Oregon wineries are generally small and decentralized within each official wine region of the state. They are often winemaker- or family-owned. Most Oregon wine regions lie in valleys between the southern Cascade Mountains that run through the state and its Coastal Range to the west.
The northwest portion of Oregon wine country is celebrated for its cool-climate grape varieties, including Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, and especially Pinot noir. The Southern Oregon appellation (AVA), starting south of Eugene, includes the Umpqua Valley AVA, the Red Hill Douglas County AVA, the Applegate Valley AVA and the Rogue Valley AVA, all located in the southwestern portion of Oregon State. These regions, along with the vineyards of the Columbia Gorge AVA, are generally higher, much warmer and significantly drier than those of the northwestern quadrant of Oregon State including the Willamette Valley AVA.
It wasn't until early 2005 that the Southern Oregon appellation (AVA) was federally authorized as a macro viticultural area, encompassing the previously authorized regions of the Umpqua, the Applegate and the Rogue Valleys.
The rich variety of "micro climates" in southern Oregon (as well as in the Columbia Gorge AVA at Oregon's north central border) provide distinctive vineyard locations capable of nurturing high-quality Bordeaux and Rhone grape varieties, as well as French Burgundian varieties such as Pinot noir and Chardonnay. The Columbia Gorge appellation, located on both the Oregon and Washington sides of the Columbia River, was authorized as an official American Viticultural Area (AVA) for both states in June 2004.