Grüner Veltliner and Oregon, a Grü-Vee Combination

| February 22, 2011 | 1 Comment

Oregon may be known for its pinot noir, but the mild climate here makes it a perfect place to also grow cool-climate white varieties such as grüner veltliner, which is starting to take root in Oregon. A handful of vineyards and wineries are now growing and making this wine, and it’s developing a strong following among white wine lovers. And many of those vineyards are in our part of the valley.
Grüner veltliner is a white grape variety closely associated with Austria, where it is the nation’s most important varietal in terms of quality and volume produced. This white wine is known for its food-friendliness.
From what I could find, the state’s oldest grüner veltliner vines are right here in Salem at Vitae Springs Vineyard, where the first vines were planted in 1981. Joel VanVolkinburg said more were planted in 2000 and 2006.

A selection of grüner veltliner available in Oregon.

Vitae Springs has the smallest production, with about 30 cases a year. The 2009 is already sold out and the vineyard is already selling futures on its 2010, which will be released sometime in April. Their first vintage was 2007.
On the other side of the spectrum, the state’s largest producer of grüner veltliner is Illahe Vineyards in Dallas. Winemaker Brad Ford said vines were planted at the vineyard’s West Salem site around 1990 and the first vintage released was in 2007. More were planted in 2004 at the vineyard in Dallas, and the first bottling of wine from those grapes was the 2008 vintage.  For the 2009 vintage, 300 cases were made but it’s all sold out. The 2010 vintage will be released at the end of March. Illahe manages to produce 300 cases from 1.5 acres of vines.

In the past, Brad fermented the grüner veltliner in stainless steel, but for the 2010 vintage, he’s blending some that was fermented in neutral oak. He said he was inspired by some Austrian grüner veltliners that were blended with oak.

Grüner veltliner's good acidity, herbaceous flavors and notes of citrus and peach make it a good combination with oysters.

Other Oregon winemakers making grüner veltliner include Bethel Heights, Chehalem, Daedalus, Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards and Viento. I’ve been able to taste five Oregon grüner veltlinters: Illahe, Bethel Heights, Vitae Springs, Chehalem and Viento. The five wines showed amazing complexity and variety of flavors, including layers of vanilla, peaches, nectarines, grapefruit, and all of them had a common white pepper finish.
Some of the winemakers are fermenting strictly in stainless steel while others are blending wine that’s fermented in neutral oak.
The good acidity in the wines makes them a perfect pairing for oysters on the half shell and spicy foods like Thai and Chinese.
If you enjoy whites, Oregon’s grüners are definitely worth trying.


— Vic


Category: Wine/Wineries

About the Author (Author Profile)

Victor Panichkul is a journalist and writer by training; a cook, wine lover and photographer by passion; and a lover of the outdoors since moving to Oregon more than 10 years ago. He is a native of Bangkok, Thailand.

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