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March 10, 2011
WineMatch on the Oregon Trail!
It's important to show wineries and consumers alike exactly what WineMatch can do. Last month, we were in Washington State and our trip was well-received by all that attended, and once again we are hitting the dusty trail on our WineMatch Road Show through the state of Oregon. But unlike the early settlers, we're not using covered wagons and starting from the Missouri River, but actually flying into Portland.

Oregon has five major grape-growing regions. At the center and northernmost section of the state is part of the Columbia Valley extending down from Washington. The Walla Walla AVA on the northeastern end, is partially in Washington and partially in Oregon. The remainder of the larger grape-growing regions are thirty minutes to an hour's drive from the beautiful Oregon Coast. At the northern section is the Willamette Valley AVA, which stretches from the Columbia River to the north to Eugene to the south. This encompasses some 5,200 square miles making it easily the largest AVA in the state, with six smaller AVAs contained within. The sub-AVAs include Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, and Yamhill-Carlton District.

In the southwestern portion of the state, you'll find the Southern Oregon AVA. This AVA has sub AVAs as well. Around Roseburg is the Umpqua Valley AVA, where Oregon's oldest winery, Hillcrest Vineyards - Bonded Winery #44, can be found. The original plantings from here date back to 1888. The Red Hill Douglas County AVA is fully contained within the Umpqua AVA. In the southernmost portion you will find the Rogue Valley AVA, and the Applegate Valley AVA resides within it. At the far east of the state Snake River Valley AVA can be found, which also extends into Idaho. So as you can clearly see, there are many different and unique grape-growing regions in Oregon.

Oregon has some interesting labeling laws to protect the integrity of some of its more recognized varietals. Unlike other states where 75% of the varietal is adequate to label the wine as such, Oregon requires 90% for Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Riesling. I find it reassuring to know that when labeled as these, it's pretty much all that particular varietal. In 2007, Oregon relaxed the 30-year laws on the other varietals, allowing 75% minimum content of the other varietals, as it really drove unfair competition with other states.

At the root of this controversy is the consumer. You see, the consumer usually is not aware when picking up two bottles that say Pinot Noir, that one could contain only 75% Pinot Noir and the other is mandated to contain at least 90%. Rest assured wine drinkers, having Oregon on the label of a Pinot Noir means that's pretty much what you get! And that's a good thing.

If one varietal does ring true to Oregon, it has got to be their Pinot Noir, with its cool and coastal-influenced climate. Comparisons to Burgundy are frequent and well-founded. After all, this was the initial grape planted by the people of Gaul before being invaded by the Romans, and then subsequently becoming France. For those of you familiar with this story, Asterix, pictured left, is the historic French cartoon character representative of this era. Varietals other than those mandated at 90% per the labeling laws also do quite well, including the Bordeaux red varietals. The cooler Oregon climate leads to great fruit concentration and the character of the varietals reflect this as well.

As for the WineMatch Road Tour, we're starting in the Portland area and we're there to present WineMatch and be able to showcase Oregon wineries. For those wineries wishing to attend, our schedule is as follows:

All Oregon and Southern Washington wineries are welcomed to attend the presentation. Also, there is no cost or obligation for wineries.

Our hope is that this is an eye-opener for many of you and you realize the grand scope of Oregon and its commitment to growing great grapes, which as all winemakers know, is always the basis for great wine!

See you on the Oregon Trail!



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