From the mountains to the prairies, to the beaches white with rotting jellyfish, Oregon is a land of delicious wine, boasting 18 American Viticultural Areas and all shades of grape. Some of these, like Dundee Hills and Yamhill-Carlton in the Willamette Valley, are internationally renowned. "Umpqua Valley" is fun to say, but when's the last time you drank wine from there?
Pour Oregon, a new wine festival, brings together nearly all of the AVAs for a tasting experience as diverse as it is unique. The event is organized by Cellar 503 owner Carrie Wynkoop, whose wine club selects two to four bottles monthly from small producers across Oregon, each producing no more than 10,000 cases a year. She's gathered 43 small producers for the event Sunday, April 30, in Northwest Portland.
Small is often good when it comes to wine, and Wynkoop is stoked to be having a big-city showcase for craft winemakers. "We love these folks and think they have great stories to tell," she says. "This event will give them an opportunity to reach out and meet the public."
Seventeen of the state's 18 AVAs will be represented, including the only winery on the Oregon side of the Snake River Valley AVA—Copper Belt in Baker City. (The only AVA missing is tiny Red Hill Douglas County.) Many of the wines will be poured by the winemakers.
Here are the first three wines I'd sample at Pour Oregon.
Troon Vineyard, Applegate Valley
Southern Oregon is a hot story right now, with top winemakers from across the state sourcing their grapes from southern vineyards to make exotic wines inspired by Provence, Catalonia and Emilia-Romagna. But Southern Oregon winemakers are also putting killer stuff in bottles, with Troon Vineyard leading the way in heritage and output. Founded in 1972 by Dick Troon, and today overseen by fourth-generation Oregonian Larry Martin, the winery's GSM blend (grenache, syrah, mourvedre) could be mistaken for Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and its complex Druid's Fluid white field blend evokes Saint-Joseph.
Analemma Wines, Columbia Gorge
Ten out of 10 Oregon wine geeks agree: Analemma is one of the state's best wineries, and its Atavus Vineyard is home to some of Oregon's most enviable terroir. The winery is drawing raves for its spicy and evocative gewürztraminer, lean and crystalline rosé of pinot noir, and especially for its sparkling blanc de noirs ($59). An accomplished Portland bartender once scolded me for questioning the price of Analemma's sparking wine, and while it's true you can buy a very good bottle of grower Champagne for $59, if you're drinking Oregon, you won't find better bubbles.
Dion Vineyard, Chehalem Mountains
If you live in Portland, you drive south for wine—or so goes the orthodoxy. Yet there's a relatively slept-on wine scene just west of the Rose City near Forest Grove. These wines have found a champion in Jeff Vejr, winemaker at Golden Cluster and sommelier for Holdfast Dining. He makes stunning sémillon and syrah from wines sourced near Cornelius, including from Dion Vineyard. Dion's wines will be available at Pour Oregon, and I'm hoping to try their "saignée" take on pinot noir rosé, made by bleeding pink color from red grapes.
GO: Pour Oregon is at Castaway Portland, 1900 NW 18th Ave., on Sunday, April 30. 2-7 pm. $60 for a Riedel glass and tastes from all 43 wineries. 21+. Tickets at cellar503.com.