A Year in Retrospect

By Tom Danowski

Early in 2013, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden addressed a gathering of winegrowers in Salem. Our senior U.S. senator referred to Oregon wine as “a relentlessly good news story.” I couldn’t agree more. The achievements of your wine community this past year genuinely reflect Sen. Wyden’s astute observation.

You might be aware that 10 years have passed since the Oregon Wine Board was established by the state Legislature to support research and promote the sale of Oregon wines. Over the past decade, Oregon’s grape farmers and winemakers have further enhanced the sterling reputation that existed for innovation, exceptional wine quality, sensible farming practices and a genuine, “only in Oregon” collaborative spirit. Those distinctive characteristics, personified by our founding winegrowers, have established the foundation on which we continue to build, making Oregon the envy of many of the world’s wine regions.

This past year in particular was one of great accomplishment as the Oregon wine community continued its steady, impressive growth. At last count, there were 905 vineyards, 545 wineries in Oregon and the most recent harvest expected to be up significantly from 2012’s already remarkable production. 

While the accomplishments of 2013 were too numerous to include all, some particularly worth noting include:

• Oregon’s recognition as the 2013 Wine Region of the Year by Snooth, one of the world’s largest online consumer websites.

• Launching a completely new and modern OWB website,

• Orchestrating the second Oregon Wine Month, which resulted in a 7 percent increase in off-premise, in-state sales of Oregon wine through participating distributors compared to a year ago.

• Promoting the Oregon Wine Country license plate program, which was hugely successful. The new license plate was the second fastest selling specialty plate in its first year and had total sales of 8,500 during its first 16 months of availability.

• Working with Linfield College’s business department to conduct essential research to better identify the components of Oregon’s wine reputation among consumers and trade. 

• Funding nine critical viticultural and enological research projects with a total budget of $236,466.

• Conducting international trade and consumer events with participating wineries in Vancouver, B.C., London, Tokyo, Copenhagen and Dusseldorf. 

• Working with our sister organization, the Oregon Winegrowers Association, to gain approval of important legislation affecting the industry, including additional funding of a fermentation sciences program at Oregon State University, a measure clarifying marketing and special event activity permitted on farm land and a bill expanding the ability to sell wine to consumers in “growlers.”

• With partners Travel Oregon and Alaska Airlines, launching Oregon Wines Fly Free on Alaska Airlines. The promotion was supported by nearly 300 wineries during September, October and November and attracted hundreds of wine consumers to Oregon winery tasting rooms.

• Co-hosting the Wine Tourism Conference with Travel Oregon in November in Portland.

• Embarking on a long-range strategic planning process to more effectively match the Wine Board resources with which we are entrusted to opportunities ahead in the next decade.

The breadth and depth of accomplishments has elevated Oregon to a unique position among the world’s most esteemed wine regions. It is the reason that investment capital and exceptional winemaking talent continue to migrate to the state. The industry has never been better positioned to realize its destiny in a way that is consistent with the vision of Oregon’s wine pioneers. 

On behalf of the directors and staff at the Oregon Wine Board, thank you for your support, encouragement and advice as we strive to deliver programs worthy of the best wines ever made in Oregon. 

Tom Danowski is the current executive director of the Oregon Wine Board and Oregon Winegrowers Association. He grew up in Beaverton and is a graduate of the University of Oregon.

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