I occasionally get a request to feature a winery from Oregon, where, as in Washington, the wine industry has increased dramatically over the past decade.
Oregon now boasts over 400 wineries, but because production is relatively small - generally running about 20 to 25 percent of Washington's annual production - it's often difficult to find Oregon wines distributed in Whatcom County.
Fortunately, a drive from Bellingham to Portland only takes about 4 1/2 hours. If you use the Rose City as a "home base," you're within easy reach of scores of Oregon wineries in Willamette Valley.
During the past several years I've traveled to this area as well as three other Oregon wine regions that are shared with Washington: the Columbia Gorge, Columbia Valley, and Walla Walla Valley appellations. Although you won't find anywhere near the variety of wines that we produce here, you're certain to come across some world-class pinot noir and pinot gris, which, by the way, account for nearly three-fourths of the wine produced in Oregon.
A few Oregon wineries I've enjoyed include The Pines 1852 Vineyard & Winery in Hood River. The tasting room features a gallery with works from Pacific Northwest artists, and the wine list includes a number of less-common Oregon varietals, including viognier, syrah and zinfandel.
Downtown McMinnville is home to Twelve Wine, where there are several exquisite pinot noirs in a price range to suit nearly every budget.
Farther south is Noble Estate Vineyard, just a few miles outside of Eugene. The tasting room currently offers a merlot that I thought was absolutely dreamy, and the adjacent deck provides outdoor seating with peerless views of the surrounding forests.
I have yet to travel as far south as Abacela, located in Roseburg, but I have tried their wines at regional wine festivals. You can also sometimes find them available for sale in Bellingham wine shops and grocers. Of particular note are their albariño white and tempranillo red wines; difficult to find among Northwest wineries and superbly produced there.
On Oct. 27 I will moderate a multi-course dinner at Nine Restaurant, at North Bellingham Golf Course, featuring Oregon's largest winery, King Estate. Put aside any preconceived notions you may have about big wineries and prepare yourself for a memorable evening of beautifully crafted wines.
A representative from the winery will also be on hand to provide information and answer questions. Prepaid reservations are required. Call 360-398-8300, ext. 2, for details.
DAN RADIL is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.