and Sue Brandborg became attracted to the Umpqua for what they judged to be the perfect climate for Pinot Noir, now their signature wine. But Brandborg’s tasting room visitors can now also sip some sensational whites, like their Pinot Gris.
Reustle Prayer Rock’s vineyard is so ideally located that Reustle became the first winery in the US to produce Austria’s complex Grüner Veltliner. Gloria Reustle believes that wine is best celebrated when accompanied by food and serves delicious cheese wedges and other tasty treats with samples of her impressive wines. The Reustle family moved to the Umpqua from the New York City area almost eleven years ago. Since their first production year, 2004, they have been able to prosper by selling their wines only through their club, which Ruth and I joined. Reustle’s brochure invites, “Come as Strangers, Leave as Friends” and it’s true.
On the outskirts of Roseberg at the south end of the Umpqua, Spangler is becoming one of the best wineries in Oregon. Pat and Loree Spangler, also on the scene since 2004, have a second tasting room closer to Portland in Newberg, Oregon, and a growing reputation for making what they call big, bold reds from Bordeaux varieties and crafted blends in a place with multiple microclimates. Multiple awards are resulting.