WE PORTLANDERS ARE LUCKY to live less than an hour from hundreds of top-notch wineries in the Willamette Valley—and it’s only a few more hours to Southern Oregon’s winemaking region—but that doesn’t mean it can’t be daunting to navigate the terrain. Assessing which wineries pour the best pinot can be a lifelong (though highly pleasurable) pursuit. And finding the tasting room that has the most spectacular view? That can put hundreds of miles on the odometer. In fact, so vast is our state’s vino landscape—there are more than 350 wineries—that it’s easy to become overwhelmed and avoid exploring it alogether.
Don’t be one of those who makes that terrible mistake, for when you live this close to vines that produce world-class wines, you’ve only got one real option: become a connoisseur. To assist you in your endeavor, we solicited the sage advice of our wine critic, Condé Cox, who directed us to the wines and wineries that no self-respecting Oregonian should miss. To help you find your way, we also school you in the state’s American Viticultural Areas (AVAs)—smaller, formalized winemaking regions blessed with unique geographical and climatic conditions that have produced some of Oregon’s most distinctive bottlings. Whether you stick to the Willamette Valley or head to those valleys carved by the Umpqua and Rogue Rivers, use our insider’s guide and you’ll return home a more savvy, and satisfied, wine drinker than before.