Oregon is no longer the best-kept secret of wine lovers. What began four decades ago when a few brave believers planted the first vines in the Willamette Valley has blossomed into a world-renowned industry. Today, Oregon is home to 545 wineries, 905 vineyards and 17 distinct wine-growing regions.

Chef Gabriel Rucker, self-described pinot noir lover, spent the day at Penner-Ash Wine Cellars in the Willamette Valley, which remains the largest and most well known of Oregon’s wine regions. Here in the verdant slot between the Cascade Mountains and the Coast Range, pinot noir — the state’s signature grape — thrives.

“That’s what really defines our growing area here because we get those influences from those two mountain ranges,” says Owner Lynn Penner-Ash. “It’s perfect for grapes because they’ve got great exposure, great air drainage.”

Penner-Ash started the Newberg-based winery in 1998 with her husband, Ron. Their wines frequently receive high marks from the likes of the International Wine Cellar, Wine Spectator Insider and The Wine Advocate.

Penner-Ash walks Rucker through a blending session with recently matured barrels of pinot noir, finding just the right balance. “The aroma is immediately really pleasing to me,” Rucker says of the first glass. “It’s got the light notes and just enough of the heavier stuff.”

Pay a visit to Penner-Ash Cellars, and enjoy the view of the Chehalem Mountains from the tasting room along with a glass of pinot noir, syrah, viognier or reisling.

Explore more: Spend some time investigating wine country. Book a room at The Inn at Red Hills or the Black Walnut Inn & Vineyard. Don’t miss special events like Memorial Day Weekend and Thanksgiving Day Weekend in Wine Country. Or plan your own Perfect Wine Country Weekend.

about author Eileen Garvin

Eileen Garvin lives and writes in Hood River. When she’s not hunched over her keyboard or digging in the garden, you can find her mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, skiing or camping somewhere in Oregon.

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  1. Chuck Briggs says…

    As a former tour bus wine tour driver, I have been to most of the wineries in Oregon. I have enjoyed learning about wine making and grape growing. When I started 11 years ago I knew nothing. But as I drove the tours, the wine makers and growers helped me, as well as my guests, to learn what it takes to get a bottle of wine to the table. It is not always easy with the weather in Oregon being so predictable- not. I have been to all of the growing areas north, south, east and west. There are good wineries in all areas. All you have to do is look to find them. For myself personally I like the smaller wineries. You seem to get a more personal feel and attention. Some meet you at the door with a glass of Sparkling or Pinot Gris or their preferred White. It goes on from there with what wines you want to taste from Pinot Noir to Roses to other Blends and Whites. If you can not find a wine in Oregon that you like, I do not know how to help you find one. I like the lighter whites and Roses myself. I hope you can enjoy your wine tour and tasting.

    Written on September 21st, 2014 / Flag this Comment
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