Oregon wine industry enjoys record growth* in 2012

By on November 15, 2013

Dundee Hills American Viticultural Area is in the northern Willamette Valley in Oregon wine country.

The Dundee Hills is in the northern Willamette Valley, the heart of Oregon wine country. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

Oregon wineries and vineyards enjoyed their largest harvest ever during the 2012 vintage.

How much bigger is the question.

Oregon harvested a record 50,186 tons in 2012, up significantly over 2011, when a reported 41,500 tons were brought in.

The 22 percent increase can be attributed to a warmer vintage and more acreage for certain. But it isn’t known just how large the increase really is because the Oregon wine industry switched to a new system of tracking grape growing and winemaking.

The 2011 numbers were recorded and reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – as they have been for many years. However, in 2012, the Southern Oregon University Research Center (SOURCE) in Ashland took over the job after the USDA stopped.

Greg Jones, an acclaimed climatologist at Southern Oregon University and son of Abacela owner Earl Jones, wrote the report after the numbers were collected by SOURCE. He emphasized to Great Northwest Wine that he did not have access to individual wineries’ data.

“I play an interesting role,” he said. “I don’t have a role in collecting the data, but I make sure the end product is legit in how it’s being presented.”

As a result of the changes in who is collecting the data and how it is being collected, the 2012 numbers are likely much more accurate than they might have been in the past because SOURCE was quite diligent in tracking down accurate numbers.

Jones said this is unfortunate in the short term, but he said after SOURCE has three or four years of data collected, the wine industry will have a much more complete picture.

“It gets easier from this point on,” Jones said. “I feel good about the numbers we have going forward.”

Pinot Noir maintains strength in Oregon wine country

Winter's Hill Vineyard is in the Dundee Hills in Oregon wine country's Willamette Valley.

Winter’s Hill Vineyard is in the Dundee Hills. Most of Oregon’s wine grapes are grown in the northern Willamette Valley. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

As expected, Pinot Noir continues to dominate the Oregon wine landscape. In 2012, Oregon wineries harvested 28,565 tons from nearly 14,000 acres. The cost per ton was $2,270. In 2011, Pinot Noir accounted for 23,726 tons.

In a distant second was Pinot Gris, the state’s biggest white wine. It brought in 7,423 tons, up from 6,046 tons in 2011. The price per ton was $1,531.

Chardonnay accounted for 2,605 tons, up from 1,923 tons in 2011. And Syrah jumped into the No. 4 position at 2,097 tons, up from 1,319 in 2011.

Here are the complete numbers, with 2011 tonnage in parentheses:

Red wines

  • Pinot Noir: 28,565 (23,726)
  • Syrah: 2,097 (1,319)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: 1,407 (1,206)
  • Merlot: 1,308 (1,129)
  • Tempranillo: 631 (387)
  • Cabernet Franc: 444 (287)
  • Zinfandel: 95 (90)

White wines

  • Pinot Gris: 7,423 (6,064)
  • Chardonnay: 2,605 (1,923)
  • Gewürztraminer: 420 (252)
  • Müller-Thurgau: 443 (257)
  • Pinot Blanc: 680 (424)
  • Sauvignon Blanc: 155 (152)
  • Viognier: 598 (526)
  • Riesling: 718 (700)

The report also showed a significant increase in vineyard acres, with 25,448 planted in 2012, up from 20,400 in 2011. As expected, the northern Willamette Valley and its six sub-appellations has the largest chunk of the Oregon wine industry, with 18,820 acres and 37,027 tons crushed in 2012.

The Rogue Valley was second in size with 2,100 acres and 4,983 tons.

A wide swath that includes everything from the Columbia Gorge all the way to the southern Walla Walla Valley in the east and the Snake River Valley in the southeast was No. 3 in size, with 1,770 acres and 4,964 tons crushed.

In 2012, Oregon grape growers lost 1,240 tons of grapes, almost entirely to weather. That’s down significantly from 2011, when the loss was 3,090 tons.

In 2012, Oregon winemakers also brought in 1,177 tons from other states, presumably Washington and California. That’s up from a reported 765 tons in 2011.

And in 2012, Oregon wineries sold 2.38 million cases of wine worth $312 million, up from 2.04 million cases in 2011.

About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is the editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine. He is a third-generation journalist who has worked at newspapers since the mid-1980s and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Eric Degerman and served as its editor-in-chief for 15 years. He is a frequent judge at international wine competitions. He is the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books. He writes about wine for The Seattle Times. You can find him on Twitter and .

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