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A brief timeline of Southern Oregon wine

This week we’re going to take a look at some of the important dates in the history of wine in Southern Oregon.

1840s — Settlers plant wine grapes in Oregon territory. These were likely mission grapes, a variety of Vitis vinifera, brought by missionaries for making sacramental, table and fortified wines.

Around 1856, Peter Britt, began planting Vitis vinifera in Jacksonville, the first planting of true wine roots in Southern Oregon and likely the first pinot noir planting in Oregon. It was known then as Franc pinot. Britt was quite prolific in his varietal planting. Wine historian Willard Brown speculated that he planted cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, riesling, malbec, petite sirah, sémillon, sauvignon blanc, merlot, cabernet Franc, and gewürztraminer. He established Valley View, the first winery in the northwest.

1859 — Oregon becomes 33rd state

1880 — German immigrants to the Umpqua Valley plant vineyards and establish wineries, with an estimated 20,000 gallons of wine produced.

1888-1889 — Adam Doerner planted grapes and established the first “commercial” winery and distillery in the Umpqua Valley. It remained in business until Prohibition (although he continued to sell juice to home winemakers), reopened in 1933, and closed in 1965.

By 1890 there were 40-plus vineyard acres around Jacksonville.

1914 — Oregon voted to adopt Prohibition laws, which took effect in 1916, four years before the national law took hold. Most wine production stopped, though grapes continued to be grown. Some winegrowers kept private vineyards. Due to a loophole in the 18th Amendment, wine could continue to be made for religious purposes.

1933 — The failed experiment of Prohibition was repealed with the 21st Amendment. Oregon legalized grape growing.

1934 — Umpqua Valley’s first post-Prohibition wine, Old #7, and winery, Doerner Winery, was revived by Adolph Doerner, son of Adam.

1959-1961 — Richard Sommer, Hillcrest Vineyard, Umpqua Valley, launches modern era of Oregon wines. He plants chardonnay, riesling, gewürztraminer, sémillon, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and zinfandel.

1967 — An experimental vineyard containing chenin blanc, gewürztraminer, muscat blanc, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir is planted at the OSU Experiment Station in Central Point.

1969-1970 — The Roseburg area is the center of wine-making activity in the state and the birthplace of the Oregon Winegrowers Association. The annual Greatest of the Grape event, the first, and longest-running wine event in Oregon, is held.

1972 — Troon establishes the first vineyard in the Applegate.

1984 — The Umpqua Valley AVA is founded.

1988 — Weisinger Family Winery establishes winery, making it the oldest in Ashland.

1991 — The Rogue Valley AVA is founded.

1997 — 51 vineyards and 10 wineries are in the Rogue Valley.

2000 — The Applegate AVA is created.

2005 — The Southern Oregon AVA is established, combining Rogue Valley and Umpqua Valley wineries.

2022 — The Rogue Valley AVA is home to 180 vineyards growing 70-plus varietals on 5,635 planted acres. Production is about 10,000 tons of grapes annually.

The Umpqua Valley AVA has 27 established wineries and 3,605 planted acres.

A note on the history: Because early historical records don’t exist or are not always accurate, contradictory information occurs often. I’ve attempted to keep to the most influential and/or confirmed records available. This is not meant to be comprehensive, but a brief timeline of how wine-growing developed into the world-renowned industry we have today.

And that, as they say, is history. Cheers!

Reach Paula Bandy at pbthegrapevine@gmail.com and connect with her on Instagram at @pbthroughthegrapevine.