Report: 2015 a record year for Oregon wine grapes

Eric Mortenson

Capital Press

Published on September 7, 2016 11:05AM

Capital Press FIleWine is poured in an Oregon tasting room. A new census of Oregon wine reveals the growth of the industry.

Capital Press FIleWine is poured in an Oregon tasting room. A new census of Oregon wine reveals the growth of the industry.

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Oregon’s 2015 wine grape harvest set a tonnage record as newer vineyards matured into production and yields increased, according to the annual Oregon Vineyard and Winery Census Report.

The census, produced by the Southern Oregon University Research Center in Ashland, showed a record harvest of 84,949 tons. More planted acreage and higher than average yields were primarily responsible, especially in the South Willamette Valley and Umpqua Valley, according to the report. Yield increased 8 percent statewide in 2015 over the previous year.

The state’s 2015 production value, a product of tonnage multiplied by price, was $171 million, up from $168 million in 2014. The average price per ton, which varies significantly among the more than 15 varieties grown in Oregon, was $1,958. The 2014 average price per ton was $2,136.

One thing about Oregon’s wine sector didn’t deviate: Pinot noir is still the state’s signature wine, and that isn’t likely to change any time soon.

The state makes renowned Pinot and it commands a high price. Pinot noir made up 62 percent of planted acreage and 67 percent of vineyard production in 2015.

It’s made throughout the state but the North Willamette Valley south and southwest of Portland, particularly in Yamhill County, produces most of the state’s Pinot noir. Chardonnay and Pinot gris plantings are a distant second and third.

Oregon’s wine production is tiny compared to California, which produces 90 percent of U.S. wine. Oregon ranks fourth, behind California, Washington and New York, but the number of vineyards and wineries grew rapidly over the years as the industry spread outside the Willamette Valley. The Columbia River Gorge and Southern Oregon areas have come into their own as wine-producing regions.

The industry census, however, shows the rapid growth slowed somewhat in 2015. The number of Oregon vineyards increased 2 percent, to 1,052. The number of wineries increased to 702, up from 676 in 2014.

Michelle Kaufmann, communications manager for the Oregon Wine Board, which commissioned the annual census, said the slowing is more likely a pause before another surge of vineyard growth, especially in Eastern Oregon.

“I don’t think we reached a peak in terms of planted acreage,” she said.

The number of 12-bottle cases sold in the U.S., excluding Oregon, rose to 1.6 million in 2015, about 100,000 cases more than the previous year. International case sales jumped from 62,241 in 2014 to 70,608 in 2015. Canada is the biggest buyer, with 44 percent of Oregon wine exports going there.


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