History of the Willamette Valley Wine Industry

1965 - David Lett of The Eyrie Vineyards plants the first Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the Willamette valley and the first Pinot Gris in the United States.

1970 - 5 bonded wineries in the Willamette valley, 35 vineyard acres planted

1972 - Oregon Senate bill 100 is passed, it created a statewide land use planning goal and is credited with preserving agricultural heritage, particularly hillside restrictions on residential and commercial development. The bill was advocated by Governor Tom McCall and early wine industry pioneers.

1974 - Willamette valley wine growers recognize that different clonal selections (commonly called clones) of Vitis Vinifera varietals produce different aromas, flavors and character. They also have different levels of vigor and vineyard site adaptability. *note: The first Pinot noir clones planted by David Lett were Wadenswil and Pommard. Dick Erath brought U.C. Davis clones to the Willamette to study. Dr. Ron Cameron sets up a quarantine program at Oregon State University for clones imported from Europe. Davis Adelsheim arranges for importation of Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Gamay noir clones from Burgundy. Charles Coury brings Alsatian and California clones to the Willamette.

1977 - Oregon Liquor Control Commission adopts the strictest wine labeling laws in the country. Federal law requires that only 75% of grapes named on wine label must be the declared varietal. In Oregon 90% is required and there is a push to mandate 100%. Federal law requires only 75% of the grapes must come from the place named on the wine label. In Oregon it is 100%. *note: 18 grape varietals are exempted in Oregon with 75% mandate; these are : Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Petite Syrah, Grenache, Malbac, Marsanne, Petit Verdot, Roussanne, Sangiovese, Semillion, Syrah, Tannat, Tempranillo and Zinfandel.

1979 - Gault-Millau French wine Olympiad places 1975 Eyrie vineyards South Block Pinot noir in the top 10 pinot noir category.

1980 - Robert Drouhin, patriarch of the Joseph Drouhin negociant house in Burgundy sponsors a blind tasting in which the Eyrie 1975 south Block placed second only to a 1959 Chambolle-Musigny, Burgundy.

1980 - Mt. St. Helens 50 miles northeast of Portland erupts, prompts research into the effect of volcanic ash on juice and wine.

1980 - 34 bonded wineries, 1100 vineyard acres planted.

1981 - New York Times profiles Ponzi Vineyards.

1983 - Willamette valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) approved.

1983 - Oregon Wine Advisory Board established to promote marketing and research for the Oregon wine industry. Growers and producers tax themselves at the highest rate in the world ($25 per ton) to fund the WAB.

1983 - First wine country Thanksgiving celebration is held by the Yamhill County Wineries Association.

1983 - Publication of the Oregon Winegrape Growers Guide. A collaborative guide for producers authored by Ted Casteel, David Adelsheim, Susan Sokol-Blosser and others.

1984 - Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate visits the Willamette valley and enthusiastically reviews the 1983 vintage.

1984 - Dr. Raymond Bernard, the regional director of the Office National Interprofessional des Vins (ONIVINS) in Dijon, France visits Oregon gives a presentation on the performance of different Pinot noir clones in Burgundy and gives clones #113, 114 and 115, now known as the “Dijon” clones to OSU for introduction into the Willamette valley.

1985 - International Wine Center in New York City hosts a “Burgundy” challenge, the top 5 Pinot noirs are all from the Willamette valley, the annual event is covered by the Wine Spectator.

1987 - International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) debuts at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon.

1987 - Domaine Drouhin Oregon is established by Maison Joseph Drouhin on 100 acres in the Dundee hills bringing international recognition to the region.

1988 - Dr. Raymond Bernard sends Oregon more clones, including Pinot noir clones 667 and 777 as well as Chardonnay clones 76 and 95.

1989 - First publicly held winery in Oregon, Willamette Valley Vineyards, is established.

1990 - 70 bonded wineries, 5682 vineyard acres planted in the Willamette valley.

1990 - First Memorial Day weekend event in wine country debuts becoming the largest annual wine event in the Willamette valley.

1990 - Phylloxera is discovered in the Willamette valley.

1991 - Abbey Wine Warehouse opens to provide storage and shipping services for the Willamette valley wine industry.

1992 - First Salud! Wine barrel auction, all proceeds go to vineyard workers health care services. By 2017 Salud! Has raised over $14 million.

1996 - Salmon Safe, environmental certification and marketing program is established.

1997 - Low Impact Viticulture and Enology, (LIVE) program is created by a group of Willamette valley wine growers. The goal is to define and provide environmental stewardship and 3rd party certification for sustainable grape growing and winemaking practices.

2000 - 133 bonded wineries, 9000 vineyard acres planted in the Willamette valley.

2002 - First winery awarded LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) certification is Sokol Blosser’s barrel cellar in Dundee, Oregon.

2004 - The Northwest Viticulture Center opens at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon offering hands on winemaking and vineyard work curriculum.

2004 - Oregon Wine Board replaces Wine Advisory Board, appointed by the Governor.

2004 - The film “Sideways”, is released focusing consumer attention on Pinot noir.

2005 - The first four sub AVA’s are approved, Dundee Hills, Yamhill-Carlton, Ribbon Ridge and McMinnville.

2005 - A collaboration of the French Bureau of Agriculture and California nursery brings Dijon clones 165, 743 and 943 to Oregon. There are 58 certified Pinot noir clones available from U.C. Davis.

2006 - St. Michelle Estates, Washington’s oldest winery buys Erath Vineyards.

2006 - Sub AVA’s Eola-Amity Hills and Chehalem Mountains are approved.

2008 - Fourteen Willamette valley wineries collaborate to form first wine industry carbon reduction program in the U.S.

2009 - The Allison Inn and Spa is the first luxury hotel to open in the Willamette valley.

2010 - 418 bonded wineries, 20,300 acres of vineyard planted in the Willamette valley.

2010 - First Oregon wine country half marathon event is held.

2011 - Linfield College establishes Oregon wine history project and will become the official archive for Oregon wine history.

2011 - Over 300 bonded wineries in the Willamette valley, industry impact on the Oregon economy is $2.7 billion.

2012 - Wine country license plates are offered by Oregon, the first in the nation celebrating the wine industry.

2012 - Wine Spectator magazine features Oregon wine as a cover story. Author Harvey Steinman says, “Pinot noir has found a home in Oregon”.

2013 - California’s Jackson Family Wines buys 1385 acres in the Willamette valley, starting a series of purchases including a production facility in McMinnville.

2013 - Domaine Louis Jadot purchases Resonance vineyards, the second French negociant to purchase vineyard property in the Willamette valley.

2016 - Wine industry impact on Oregon economy is $3.3 billion.

2016 - 21,793 acres of vineyards in the Willamette valley. 15,643 of Pinot noir, 3094 of Pinot Gris, 1483 of Chardonnay, 513 of Riesling, 219 of Pinot Blanc, 169 of Gewurztraminer, 672 all others.

2017 - 70% of the Willamette valley wineries produce less than 5000 cases per year.

2017 - Oregon produces 1% of domestic wines; 20% of Wine Spectator’s 90+ scored domestic wines are produced in Oregon.

2018 - Van Duzer Corridor AVA approved, now 7 sub AVA’s are included in the greater Willamette Valley AVA