August 12, 2020

Why Oregon Is Home to the Coolest, Grooviest Sparkling Wines in America

Departures Logoby Katie Kelly Bell

“Oregon sparkling wine has already earned its share of critical acclaim and yet this scrappy tightly-knit wine region continues to experiment with intriguing riffs on the tradition-infused méthode champenoise style.

Argyle Winery Winemaker, Nate Klostermann, notes that sparkling wine production is expanding throughout Oregon’s Willamette Valley. ‘Our well-drained, high elevation, volcanic soils allow for balanced, elegant structure and pure fruit flavors,’ he says, ‘which develop vibrant, complex aromatics while retaining high natural acidity important for delicious sparkling wines.’

In keeping with Oregon’s often freewheeling winemaking mojo, several producers are getting into the game with bottlings such as the Art Brut Melon de Bourgogne from Root Wine Company or the Sauvignon Blanc Pétillant-Naturel from La Randonée. Kramer, who currently sparkles eight different varietals from the Yamhill-Carlton appellation, explains that Oregon’s ‘lack of attachment to tradition opens up some exciting possibilities for style, variety, and blends that are unique.’

Sparkling wine is certainly nothing new to the region. Argyle Winery, whose extended tirage bottlings enjoy the highest scores for any sparkling wines made outside of Champagne, started crafting bubbly in Oregon in 1987. Yet, Thomas Houseman, winemaker for Anne Amie Vineyards, remembers when his winery first launched their now-annual sparkling wine event, ‘The first year we hosted the event it was a one day affair, and we barely had enough producers to fill the room. It is now a two-day event, and we have a waiting list from other wineries to participate.’

…It’s not all puppies and cupcakes, and Kramer notes that much work has yet to be done. ‘There’s a lot we have yet to work out, from finding the best sites, planting the best clones, and managing those vineyards for sparkling wines specifically.’ It’s worth noting the experts in Champagne have been crafting sparkling wine for centuries. Fortunately for bubbly lovers, this means many more vintages of cool, intriguing sparkling wines from Oregon to explore in real time.

2009 Argyle Extended Tirage Rosé
With ten years on the lees, this is one of the most extraordinary vintage sparklings made in America today.”