Oregon

Everyone we met told us how young the area is as far as vineyards and wine. They just passed 50 years. Humility is a virtue in Oregon. The grapes began in the Willamette Valley, but today you will find 2 other regions, the Columbia Gorge and Southern Oregon, where vineyards and wineries have a definite foothold. The state has 18 AVAs. Here are a few stats from the Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

72 Grape varieties – 725 Wineries – 30,435 planted vineyard acres

But there is more to it. 47% of the vineyards in Oregon are certified sustainable. And while they only tap into a 1% share of the US wine market, they held 20% of the Wine Spectator 90+ scores in 2015 & 2016. Quality is something they take great pride in.

Vista Hills Vineyard, grape Vines
Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association

This map shows the current AVAs, soils and even the vineyard blocks. We thank the Willamette Valley Wineries Association for allowing us to use it and pass along their acknowledgements “Map data by everyvine.com, design by John Fisher, geologic cross section by Timothy A. Cross, special thanks to Patrick Reuter.”

The Willamette Valley is 60 miles wide at it’s widest (east to west), but is over 100 miles long (north to south), so you will note that the map is flipped so that as you look at it North is to the left, East is up, South is to the right and West (where you will find the Pacific Ocean over the Coast Range) is down.

The overall valley is the Willamette Valley AVA and within it there are currently 6 sub-appellations.

Willamette Valley AVA

The overall AVA spans the area from the Portland in the North to Eugene Oregon in the South and sits between the Coastal and Cascade Ranges. Plantings began in 1966 and the AVA itself was established in 1983. The base of the valley itself is fertile and great for agriculture, except of course for grapes. Grapes need the struggle to be tasty enough to make wine. As a result, most of the vineyards will be between 200 and 1000 feet in elevation.

Within this large AVA you will find the 6 sub-appellations, one of which is nested inside another. We will work our way from North to South (left to right on the map as you look at it)

Established: 1983
Total Area: 3,428,800 acres (1,387,600 ha)
Planted Area: 23,525 acres (9,580 ha)*
Predominant Soils: Marine sedimentary, volcanic, loess
Predominant Varieties: Pinot noir, Pinot gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot blanc

Chehalem Mountains AVA

Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association

Established: 2006
Total Area: 62,500 acres (25,300 ha)
Planted Area: 2,660 acres (1,075 ha)
Predominant Soils: Marine sedimentary, volcanic, loess (Laurelwood series)
Predominant Varieties: Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Pinot gris, Riesling, Pinot blanc, Gamay noir and Gewürztraminer

Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

Furthest north and to the east side of the valley, you will find the Chehalem (Sha-HAY-lum) Mountains AVA. The Chehalem Mountain Range is 20 miles long and 5 miles wide and was established in 2006. Within the Range you will find Ribbon Ridge (which is its own AVA) and Parrett Mountain. The area is home to around 150 small vineyards, most average around 12.5 acres and are family owned.

Soils here vary. This was after-all an uplift that created the range and you find sedimentary seabed, red soils from lava flows, and glacial sediment. So you find variety in soils and within the AVA there will be both similarities and contrasts. This would be part of the reason for the nested Ribbon Ridge AVA and the proposed nested Laurelwood AVA. http://www.chehalemmountains.org/home

Yamhill-Carlton AVA

Yamhill-Carlton AVA Map

Established: 2004
Total Area: 58,100 acres (23,500 ha)
Planted Area: 2,405 acres (970 ha)*
Predominant Soils: Marine sedimentary (Willakenzie series)
Predominant Varieties: Pinot noir, Pinot gris and Chardonnay

Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

West of the Chehalem Mountains and North of McMinnville you will find the Yamhill-Carlton AVA established in 2005. The AVA was named for the two hamlets, Yamhill and Carlton nestled in the center of the horseshoe shaped ridges in the foothills of the Coast Range. The Coast range provides a rain shadow (an area where the rain typically does not fall) over the whole area.

The soils here are the oldest of the marine sedimentary soils in the overall Willamette Valley. The soils are coarse-grained and drain easily, which is great for making the vines struggle. https://yamhillcarlton.org/

Ribbon Ridge AVA

Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association

Established: 2005
Total Area: 3,500 acres (1,400 ha)
Planted Area: 650 acres (260 ha)*
Predominant Soils: Marine sedimentary (Willakenzie series)
Predominant Varieties: Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Pinot gris, Riesling, Gamay noir

Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

This AVA sits within the Chehalem Mountains AVA and was established in 2005. Ribbon Ridge is a spur of ocean sediment uplift that is contained within 5.25 square miles on the northwest end of the Chehalem Mountains.
The uniform soils of ocean sediment that is high-quartz sandstone and weathered bedrock set this area of the Chehalem Mountains apart. http://ribbonridgeava.org/

Laurelwood AVA

General Area of the proposed Laurelwood AVA

This area is nested within the Chehalem Mountains AVA. This proposed AVA encompasses the Northern facing slopes of the Chehalem Mountains, honing in on the Laurelwood soils.

These Laurelwood soils are Ice Age Loess (windblown silt), contained within the Northern slopes. The southern and western facing slopes in the Chehalem Mountains are primarily Columbia River Basalt and Marine Sediment.

Dundee Hills AVA

Dundee Hills AVA

Established: 2004
Total Area: 12,500 acres (5,100) ha)
Planted Area: 2,225 acres (900 ha)*
Predominant Soils: Volcanic (Jory series)
Predominant Varieties: Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Pinot gris, Pinot blanc

Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

Here is the place where the first of the grapes in the Willamette Valley were planted. It remains densely planted with around 50 vineyards in one of the busiest areas in the Willamette Valley.

This was the start of Pinot Noir in Oregon. The first Pinot vine was planted here. When we speak about the area being in it’s 50 year of growing grapes, we are talking about this place, the Dundee Hills. Eyrie, Sokol Blosser, Erath…if you know Oregon wine, you know those revered names. It was here that David Lett, Dick Erath and the Sokol Blossers took a chance and planted those first vineyards.

The Dundee Hills AVA was established in 2005. The soils here are almost all basaltic (volcanic) soil deposited by a lava flow 15 million years ago. https://dundeehills.org/about/

McMinnville AVA

McMinnville AVA

Established: 2005
Total Area: 36,900 acres (14,900 ha)
Planted Area: 750 acres (305 ha)*
Predominant Soils: Marine sedimentary, marine bedrock and volcanic
Predominant Varieties: Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Pinot gris, Riesling, Pinot blanc

Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

Also established in 2005, the McMinnville AVA takes it’s name from the city of McMinnville which sits just east of the AVA.
The vineyards sit on the east and southeast slopes of the Coast Range where the soils are uplifted marine sedimentary over basalt. The soils here are shallow and the Coast Range protects the area from rain. https://mcminnvilleava.org/

Eola-Amity Hills AVA

Eola-Amity Hills AVA

Established: 2006
Total Area: 39,200 acres (15,900 ha)
Planted Area: 3,005 acres (1,220 ha)*
Predominant Soils: Marine sedimentary and volcanic
Predominant Varieties: Pinot noir, Chardonnay

Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

This AVA sits in the Eola Hill’s along the Willamette River and straddles the 45th parallel (just as Burgundy does) and reaches north to the Amity Hills.

Soils here are shallow and mostly volcanic basalt with with marine sedimentary rocks. It’s shallow and rocky (that tends to make small concentrated berries). The Van Duzer corridor causes summer afternoon temps to drop, which is especially helpful in late summer as the grapes are ripening, to keep the acids firm. https://eolaamityhills.com/

Tualatin Hills AVA

(proposed)

This area sits North of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA and West of Chehalem Mountains AVA. This AVA is horse shoe shaped and it’s southern edge butts up to the northern edge of Yamhill-Carlton. From there it stretches north following the edge of the Willamette Valley AVA and then takes a right turn East toward Portland. It shares a little bit of a border with the Chehalem Mountains AVA on it’s south east side and well as a tiny bit with the proposed Laurelwood AVA.

Van Duzer Corridor AVA

General Area of the proposed Van Duzer Corridor AVA

Established: 2019
Total Area: 59,850 acres (24,220 ha)
Planted Area: 1,000 acres (405 ha)
Predominant Soils: Marine sedimentary
Predominant Varieties: Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Pinot gris, Riesling, Pinot blanc, Sauvignon blanc

Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

On the west side of the Eola Hills you will find the Van Duzer Corridor AVA.

Soils here are basalt and marine sedimentary over siltstone bedrock. The winds here are key. Eola-Amity brags about the Van Duzer Corridor winds, but here, on this side, the strong winds cause the grapes to thicken their skins.

Snake River Valley AVA

Established: 2007
Planted Area: 1,205 acres (490 ha)
Predominant Soils: Varies throughout the region
Predominant Varieties: Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Merlot, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay

Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

Columbia Valley AVA

Established: 1984
Planted Area: 9,010 acres (3,645 ha)
Predominant Soils: Loess, sandy silts, loams
Predominant Varieties: Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Sauvignon blanc, Pinot gris, Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Franc, Viognier

Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

Walla Walla AVA

Established: 1984
Total Area: 359,600 acres (145,525 ha)
Planted Area: 2,930 acres (1,185 ha) total, 1,260 acres (510 ha) in Oregon*
Predominant Soils: Volcanic, Missoula flood sediments, loess, cobbles
Predominant Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot

Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

Mt. Pisgah/Polk County AVA (proposed)

General Area of the proposed Mount Pisgah AVA

South of McMinnville and West of the Eola-Amity Hills, kind of out on it’s own you will find the proposed Mt. Pisgah/Polk County AVA. West of Salem Oregon, there are just 10 vineyards and 2 wineries in this area.

Here the base is some of the oldest rocks in the Valley, Siletz River volcanics, and it is covered in a shallow layer of marine sedimentary soils.

Elevations here are higher and the vineyards on Mt. Pisgah are protected from extreme temperatures and wind.

Lower Long Tom AVA

Far south between Corvalis and Eugene you find the proposed Lower Long Tom AVA. This region is south of Corvalis, north of Eugene and sits on the western border of the Willamette Valley AVA. Soils here are marine sedimentary soil in the Prairie Mountain and Bellpine series.

Temps here are higher with Prairie Mountain diverting winds North and South around the area.

Southern Oregon AVA

Established: 2005
Total Area: 2,283,600 acres (924,500 ha)
Planted Area: 8,090 acres (3,265 ha)*
Predominant Soils: Marine sedimentary, alluvial gravels, volcanic
Predominant Varieties: Pinot noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Viognier

Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

Applegate Valley AVA

Established: 2000
Total Area: 278,190 acres (112,600 ha)
Planted Area: 640 acres (260 ha)*
Predominant Soils: Stream Sediments
Predominant Varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Syrah, Pinot noir, Chardonnay

Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

Roque Valley AVA

Established: 1991
Total Area: 5,600 acres (2,200 ha)
Planted Area: 4,860 acres (1,960 ha)
Predominant Soils: Stream sediments
Predominant Varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Syrah, Pinot noir, Chardonnay

Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

Red Hill Douglas County AVA

Established: 2005
Total Area: 5,600 acres (2,200 ha)
Planted Area: 460 acres (185 ha)*
Predominant Soils: Volcanic
Predominant Varieties: Pinot noir, Pinot gris

Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

Umpqua Valley AVA

Established: 1984
Total Area: 693,300 acres (280,600 ha)
Planted Area: 3,225 acres (1,305 ha)*
Predominant Soils: Stream sediments, marine sedimentary bedrock, volcanic
Predominant Varieties: Pinot noir, Pinot gris, Tempranillo, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay

Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

Elkton Oregon AVA

Established: 2013
Total Area: 74,900 acres (30,311 ha)
Planted Area: 305 acres (125 ha)*
Predominant Soils: Clay loam
Predominant Varieties: Pinot noir, Pinot gris, Gewürztraminer, Riesling

Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

Red Hill Douglas County AVA

Established: 2005
Total Area: 5,600 acres (2,200 ha)
Planted Area: 460 acres (185 ha)*
Predominant Soils: Volcanic
Predominant Varieties: Pinot noir, Pinot gris

Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

Oregon Wine