Oregon’s Exceptional Sparkling Wines And Other Delightfully Unique Discoveries

a vineyard just south of Salem, Oregon

By Jim Peterson
Wine Enthusiast & Instagram Wine Influencer

As a wine lover, I am often most satisfied when I am surprised to discover great wines outside my normal expectations. Oregon held several surprises for me on a recent trip. I discovered interesting wines that were not Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, and that included some delicious sparkling wines. You will want to try some of these super cool wines.

What are these other wines, you ask? If we take a step back and think about another region that’s dominated by the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, what comes to mind? Most would say Burgundy, but the answer I’m looking for is Champagne! That’s right. Oregon winemakers have begun producing some exceptional sparkling wines. Along with sparkling, I was surprised to discover that several wineries have planted two of my favorite grapes for summer red wines – Gamay and Trousseau. I also tasted wines typically found in European regions – like Syrah found in the French Rhône Valley and Riesling found in the German regions of Mosel and Rheingau. There were even a couple other oddballs like Grüner Veltliner and Aligoté in the mix. So, what did I think about these wines? Let’s explore.



While there are wineries who have a sparkling wine or two in their portfolio, I was fortunate to visit the newly opened tasting room for Corollary Wines. Corollary is unique because they solely focus on sparkling wines. The owners, husband and wife team Dan Diephouse and Jeanne Feldkamp, took the leap in 2017 to form Corollary Wines. They use the traditional method (like they do in Champagne) to make their wines. Along with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, they sometimes include Pinot Blanc in the blends.

This was one of my favorite tastings for two reasons. First, there is an audacity I respect to only focus on sparkling wines. Secondly, the wines are truly exceptional. Given my recent infatuation with Champagne, at one point while tasting the Corollary 2019 X Omni Blanc de Blancs I remarked to my friends, “This reminds me of a champagne from Avize.” It was my favorite of the day, but their other wines were super enjoyable too.

One other fun Oregon sparkling wine I have tried includes the Soter Vineyards Mineral Springs Brut Rosé. This wine has earned the affectionate nickname “Soter Pop” from fans. The Adelsheim Brut Rosé was a welcome refreshment after walking the sunny vineyards during my visit. There are many other examples, and some of my winery favorites like Hazelfern are now beginning to experiment with Oregon sparkling wines too.

I’m telling you. Keep an eye out for Oregon sparkling. They are quickly becoming one of the hot new things in wine.



As a reminder, Gamay is the grape used for the delectable, bright wines of Beaujolais. It may not be for everyone, but I am a huge fan of tasty Gamay wines. Oregon wine producers began including Gamay in their lineups quite some time ago. I have long been enthralled by the Gamay wines of Oregon. Wineries like Bow & Arrow, Vincent, Division Wine, Averӕn, and Martin Woods are just some of the fantastic Oregon Gamay producers I have tried over the years. After my trip, I am adding Ricochet Wines to the list of nice Gamay wines too.

A delightful discovery was the Gamay produced by Arlyn. Arlyn is a boutique winery founded by Janis Pate in 2012. She bought a 40-acre farm, planted grapes, and started producing wine a few years later. She only makes about 1,000 cases of wine per year. It was fun casually hanging out and chatting with her. Janis has a charming story, and her Gamay is a perfect red for summer sipping. When I open a Gamay wine, I recommend a slight chill. As I always say, you cannot help but be happy while sipping a nice, juicy Gamay.



I have been fascinated by Trousseau for several years now. While it’s a grape more common to the Jura wine region in France, I have discovered some outstanding Trousseau from California. But Oregon? I had no idea. On my first night in Oregon, I was both surprised and delighted to see the Hazelfern Trousseau on the restaurant wine list. I have tasted Hazelfern wines before, but I did not know they made a Trousseau. Of course I had to have it! I enjoyed the wine so much that I messaged the owners that night and asked if I could stop by the next day to buy some. Like Gamay, Trousseau is a great summer red wine – light bodied and fruity with strawberry and raspberry aromas and flavors. A few days later I discovered The Eyrie Vineyards makes Trousseau wine too. All I can say is, if you like to geek out on wine like me, you must try some Oregon Trousseau.



Once you get outside of the Willamette Valley wine region, there are different climates that support grapes you normally find in the Rhône Valley in France. I have long been familiar with Big Table Farm’s Syrah from Funk Estate Vineyards. This vineyard is in the Rocks District of Walla Walla Valley near the Washington border. Prior to the Funk Estate Syrah, Big Table Farm made a Syrah from Oregon’s Rogue Valley region to south. I recently discovered a Brooks Wine Syrah from the Deux Vert Vineyard in Yamhill-Carlton, a smaller region in Willamette Valley. From my experience, these Syrah are a bit more supple and more approachable when young than those from the Rhône Valley.

I would be remiss if I did not talk about the Syrah I tasted at Ricochet Wines. Ricochet Wines is a Willamette Valley winery in McMinnville, but the Syrah grapes are technically from Washington State. Owner and winemaker, Erich Berg, hosted me for a fun-filled tasting that even included barrel tastings.



Riesling was originally planted in Oregon way back in the 1880s, and the total acreage has varied over the years. I would not be surprised if you have never seen an Oregon Riesling on the shelf. Admittedly, it could be because you’re not looking for them. Hah! Still, they are worth trying when you see them. One of the most prominent producers is Brooks Wine. Their first vintage was 1998, and now some of these older vines are responsible for some killer wines. Brooks makes varied styles of Riesling with multiple single vineyard options. The Brooks Wine Rieslings are some of the easiest to find, and they are quite good.

There are many other Oregon Riesling producers. I have enjoyed the Teutonic Rieslings, no doubt because the winemaker, Barnaby Tuttle, literally started his whole winemaking journey because he wanted to learn how to make wines like they do in the Mosel region of Germany.

Trisaetum is another winery producing excellent Oregon Riesling. This is a family-owned winery, founded by husband-and-wife James and Andrea Frey, where the winery name is an amalgam of their children’s names, Tristen and Tatum. I love the personal touch. There are a lot of options with Oregon Riesling, so grab one to try the next time you see it on the shelf.



As with all wine regions, Oregon has several micro-climates differently suited to specific grape varieties. The more interesting aspect is the adventurous winery owners who are so willing to experiment beyond normal expectations. When I visited Walter Scott winery, I tasted an amazing Aligoté wine – a grape you rarely see outside of Burgundy. I also enjoyed fresh, delightful Pinot Blanc wines from Oregon. I even tasted an Oregon Grüner Veltliner, a grape typically associated with Austria. A few years ago I recall enjoying a Pinot Meunier from Oregon.

Sometimes when I see these oddball wines, I find myself wondering, “Who does this?” Then after I taste the wine, my wonderment most often turns to gratitude. I am so grateful these vineyard owners and wineries are willing to risk their capital, and sometimes their reputation, to try something out of the ordinary. For wine lovers like me, there is nothing more satisfying than being totally surprised by a wine. My advice is to give yourself that chance to be surprised. Find something new and totally out of character to try. The variety of Oregon wines gives you plenty of opportunities. Carpe Diem!


Follow Jim on Instagram, @tx_wine_pilot, for more wine tips and reviews.


Jim Peterson is a retired U.S. Air Force officer who mainly flew the A-10 fighter jet. He has ties to the wine business going back over 20 years and is an avid wine collector. His extensive wine knowledge includes travel to many wine regions, tasting many of the world’s top wines, and ongoing personal wine exploration. He has cultivated a large following on his Instagram account, @tx_wine_pilot. He now offers customized in-home wine tastings in South Texas. Visit txwinepilot.com to learn more.