Wine production in Oregon is as old as the territory. However, the industry experienced a boom in the 1960s. The establishment of commercial wineries and vineyards led to the significant growth of winemaking. With the increase in the number of wineries, the state enacted laws to regulate wine production. Besides, Oregon is the fourth biggest wine producing state in the U.S.
Oregon legislation stated the following requirements for wineries:
- Wineries in Oregon should possess the right federal wholesaler or federal producer permit and present it during the initial licensing or renewal of the license.
- Wineries with the federal license permit can only enjoy the privileges offered by the state license for the brands produced or marketed by them.
- Oregon licensed wineries whose operations or part are contracted out must have at least a written agreement with a winery licensed “Brick and Mortar” in Oregon.
Wine shops, licensed as wineries in Oregon are not eligible for the federal producer or wholesaler permit. These businesses sell bottled for consumption away from the premises. This type of venture needs the Off-Premises Sales License for continued operation.
Oregon regulation on wine labeling is stricter than other U.S wine producing states. It requires that 90% of the grapes used in the production of wine to be the declared variety. Conversely, the federal regulation requires 75% for the named variety of grapes used for a wine. Wines produced in this state are named after the grape variety used in making them. Pinot blanc, Pinot gris, Pinot noir and Chardonnay are popular Oregon’s wine. Besides these widely known types, up to 50 grape varieties exist in Oregon.
About 18 varieties of grapes excluded by the varietal labeling can be blended with about 25% of other grapes variety. They include Grenache, Cabernet franc, Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Marsanne, Mourvedre, Merlot, Roussanne, Semillon, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon blanc, Sangiovese, Syrah, Tempranillo, Tannat and Zinfandel. These varieties have been used for ages for blending purposes.
Another regulation allows wineries to operate tasting rooms and permits hosting of commercial activities on the wineries. However, most of the wine producing companies are located in exclusive farm-use areas. This law affects wineries in such designated zones as they may have to change how they operate their enterprises. Winemakers can conduct events such as wine tasting and tours, and sales of products for promotion of their brands. They can also hold non-commercial events such as concerts and weddings. However, the occasions must not exceed twenty-five days per year.
Also, the law permits big wineries that possess about 160 acres to establish restaurants on their farmlands. Such winemakers must have up to 50 acres of vineyard and a yearly production of 63,000 cases or more. Without a county permit, such restaurants can only open for 25 days in a year.
The larger wineries seem to be at an advantage with this law. However, smaller ones feel that the regulation makes it difficult for them to get established in the industry.