After reading the story behind this northwestern state's amazing journey into the upper echelon of wine regions, you'll make tracks to your local wine merchant - and reservations to Portland.
You pretty much expect Oregon winemakers to go overboard hyping their product - "We're in the golden age of Oregon wines," one declared recently - but you tend to listen more closely when industry heavyweights outside the state begin nodding in agreement.

"I don't know if it's global warming or dumb luck, but starting with 1998, Oregon has had an unbroken series of four outstanding vintages," says Harvey Steiman, editor at large for New York-based Wine Spectator and a man who's been covering Oregon wines for more than 25 years. "The standout is 1999, but they're all good."

Among the 40 or so varietal wines produced in the state, it's the Pinot Noirs - wines from the subtle yet strangely powerful red grape - that are doing most of the standing out. Beyond the state's borders, when people say "Oregon wine" what they're really saying is "Oregon Pinot Noir." Steiman calls it the Kobe Bryant of wines.

"When you watch Kobe play, he weaves through defenders, but he can also slam dunk, and that's what a great Pinot Noir can do," he says.