A hole is prepared for planting Pinot Noir at Anne Amie s Twelve Oaks Vineyard. ##Photo by Andrea Johnson

Preparing the Ground

OWB anticipates fertile year of industry growth

By Tom Danowski

Winemakers and grape growers look forward to a year of renewal, recovery and reawakening. They’re hopeful we’ll all soon be past the most serious dangers and disruptions of COVID-19 and that West Coast communities continue recovering from last year’s wildfires. Like you, they were anxious to turn the page after an historic year during which risks often outweighed rewards and resiliency was tested as never before. 

Oregon’s 908 wineries and 1,297 vineyards span areas of the state as vibrantly distinctive as Medford, Melrose, McMinnville, Mosier and Milton-Freewater, among many others. Together, these family-owned wine businesses propel a $7.3 billion economic engine fueled by extraordinary wines, a growing global fan base and efficient farming practices, which have increased total tonnage by a multiple of 2.5 over the past decade and tripled the value of the annual grape crop.

The Oregon Wine Board, which was spun out of the Dept. of Agriculture in 2003, acts as the state commission designing programs and making strategic investments in scientific research, education, communications and marketing. Activities in those areas are paid for by wine business owners themselves who finance the industry’s development and expansion through the taxes they pay on grapes and wines.

When the COVID freeze affecting travel starts to thaw, wineries and vineyards will continue to lead the transition to an Oregon agricultural economy that remains reliant on commodity crops and livestock but is rebalancing towards more value-added segments, memorable agritourism experiences and consumer-branded products. Especially ones such as Oregon wines recognized for their balance, length and complexity by buyers and discerning wine lovers around the world.

A vivid example illustrating why wines made here are so coveted jumps out from the pages of Wine Spectator magazine, the country’s most widely circulated consumer publication on fine wine. Wine Spectator’s editors have published their annual list of the world’s “Top 100” wines for more than 30 years. Oregon represents far less than 1% of today’s global production, so one would expect to see a wine or two, at most, on such an esteemed list. This year, Oregon placed seven, a new record and more than were included from other states and regions, including Napa Valley. However, exceptional quality alone is no guarantee of success in this hyper-competitive category where Oregon now competes against nearly 10,000 other American wineries as well as thousands more internationally.

So, the industry’s strategic business plan is focused for the next few years on Oregon’s ownable and irreplaceable attributes: an innovative, experienced workforce and the unique soils, climate and growing conditions that continue to attract intense interest from around the world.

The Oregon Wine Board consulted extensively with stakeholders before and during the pandemic to design and refine the plan that continues to evolve in response to changing business conditions and government policy decisions.

The 2021 plan emphasizes the following critical areas to strengthen Oregon’s competitive advantage:

• Scientific inquiry enabling continued advances in grape and wine quality while confronting new pests, plant viruses and climatic pressures.

• Research to guide decision-making that supports regenerative and sustainable business practices.

• Commitment to embrace and institutionalize principles of equity, diversity and inclusiveness.

• Promotion of Oregon’s unmatched capacity for delivering unforgettable wine tourism experiences. 

• Focused effort to enhance and enrich the reputation of Oregon wines and our winemaking community; and to increase media attention, trade interest, market access and consumer awareness.

More specifically, over the course of this year, the Oregon Wine Board will:

• Begin a phased rollout of a breakthrough branding campaign, paced to match the tempo of the global recovery. New marketing communications elements will present an authentic, engaging and inviting narrative built on Oregon’s enduring values that are brought to life and displayed every day.

• Produce a wine touring guide with regional itineraries and bonus material, including feature stories on Oregon grape growers and winemakers.

• Continue to engage wine media and lifestyle journalists virtually, as long as we have to and in-person again as soon as it’s practical, reaching prospects who have not yet tried the wines or visited us here.

• Fulfill our ongoing commitment to industry education at the 2021 Oregon Wine Symposium and seek new funding to help wineries improve direct-to-consumer engagement and get more wines into the cellars of all who seek them.

• Deploy federal grant funding to jump-start international sales and, once again, welcome business partners from around the word to walk this place and taste the depth of character evident in wines made here.

• Provide market intelligence to business owners, such as a refreshed statewide economic impact study and our report on how the pandemic and wildfires affected vineyard production and wine sales.

To the customers and consumers who have helped establish Oregon’s place on the worldwide wine map, we acknowledge and thank you as valued partners. We need your energy and advocacy more than ever this coming year.

And finally, our appreciation to Oregon’s grape growers, winemakers as well as our research and business partners who devote their time and talents to building on the accomplishments of our predecessors and strengthening the foundation for our successors.


Oregon Wine Current Stats

• Oregon is home to 908 wineries, more than doubling from 10 years ago.

• The state has 1,297 vineyards, comprising almost 38,000 planted acres of wine grapes.

• Oregon includes 21 AVAs, second only to California with 107; Washington has 16.

• No. 1 international destination for Oregon wines: Canada.

• More than 40,000 Oregonians were employed in 2019, thanks to the state’s wine economy,

• How important is Pinot Noir? It accounts for 58% of Oregon’s wine grape production. The second largest? Pinot Gris at 14%.

• Economic impact specifically related to statewide wine tourism in 2019: $894 million in revenues, $270 million in wages.

• Wine-related activities contribute more than $255 million in annual tax and licensing revenues to state and local governments.

• Some 105,586 tons of grapes were harvested in 2019, with a crop value of $237.8 million. Wine grapes rank No. 7 in crop value in the state — twice that of pears.

• Oregon produces only 0.15% of the wine made in the world.

• Oregon wine sales equal 4.7 million 12-bottle cases of wine.

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