Sauvignon Blanc—you either love it or hate it. For me, with its captivating aromatics, it was one of the first wines that caught my attention. And it still does. Living in a state so well known for Pinot noir, it may surprise you that, over the past few decades, Oregon Sauvignon Blanc has been developing its own storied reputation.
According to the Oregon Wine Board, as of 2018, there were only 69 acres of Sauvignon Blanc planted in Oregon. Just five years later, there’s an estimated 150 acres. According to Nielsen, Sauvignon Blanc achieved 3% in dollar sales growth in 2021 overall, more than any other variety. It can now be tasted at 107 different tasting rooms around the state.
From Past to Present to Future
In the 1970s and ’80s, as Oregon’s contemporary wine scene was continuing to take root, more Sauvignon Blanc than Pinot Gris was thriving in the state. “It’s unfortunate that the reverse is true in such a severe manner at this point,” says Jim Anderson of Patricia Green Cellars. “It’s a terrific grape variety with an incredibly high ceiling for quality in a wide variety of stylistic capacities.”
Anderson and Patricia Green purchased Autumn Wind Winery and Vineyard in 2000. There was an existing section of Sauvignon Blanc, just a little over one acre, that had been planted in 1990. “To my knowledge, this remains the oldest section of Sauvignon Blanc – at least originally planted material – in Oregon, certainly in Yamhill County,” says Anderson. “We added onto that block and planted another block that, in effect, doubled the size of our Sauvignon Blanc plantings in 2002.”
King Estate Winery, located in Eugene Oregon, is often considered the winery that put Oregon Pinot Gris on the map. Set on repeating what they did for Pinot Gris with Sauvignon Blanc, King Estate has practically doubled their Sauvignon Blanc production since 2018, grafting over Pinot Gris and Merlot in some of their vineyards to meet Oregon’s increasing demands for this variety.
“Having grown Sauvignon Blanc for over 20 years in Oregon I have long been a strong proponent of the wine; and, when I came on board at King Estate in 2013, I was pushing for us to do something with this varietal,” says Ray Nuclo, King Estate director of viticulture. Given the small amount of acreage at the time, this started out as a small production wine for the wine club and the visitor center – just 250 cases. Establishing new relationships with the limited number of growers of Sauvignon Blanc, combined with encouraging others to plant new vineyard blocks, they were able to… For the full story on The Vintner Project, click here.