Oregon’s Renascent Riesling

Oregon’s Renascent Riesling

Photo by Andrea Johnson Photography, courtesy of Brooks Winery

In the last 10 to 15 years there has been a small resurgence of interest in Riesling in Oregon. Today around 40 producers work with the variety, meeting as a group a few times a year to taste each others’ wines, both before and after bottling. They also host public tastings once a year in conjunction with the annual International Pinot Noir Celebration in July. Together these producers hope to support and improve the overall quality of winemaking for the variety, to preserve and establish quality sites and to raise awareness of Oregon Riesling more broadly. Their efforts are not insignificant. While the Willamette Valley and even the Umpqua Valley in the south are both well suited to the variety, Riesling has faced challenges in the state.

The variety found its way to Oregon in the modern era in the 1960s when it was first planted in the southern portion of the state. Though much of Southern Oregon is quite warm, the Umpqua Valley is a cool zone that suits the variety and producers such as Brandborg continue to grow it.

By the 1980s, Riesling played a significant role in the Willamette Valley as well. For a time it was the dominant white wine grape constituting around 23% of the state’s plantings, but challenges in wine quality led to many of those vineyards being pulled out. Interest turned instead towards Pinot Gris. Wineries such as Chehalem, Elk Cove and Brooks kept…

 

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