High-profile magazine shines spotlight on Oregon wines

PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregon's profile as a top wine producer just got a boost with the latest issue of Wine Spectator magazine.

The February 28 issue, which hit newsstands on Tuesday, includes a full feature, "Delicate Delights," on Oregon's famous pinot noirs penned by reviewer Harvey Steiman.

Talk about a tough job: Steiman said he reviewed over 550 wines from Oregon in his article. He also notes the challenges, especially with weather, that grape growers face in Oregon and how it varies the flavor of Oregon wines.

And while Steiman picks his favorites and best values, he also gives over 250 Oregon vintages a rating of 90 or above - "outstanding" - on a scale that peaks at 100. Some wines scored as high as 95.

Oregon is perhaps most famous for its pinots, but American Winery Guide also has high praise and guides to finding other types of Oregon-born vino and the wineries where they are made.

The Wine Spectator story also includes a map of Oregon's wine-producing regions, the majority of which are in the Willamette Valley and stretch to the California border, but also include eastern Columbia River Gorge regions and areas along the Idaho border.

At Liner & Elsen Wine Merchants in Northwest Portland, it's been hard to keep up with the demand for the wines featured in the article. It's already sold out of most of those wines featured in the magazine.

"It means a lot in that people spend a lot of time reading about the wines, and they may not have a chance to taste them, especially if they're buying out of state," said owner Bob Scherb. "I think many people depend on those scores to make a buying decision. So once they read about those wines, they're after them."

Since moving out to Oregon to get into the wine business 15 years ago Scherb's seen Oregon slowly stealing the wine spotlight with articles like the one in Wine Spectator.

"I think this kind of article and some of the others I've read have kind of put Oregon on the map in a way they've never been on a map before, and I think it's great," Scherb said.

Six of the 15 wine regions in Oregon are in the Portland area: The Willamette Valley, Chehalem Mountains, Yamhill-Carlton, Ribbon Ridge, Dundee Hills and McMinnville.

High marks doesn't necessarily mean a big price tag. There were some 90-point plus wines on the list selling for about $13.

Six regions near Portland: