Lesson 1 of 0
In Progress

Terroir of Oregon: The big picture

** Note: At 1:05 I say “In the northeast corner, where Portland is …” Sorry, I meant northwest. And yes, I was a geography major in college!


Terroir is not a simple concept. It’s a combination of many factors, plus history to establish patterns, that allows us to say “wine from this place taste like that.”

Here’s a brief overview of the key things to know.

LEARN THE RANGES and the main mountains. This nice, clean map outlines it for you.

  • The Coast Range, along the coast (duh)
  • The Cascade Range
  • The Willamette Valley is between the Coast and Cascade ranges
  • Key mountains of the Cascade Range: Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, and South Sister. On a clear day from the top of the Dundee Hills at Domaine Drouhin, you can see all three.
  • The Blue Mountains in the northeast corner (which drain into the Walla Walla Valley).
  • The Klamath Mountains south of Willamette Valley, bordering California. Note the direction of this mountain range and the tiny, squiggly, tucked-in valleys found here.
  • The Harney Basin in the southeast quadrant … the hot, desert-like area of Oregon.

The rainfall map of Oregon is particularly informative. Take note of the abundant rainfall surrounding the Willamette Valley, and realize that 95% of that rain falls in the winter months. Note the Southern Oregon wine regions are much, much drier.

And lastly, the USDA plant hardiness map, which indicates the lowest low temperatures. Note the dramatic change on each side of the Cascades. Note that while this map is from 2006, the high temperatures are getting higher but the low temperatures are staying the same.

Links for more learning

Oregon Wine Press: The Dirt on Oregon Wine (GREAT overview!)

Travel Oregon: To Taste Oregon’s Terroir, Follow the Missoula Floods

The Cook’s Cook: The Curious Case of Oregon Terroir (which focuses on the Willamette Valley)

Oregon Wine Press: Terroir Whisperer

Wine Spectator: Can Terroir Cross State Lines?