The bright greens and colorful flowers of May make the most exquisite party decor as the month kicks off a celebration of one of Oregon’s most noteworthy assets: wine.
May is Oregon Wine Month and there is no better place to pay homage to the grape than in Douglas County. Wine production in this region dates back to the 1880s and continues to expand rapidly due to its optimal climate – closely related to that of the Mediterranean – and the county having one of the most diverse soil profile maps in the state with around 230 different soil profiles.
Some of the most well-known wine pioneering took place in Douglas County and this innovation is still alive and thriving at all 27 wineries in the Umpqua Valley. In 1961, Richard Sommer founded HillCrest Vineyard making it the oldest continually operating post-prohibition estate winery in Oregon. Sommer was also the first to plant pinot noir vines in Oregon, making it the birthplace of Oregon pinot noir.
Another wine industry innovator in this area is Calvin Scott Henry III of Henry Estates Winery. He developed a unique trellis and canopy-management system that improves the maturation of grapes and the overall quality of the wine.
Abacela wine owners, Hilda and Earl Jones, landed in Douglas County after a very thorough quest to find why America wasn’t producing Spain’s signature Tempranillo wine. They found out that Oregon’s southwest valley held the promise of near-perfect homoclimes to Rioja and Ribera, and Abacela now holds several medals and high ratings for their wines – particularly the Albariño and Tempranillo.
In its most recent issue, Wine Press Northwest gave 11 awards to Umpqua Valley wineries. Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards has brought in a number of notable wine awards throughout the years and was just awarded “Best of the Best” for its Grüner Veltliner. Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards is the first winery in the United States to plant, grow, and commercially vinify this Austrian white grape. In 2017, the winery won the magazine’s Pacific Northwest Winery of Year.
Umpqua Valley wineries, Cooper Ridge Vineyard, Melrose Vineyards, Spangler Vineyards, Brandborg Winery and Vineyard, Mustard Seed Cellars, and Season Cellars also won awards. Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards, Spangler Vineyard and Abacela took seats on the Platinum Judging All-Time Leaderboard. Newer-to-the-area, Trella Vineyards, was spotlighted as the magazine’s 2020 Oregon Winery to Watch.
The Umpqua Valley is closing in on now 4,000 acres of vineyards, 30 family-owned and operated wineries and over 40 different wine varieties. Come and visit a true leader in not only Oregon’s wine industry, but the world’s. An Umpqua Valley wine tour map can be found here: umpquavalleywineries.org/wine-tour-map. Cheers!