The Williamette Valley is a 150-mile long valley in Oregon that includes more than 500 wineries. The region connects the three most important cities in the state – Portland, Eugene and Salem – as part of a burgeoning wine industry that first burst on the scene in the early 1980s for its high-quality Pinot Noir wines.
The Williamette Valley is now a major wine-producing region in the Pacific Northwest that has a cooler, milder climate than California. As a result, some wine experts now consider Pinot Noirs from Oregon to be among the very best in the world. In addition to Pinot Noir, the unique climate of the region is suitable for growing Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling.
In terms of geographic location, the one major distinguishing feature that unites the entire region is the Williamette River, which flows the entire length of the valley. In addition, there are three different mountain ranges – the Cascade Range, Oregon Coast Range and Calapooya Mountains – that help to create the unique mild, cool and moist climate.
In the 1980s, the Williamette Valley further subdivided into a number of unique American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), including Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carlton District and Eola-Amity Hills.
Comparatively speaking, the Williamette Valley is a very young wine region, with the first Pinot Noir planted in only 1965. Even by 1970, there were only 5 wineries in the region. But from there, the region’s wine timeline rapidly expanded – by 1979, it had been added to Hugh Johnson’s “World Atlas of Wine,” and by 1979, the region won international recognition for a 1975 vintage Pinot Noir. However, it would take until 1985 until there was an official mention of an Oregon wine in the influential Wine Spectator.