Umpqua Valley Oregon-Where Tradition Meets Innovation

Oregon is known for rain, vast green forests, picturesque mountain ranges, and of course, Pinot Noir.  Although, Pinot Noir is what has made Oregon famous in the wine world, they grow an abundance of other very pleasant varietals.  Oregon lays with the same latitude as Northern Spain and up to Burgundy, France.  It also has similar soil composition as well.

I am profiling my favorite wine region in the North West United States, the Umpqua Valley. It is the one of earliest wine regions in Oregon and the most diverse AVAs.  It has over 150 types of soil from volcanic and sedimentary rock, to alluvial, clay, and silty clay.  It makes one of the most most fascinating growing regions on the west coast of the US.  Over 40 varieties planted in this region with the focus being Syrah, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Riesling.

Umpqua Valley AVA ( was officially founded in 1984 and now is made up of 32 wine producers and is growing rapidly.  1,500 acres of wine grapes line the valley floors and cascade up the beautiful hillsides. The majority of wineries are family owned and managed; they take pride in their past.  Although, it has a history that spans back to the 1880s with German immigrants, it is still relatively unknown to world for its’ wine production. As most wine production went dormant during the prohibition period in the 1900s, it took decades to re-establish the vineyards.

Deep rooted tradition does not mean this Southern Oregon hot bed does not push the boundaries and act as pioneers in wine making in the United States.  In the late 1950s, Richard Sommer who was educated at the critically acclaimed University of California at Davis, planted the first Pinot Noir in Oregon.  He ignored the advice of his UC Davis educators who claimed grapes would not grow in Oregon.   Sometimes ignoring your professors can be a brilliant move, in this case the world is a better place thanks to Richard.  Now, Pinot Noir from Oregon is world renowned and some of the best on the planet.

Umpqua Valley did not stop at just pioneering Oregon Pinot Noir.  Scott Henry of Henry Estate Winery ( developed the now famous “Henry Trellis System” that increases yield, reduces mold, and minimizes the need to spray.  That is what happens when you take someone deep rooted in 5 generations of Umpqua farmers and he becomes an aeronautical engineer.  After an aeronautical career spanning approximately a decade in California, Scott came back to his family roots and we are all better for that. The first Tempranillo was planted by Abacela Winery ( in 1995 and became America’s first internationally acclaimed bottle of this varietal.  Albacela didn’t stop there, in 2000, they planted Albarino and are known as the first in America.  The first Grüner Veltliner in the United States was planted by Stephen Reustle in 2003.  Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards ( produces one of the finest Grüner Veltliner bottles I have enjoyed.

My #SipSavorServe profile:

  • Sip on Reustle Payer Rock Grüner Veltliner as the weather improves.  Can be enjoyed alone, with spicy food, fish, and grilled vegetables.  The last 5 or so vintages I have tried have been epic and turned me into a huge fan of this varietal.  Cases have been purchased and I cannot not begin to count how many dozens of people I have exposed to this Grüner Veltliner. Every single person is amazed how pleasant this wine is.  Many Americans have not heard of this varietal since it is thinly produced in the United States, but Stephen and Gloria have put the U.S. on the Grüner map. Aromas of green tea, tropical fruits are abundant.  It opens up with flavors of pineapple, coconut, more tropical fruits, tea, and a little dusting of white pepper.  It has a crisp acidity that is absolutely perfect in this wine.  I recommend purchasing a case as a wise investment at $24 per bottle, before discount. Spring and Summer is coming and this wine is a must have in your cellar as it is guaranteed to impress your most knowledgeable wine friends.  It can be cellared for quite a few years and will continue to improve.  2013 Grüner Veltliner gets 91 #CMKpts and the Reserve gets 93 #CMKpts.
  • Savor an Abacela 2011 Barrel Select Tempranillo.  This wine is deep in color and structure.  It is full of flavors of the ripe wild blackberries, violets, smoke, tobacco, spice, chocolate, mocha, and perfectly strong and powerful tannins.  This wine has bravado and can be savored with Spanish dishes, Thanksgiving turkey, red meats, and hard cheeses such as Menchego. Available for $36 per bottle, this wine can be cellared for nearly a decade.  I give this vintage 91 #CMKpts
  • Serve Henry Estates 2008 Barrel Select Pinot Noir with your brie, your favorite fish or light meat such as turkey, lamb, duck, or roast pig.  Earthy aromas, abundant smell and tastes of red cherries, rip red fruits, medium spice, and great balance make this wine a must have. It is more of a burgundy style of Pinot with earth and spice box tones that dance with the fruit flavors above. As it is already nearly 7 years old, I would suggest drinking in the next year or two.  It is available from the winery at $30 per bottle.  I give this fine wine 92 #CMKpts.
  • Teaser Review: Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2008 Reserve Pinot Noir. Medium red in color, very slight brown hue with good clarity. Aromas of currant, floral bouquet with slight oak.  Plum, red cherry, slight white pepper, cola, light oak and delicately finished with creamy, elegant tannins.  The years in the bottle have done wonders with this vintage yet it still may have a few more years before it is at it’s peak.  If you are lucky enough to have this in your cellar, cheers!  The quality of this vintage is proving Stephen Reustle is blessed with fantastic Dijon clones, a perfect vineyard in an ideal Pinot Noir climate.  It exemplifies Stephen’s care in the vineyard and wine making prowess.  I give it 94 #CMKpts.


Cameron Marc Kossen

Twitter: @CMKWine

Instagram: CMKWine

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