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Oregon Cabernet on the rise

Published:  29 November, 2018

Internationally renowned for Pinot Noir, the quality of Oregon's Cabernet Sauvignon has now reached “unprecedented levels,” according to several producers in the state.

Steve Anderson of Eola Hills Winery is just one winemaker who believes that a combination of factors - including global warming - has changed the signature profile and quality of Oregon Cabernet Sauvignon.

“The climate in the Willamette Valley has seemed to be warming and drying, at least in the past few years. Several years ago Eola has planted another acre of Cabernet. It reached 26 brix and was some of the better Cabernet Sauvignon I have ever seen,” said Anderson.

“When the typical rainy Octobers return, this Cab will have problems. Until then, I will be pleased to make a unique Cabernet Sauvignon - Eola has nearly doubled our bottling each year for two years running,” he added.

According to Anderson, Eola planted some Cabernet Sauvignon in 1982, which was subsequently grafted over to Pinot Noir. “However, we continue to make Cabernet with contracted fruit grown in the Applegate Valley, a sub appellation of Oregon's Rogue Valley AVA, and from the Oregon side of the Columbia River Valley,” he said.

A recent private tasting of Oregon Cabernet Sauvignon demonstrated the great potential for the grape to find a wider international audience. In a zeitgeist where lower alcohol/food-friendly wines are most definitely in vogue, the signature bright fruit, lively acidity and medium weight of Oregon Cabernet is well positioned to appeal to modern consumers.

“Although Oregon is clearly a state celebrated for its Pinot Noir on a global scale, we believe Cabernet will become as widely recognised," said Christine Clair, winery director at Willamette Valley Vineyards (pictured above).

“Oregon has as many microclimates well-suited for wine grapes as France (they are close in size), it is just a matter of us finding those great sites, planting grapes and making the highest quality wines,” she added. “We have made big bets on the Walla Walla Valley by purchasing land and planting estate vineyards for our Pambrun wines and have worked with an amazing grower in the Rogue Valley, so we believe there is a great future for these wines in Oregon.”

Willamette Valley Vineyards is one of the key producers of Cabernet in the state. It’s Griffin Creek label produces about 4,800 cases per year of which 650 is Cabernet Sauvignon and 350 is a Cabernet dominant Red Blend, while Pambrun makes about 2,000 cases per year , with750 cases being Cabernet sauvignon and 750 a Cabernet dominant Red Blend.

“Southern Oregon wines do not experience the growing degrees days like Napa and Sonoma and the sites we source from are higher elevation at 1,000-1,200 feet, so ireally is growing on the climatic edge or even considered cool-climate for Cabernet Sauvignon,” said Clair.

“The flavours offered are very fresh red and black fruits and the alcohols are very balanced.”