There’s no better time to get acquainted with the wineries of the Pacific Northwest than right now. For Oregon and Washington, the 2014 and 2015 growing seasons ushered in terrific weather, amounting to record-breaking high-quality harvests—and in turn outstanding wines. Most of the wines being poured in tasting rooms today are from those vintages.
Oregon’s Willamette Valley spans an area more than 100 miles long and 60 miles wide and is home to more than 550 wineries. Its cool-climate makes it an ideal region for growing Pinot Noir, which accounts for most bottlings, with Pinot Gris and Chardonnay close behind.
Heading north into Walla Walla Valley, this wine region begins in Oregon and extends up into Washington State with a vast array of varying landscapes. Beginning around 400 feet above sea level, vineyards are planted in ancient silt soils from the famous Missoula Floods and as elevation increases to over 2,000 feet, a mix of basalt bedrock and large cobblestones call to mind the famous stony vineyards of France’s Rhône Valley. Here, you’ll discover a mix of terrifically rich, broad-shouldered Bordeaux-style red blends primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, alongside elegant Syrahs and Rhône-style blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.
Though most wineries are open to the public for drop-in tastings, some also offer elevated experiences that require reservations, and others are strictly by-appointment only. Best to plan well in advance rather than calling the week you arrive. And beyond the tasting rooms, the Pacific Northwest is also a hiking, cycling and skiing hot, and for food lovers, it’s a veritable paradise of new restaurants bars and hotels.
These 23 wineries are a mix of iconic producers who have helped establish their respective region as a world-class winegrowing center, and new and relatively new upstarts—all making an array of great wines. —Jonathan Cristaldi