Attracts Out of State Buyers

Oregon Wine Country

BY MATT EVANS

In the last decade, Oregon’s wine industry has evolved from a cottage industry into one the state’s burgeoning economic engines.  According to the National Association of Wineries, Oregon ranks third among wine-producing states, trailing only California and Washington.  While land in viticulture hotspots like Napa Valley come at an expensive premium, Oregon wine land is excellent for growing and much more affordable.  As a result, the number and size of vineyards continue to grow and attract out-of-state interest.

According to the Statesman Journal, the most recent comprehensive study from the Oregon Wine Board establishes the remarkable growth of the state’s wine industry.  In the four year period between 2010 and 2013, the economic impact of Oregon vineyards grew 28%, supporting more than 17,000 jobs and $525 million in wages.  The industry injected an estimated $3.3 billion boost into the state’s economy in 2013 alone.  Between 2011 and 2014, the number of acreage devoted to planting spiked 18%; the number of wineries grew by 45%, and the volume of wine sales grew 39%.  71 new wineries opened in 2014, as the total number approached 700 across the state. Wine grapes are now the state’s most valuable fruit crop.

The history of Willamette Valley Vineyards, just south of Salem, mirrors Oregon’s wine evolution from a novelty to a major industry.  In operation for more than three decades, the vineyard was initially small enough for owners to water the vines by hand with a 75-foot garden hose.  Now, the vineyard boasts nearly 500 acres and ranks as one of the top Pinot Noir producers in the country.  Sensing the growing interest in Oregon wine, the owners significantly invested in an expanded show room in 2013.  Sales immediately grew by 25% that year.  The owners have also recently raised $4 million in funding to open two new wineries.  Vineyards across the state, small and large, are experiencing relative growth trajectories as demand continues to increase.

Interest in Oregon’s wine growing potential extends well beyond the state’s borders.  The Wall Street Journal recently chronicled the attraction of out of- state vineyard operators to Oregon.  The interest starts with excellent growing conditions—a combination of good soil and plentiful rain make parts of Oregon ideal for wine growing.  The affordability of Oregon wine country is also attractive. Land that costs $125,000 per acre in Napa can be purchased for $45,000 in Dundee, Oregon— one of the most coveted wine growing areas around.  The median home price in Dundee is also just over $250,000—a steal compared to home prices in California wine country.  Interestingly, Dundee’s home prices are up 6% in the last year due largely to California buyers.

Experts believe Oregon’s wine industry is poised for ongoing growth.  Among other things, Pinot Noir, the state’s most important grape, is one of the fastest growing varietals in the wine market.  Oregon’s reputation as a destination for hospitality and culinary sophistication continues to strengthen.  Wine-related tourism alone hit $207 million in 2013.  International wine sales continue to increase and diversify, with significant distribution to places like Hong Kong, Scandinavia, Japan, Mexico, and Canada.