Oregon has one of the most diverse geo-climates in the world makes it one of the best places to grow several types of grapes for making high quality wines. This makes it possible for vintners to successful grow superb cool and warm-climate varieties within a small region. There are many things that affect the quality of both grapes and wine: Soil Types, Climate, Location and topography just to name a few. In France they call this collection “terroir”, in Oregon they call it “sense of place”. This is the reason that visitors can experience and compare a large variety of Quality Wines in such a small geographic area.
In the United States we distinguish wine grape-growing regions by AVA’s (American Viticulture Area). This is unlike the European way of designing wines and grapes, which designates type of grapes grown, the method of vilification and even crop yield. AVA’s only specifies a geographical location where at least 85% of the grapes used to make the wine must be grown.
The variation of climates and different soils determine where and what types of grapes can be grown for the best wines. This is a large factor in categorizing the AVA’s. We include some of these details in each of our discretion of the AVA.
The Willamette Valley contains six AVAs: Chehalem Mountains ,Yamhill-Carlton, Ribbon Ridge, Eola-Amity Hills, Dundee Hills and McMinnvile. The Willamette Valley is know for it’s Pinot Noir wines because of it’s cool climate.
Pinot Noir is the Chehalem Mountains’ mainstay varietal, created in a variety of styles ranging from light and fruit-driven to more concentrated examples from older vines. These frequently exhibit intense fruit flavors, earthy mushroom notes, fine-grained tannins, and acidity, indicating their potential for aging. Pinot Gris, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Chardonnay are also used to make excellent wines.
The massive uplifted landmass know as the Chehalem Mountains just southwest of Portland is in the northern Willamette Valley it has over 70,000 acres, over 1,600 acres of grapes, over 100 vineyards AND 31 Wineries. The highest point in the Chehalem Mountains’ Bald Peak reaches 1,633 feet and has a huge affect on the weather and the grapes grown on the hillsides. The hillside soils are a complex combination of basaltic, ocean sedimentary and blown lakebed sediment, called loess.
The Yamhill-Carlton AVA is an American Viticultural Area that spans both Washington and Yamhill counties in Oregon. It is wholly within the Willamette Valley AVA and encircles the communities of Carlton and Yamhill.
In the foot hills of the Coast Range which rises 3,500 which supplies a wonderful rain shadow over the AVA and the supported to the north by the Chehalem Mountains and East by the Dundee Hills. There are more than 60,000 acers, that cover Carlton and Yamhill. The quickly drain soil is coarse-grained ancient marine sediments and some of the oldest soil in the valley. This AVA was established in 2005 but is home to one of the first wineries in the Willamette Valley, Elk Cove Winery in 1974.
Ribbon Ridge is relatively small compared to the surrounding landscapes and thus benefits from shelter from prevailing weather systems, making it slightly warmer and drier than other AVAs in the northern Willamette Valley. The Coast Range to the west protects the ridge from the worst effects of the Pacific Ocean, while the Chehalem Mountains to the north provide protection from the seasonal temperature extremes of the Columbia Valley.
Ribbon Ridge is one of the smaller sub-AVA contained in the Larger Chehalem Mountains AVA with only 3,340 Acers and with only a little over 500 acers being planted on the ridge. Even with it’s relative small area there are some 20 vineyards. It’s soil is mostly ocean sediment and because there are few aquifers this area is mostly dry fared. This AVA was established in 2005.
These hills, which are adjacent to the Willamette River, are made up of the Eola Hills, which straddle the 45th parallel on the southern end, and the Amity Hills on the northern spur, totaling nearly 40,000 acres, of which more than 1,300 acres are planted with grapes.
Framed by the 45th parallel and the Amity Hills the AVA contains around 40,00 acres of which 1,300 are planted in grapes. The two biggest influences here are the volcanic basalt form ancient lava flows combined with marine sedimentary rocks/or alluvial deposits and the cool ocean winds that flow through the Van Duzer corridor dropping the temperatures dramatically, especially during the summer afternoons which help keep the acids firm in the grapes.
Dundee Hills is an AVA in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, approximately 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Portland. The first Pinot Noir vines were cultivated in the Willamette Valley in the mid-1960s by growers keen to prove that Oregon’s terroir was best suited to the variety than California.
Where it all began, Yes, the Dundee Hills were where the first grapes where planted in the Willamette Valley. It’s the most densely planted with more that 1,700 acres of grapes in it’s 12,500 acres. The rich, red volcanic Jory soil, which is formed from ancient volcanic basalt and is typically 4 to 6 feet deep and overlooks the Willamette River to the south and to the north is the Chehalem Valley. The AVA was established in 2005 but the first Pinot noir vines where planted in 1965 by David Lett ( The Eyrie Vineyard) and is known for its Pinot noir, Pinot gris and Chardonnay.
Stretching 20 miles long from McMinnville to the mouth of the Van Duzer Corridor, with an elevation range from 200 feet to 1000 feet. The soils here are mostly uplifted marine sedimentary silts and basalt, which create the uniquely shallow soil for winegrowing. The protective shadow of the Coast Range mountains create less rain that helps create an optimal environment for wine grapes. With its nearly 40,500 acres, there are only 600 acres of grapes planted.
The McMinnville AVA is a true Willamette Valley treasure. The area is known for its rich fruit-, spice-, and earth-toned reds, as well as its bright fruit-forward whites, and is home to some of the region’s most beautiful rolling hills. It is a must-see for wine enthusiasts.