With a population of 22,000, Roseburg is the heart of the Land of Umpqua, and the largest city within the Umpqua Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA). The Umpqua River rolls through town, and out to a picturesque land of covered bridges and waterfalls, hiking and biking trails. There’s even the nearby Wildlife Safari to enjoy during your wine-touring stay.
This is the Umpqua Valley AVA – a series of valleys and hills on the same latitude as those running directly through some of Europe’s greatest grape-growing districts. Drier and warmer than the Oregon wine regions to the north, and cooler than the Rogue and Applegate wine regions to the south, you’ll find Burgundian wines varieties like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Bordeaux’s such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and even Spanish varietals Tempranillo and Allbarino.
In fact, there are almost as many winegrowers – and wine-making styles – as there are varieties of grapes in the Umpqua Valley. Most wineries are family owned and operated, offering you a personal experience of their tasting rooms and vineyards.
Located in Southern Oregon’s Douglas County, the Umpqua Valley AVA is tucked in between the Oregon Coast Range to the west and the Cascades to the east. Directly north lies Willamette Valley’s wine-growing region and to the south, the Rogue Valley. The region stretches 65 miles north to south and 25 miles east to west, accessible by Interstate 5 and Highway 101.
An autumn view from the patio of Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards west of Roseburg.
From the first planting of Pinot Noir grapes in Oregon to the introduction of Spanish varietal Tempranillo in the Pacific Northwest, the Umpqua Valley is a land of pioneers. Established in 1984, it’s also Oregon’s oldest viticulture region.
The winegrowing history dates back to the 1880s when German immigrants planted the first wine grape vineyard in the valley. In 1961, Richard Sommer established Oregon’s oldest estate winery still in operation, HillCrest Vineyards, near Roseburg. In the ’70s, wineries continued to open including Henry Estate Winery, whose founder, Scott Henry, developed a world-famous trellis system for growing vines.
There are two sub-appellations wholly within the boundaries of the Umpqua Valley: Red Hill Douglas County, established in 2004 and Elkton Oregon, established in 2013.
With temperatures varying as much as 60 degrees in the summer, the Umpqua Valley wine region is comprised of three distinct climatic sub-zones. The northern area around the town of Elkton enjoys a cool, marine-influenced climate. The central area to the northwest of the city of Roseburg has a transitional, or intermediate, climate where both cool and warm varieties do quite well. The area south of Roseburg is warmer and more arid, similar to the Rogue and Applegate valleys to the south.
Umpqua Valley soils are as varied as the climate. Generally, they are derived from a mix of metamorphic, sedimentary and volcanic rock, though more than 150 soil types have been identified in the region. The valley floor levels have mostly deep alluvial or heavy clay materials, while the hillsides and bench locations have mixed alluvial, silt or clay structures-all typically excellent for winegrowing.
Source: Oregon Wine Board
The complex topography of the Umpqua Valley is a result of the collision of three mountain ranges of varying age and structure: the Klamath Mountains, the Coast Range and the Cascades. Many say the area should not be thought of as a single valley but, rather, more accurately “The Hundred Valleys of the Umpqua” because it is made up of a series of interconnecting small mountain ranges and valleys.
Source: Oregon Wine Board
You’ll find more than 40 different wine varieties planted here. The cooler valleys allow grapes such as Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Riesling to flourish while the warmer valleys produce outstanding Syrah, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon. This climate lends itself well to the Rhone varietals such as Viognier and Grenache and the Spanish Albariño and Graciano. Other popular varietals include Merlot, Zinfandel, Baco Noir, Cabernet Franc and Gewurztraminer.