Amphorae, riesling, Jura varieties and more with Beckham Estate Vineyard

Wine tasting at Beckham Vineyard with a view of the Chehalem Mountains

Located in the Chehalem Mountains, Beckham is actually on Parrett Mountain on the south east end of the range.  We visited them in July of 2018 to hear their story.  It was a beautiful morning and Annedria set us up on the patio next to the tasting room, (which has a beautiful view), for our tasting. Andrew was busy in the studio making amphorae.

We had discussed the creation of the vineyard (you can see that in our post here).  Now we move on to Annedria telling us about planting their Riesling, expanding the vineyard, their inspiration from the Jura in France and then how the Amphorae Project began.

Planting riesling

Beckham Riesling block
Beckham Riesling block

When choosing a white grape to plant, they settled on Riesling and planted in 2013, the traditional way on the steepest, rockiest part of their vineyard.

“We had to hand pick with a pick axe every hole for each vine because it was just cobble and it’s taken a little while to come along.”

Annedria Beckham, July 2018

They had warm vintages from 2014 to 2017, so the vintage in 2016 was small with an even smaller vintage in 2017 since it is dry farmed.  Annedria was hoping they might have enough this year to do something.  She’s really looking forward to some Riesling. 

When the Riesling was planted they had 6 acres of Pinot Noir and 1 acre of Riesling on their 8 and a half acre parcel.

“I was doing my happy dance thinking we were done.  Now we were finished. No more breaks spent planting vines, pounding posts, no more catch wire. All of the infrastructure was finally in.  We were done.”

Annedria Beckham July 2018

More vineyard

Beckham the new block
Beckham the new block of Trousseau Noir

But Andrew was contemplating the acreage behind them.  He spoke to the owner and made a deal to purchase a bit of the parcel. 

The parcel was covered in Douglas Fir.  The family who owned it were Oregon homesteaders and had gone through a variety of crops on the land before settling on timber.  The owner liked that they were farming and was happy to make a deal for the property.  The county, however, couldn’t parcel off the property in smaller blocks, so they ended up with the whole 20 acres.

Soon Andrew was thinking of what else he could plant and the journey of contacting the timber guys, pulling out the Douglas fir and all that follows began again.

They cleared 10 of the 20 acres and prepped it.  At this point they had a bit more knowledge on how to lay out a vineyard and had decided to go with higher density, up to 2000 vines per acre from 1200.  That makes for just a few vines…2000 vines times 7 acres…that’s a chunk of change. They were also ready to go with North American root stock.  The previous vines were own rooted, which was pretty safe up here on Parrett Mountain, as they do not share equipment.

To save a bit, they took cuttings of North American root stock and planted them.  They could get the vines going and when they were ready, purchase bud wood to graft in place.

Falling in love with the Jura

Around this time, they also managed to take their first real vacation in years and and visited France.  They visited Burgundy, which Annedria said was wonderful, but they had enough Pinot Noir planted.  When they visited the Jura, they felt completely at home. This region is one of the undiscovered areas of France for many people. 

“it wasn’t a monoculture there yet.  There were still farms, there were still animals, there were still other crops.  It wasn’t just row after row of vines and hillside after hillside of vines.  And the people…you know, dirt under their fingernails and they were doing it like we were doing it”

Annedria Beckham July 2018

They visited cellars and garages in the Jura and decided that these were the varieties they wanted to plant.

Planting Jura varieties and testing some Italian varieties

There were a couple of vineyards that had planted Trousseau Noir, so it wasn’t completely new, but in around May of 2018 they grafted over 2 acres to 3 or 4 clones of Trousseau Noir, including the Bastardo clone.  They also grafted an acre to Sauvignon Blanc and an acre to Aligote. While they don’t anticipate getting Poulsard, they are looking to add Savagnin.

They also have a test block of a couple of Italian varieties, high alpine Nebbiolo, Montuni and Albana.  These last two from the Emilia Romagna region.  With global warming they are testing the waters to see what might start to grow well.

Making the cool climate style of Pinot Noir that they like is becoming more of a challenge without doing things like making additions, adding water, reacidulating etc in the winery, with the multiple warm vintages that they have been experiencing.  They’ve been doing it, but it is tougher.

A vineyard, a winemaker and an artist with clay – The amphorae project

The entrance to Beckham Vineyards from SW Heater Road
The entrance to Beckham Vineyards from SW Heater Road with it’s amphorae

Back to 2013.  They planted the Riesling, bought the new property, started clearing and one night,  Annedria has half a moment to flip thorough a Wine Spectator and comes across a piece on Elizabetta Foradori.

“I was flipping through waiting for my computer to load and I see this photograph of this stunning Italian woman in her underground cellar and row after row of these beautiful terra cotta vessels.  And it was Elizabetta Foradori in her cellar.  And I thought about it 3 different times before I decided to show the article to Andrew, because I knew him well enough that I didn’t want him to get this crazy idea that he needed to start making amphorae, because we had enough on our plate.  But I showed him the article and said “you know I’ve heard of this winemaker and I’ve heard of her wines, we should see if we can get some in Oregon.”  And he flipped through and said “I can make those”  I said “ I know you can dear, but that’s not the point.  How ‘bout we try the wines first?”  And he ordered clay the next day and started working on shape and size.”

Annedria Beckham July 2018

This was in his wheelhouse.  Andrew’s pottery had always been large scale, now it had a purpose.  They tried to keep this quiet.  I mean… it was an experiment.  But friends found out and soon there was quite a bit of interest. At this point they just had the amphorae, but they did not have any wine made in it.

Beckham Amphora and barrels
Beckham Amphora and barrels

Trials for amphorae – the experimentation

Andrew worked with a chemist trialing clay.  They searched for an Oregon clay, but the closest they could find was from Sacramento in the delta.  Most terracotta is used for pots for plants, so there are things like barium and color stabilizers in it that would not work for making wine.  The clay body has changed over the years as he trialed the wines.  As the potter and the winemaker he can look at a vintage and see where he might like to tweek the vessel or adjust firing temperatures.  It’s all a big experiment, which, like anything with wine, takes time.

He was scientific in his testing.  The first year they used their estate pinot noir and just did primary fermentation in the amphorae, then pressed and aged in neutral oak.  There were just 24 cases of this wine.  They did not additions other than a touch of sulfur before bottling to keep the variables down as they tested. 

After ferment was complete, he had this empty amphorae just crying to be used, so they picked up some Pinot Gris that another winemaker had and did a little skin contact Pinot Gris.  This first year was 2 weeks skin contact, the next 30 days, the next year 40 days and now he does 10 months.

A summer spent creating amphorae

So in 2014, happy with the initial test, he spent his entire summer break making around 30 amphorae.  The clay body was slightly different this time.  They took a little more of their Estate Pinot Noir fermented it in the amphorae, pressed and then separated half to amphorae and half to neutral oak for aging.  These were later bottled separately as Creta for clay and Ligna for wood. 

“ It was really fun to pour those wines side by side because it was split 50 50 down the middle between what people liked.  Because the ligna wasn’t too far off the beaten path.  You could tell there was a difference.  There was this textural component, this purity but it wasn’t so different to be too far out there.  Where as the Creta in 2014 was very different, was very iron driven, there was a I don’t want to say a “blood character” . There was a very clay textural component.”

Annedria Beckham July 2018

But the point wasn’t to taste the clay, the point was to get a purity of place.  So he tweeked the clay body again and settled on one in 2015 that he has moved forward with.  He know feels that you get that textural component, but it’s not so overt that the clay is what stands out.

On to the Winery and fields of amphorae

The Beckham Winery through the vines
The Beckham Winery through the vines

At this point Annedria pours us a little of their Syrah/Viognier and we head up to the winery and studio. The Winery is modest, with the views they have the majority of tastings are done in the tasting room or on the patio, but they can do tastings in the winery. The building was filled with barrels and amphorae in multiple shapes.

  • Tasting in the Beckham Winery
  • Tasting in the Winery at Beckham

Annedria spoke to us about the amphorae, the progression and the process, going through Andrew’s experiments with firing temperatures and how they change the oxygen exposure and can even impart reductive qualities to the wine if fired very hot.

She also mentioned some other vintners who were using Andrew’s amphorae. We had seen a couple of these amphorae when we visited Montinore and spoke with Rudy Marchesi. I also remember seeing later that Ross & Bee of Maloof wines had picked up an amphorae, and I look forward to tasting the wine they make in this.

We continued on and met Andrew in the studio where he was in the process of making another amphorae. I think that you can look forward to tasting many wines aged in his amphorae in the future, from winemakers around the region and beyond.

Visiting Beckham Estate Vineyard

Beckham Estate Vineyard is located at

30790 SW Heater Road, Sherwood, OR 97140

Wine tasting at Beckham Vineyard with a view of the Chehalem Mountains
Wine tasting at Beckham Vineyard with a view of the Chehalem Mountains

You can reach them at 971.645.3466 or by emailing Annedria at [email protected]

They are open typically for drop in tastings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm. Outside of that time you can feel free to contact them in advance to schedule a tasting by appointment.

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

It’s Oregon Wine Month

Vista Hills Vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA

It’s no secret that I’m kinda infatuated with Oregon wines. More than just the wines…it’s the people behind them. That whole “Keep Portland Weird” thing, kinda speaks for much of Oregon. But then again, with all the delicious weirdness, there is a simple, elegant classy side also. I love it so much, let’s delve in a little.

Willamette Valley Wine Country panorama
Willamette Valley Wine Country panorama

The Oregon Wine Trailblazers

This is a relatively new region for wine. The first winery, post prohibition, appeared in southern Oregon’s Umpqua Valley back in 1961, thanks to Richard Sommer who refused to listen to the UC Davis folks who told him it wouldn’t work. There were a couple of other UC Davis grads who bucked the trends in the mid to late 60’s and headed North including David Lett (Eyrie Vineyards), Dick Erath (yep, you guessed it, Erath) and Charles Coury (which is now David Hill Winery). If you have been into a wine store (or a grocery store) you will recognize Erath. Obviously growing grapes here worked.

My Introduction to Oregon Wine – At Home in the Vineyard

I’ll admit that my knowledge of early Oregon wine history came from reading Susan Sokol Blosser’s book “At Home in the Vineyard”. this memoir is her personal story of the struggle to build the Sokol Blosser Winery in the Dundee Hills. These were not people with money looking to invest and have a retreat in a vineyard. They were idealists and they struggled with the weather and the soils as they figured our this new area for wine. This was the way for many of the early vineyard owners and winemakers and it’s still that way for many today. (I had a wonderful conversation with Annedria Beckham of Beckham vineyards in the Chehalem Mountains that I will share with you soon, about the continuing struggles of planting and growing their vineyard and winery).

I encourage you to visit the fantastic site of the Oregon Wine Board and read all about the history of this great region.

Early visit circa 2011

My introduction to Oregon wine came with a visit back in 2011. We came to spend 3 or 4 days, visit wine country and catch up with an old friend of mine. We stayed at the cottage at Winter Hill. Winter Hill Winery is in the Dundee Hills, the cottage was over the hill with a separate entrance. There were chickens running about and an amazing view of the area and the stars from the porch.

On this visit we took in, Winter Hill Winery, Erath, Youngberg Hill, Stoller Family Estate, Lange Estate, Argyle, Cana’s Feast, Willakenzie, Rex Hill, Trisaetum, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Sokol Blosser, Torii Mor, Vidon & Vista Hills. It’s a list, I know!

I remember them all. Here are a few of the stories…

Winter Hill

Winter Hill at the time was tasting in the middle of the working winery on a folding table. It was a humble for a tasting room, but warm and friendly, and we got a first hand look at the wines with the people who were putting their heart and soul into the endeavor.

Youngberg Hill

Michael was driving to get to us Youngberg Hill and Adam (my friend who had been married there just a year before) was giving directions. Adam and I got busy talking and we missed a turn, and then another. We arrived to views and VIP treatment thanks to Adam. The views here are wedding worthy that’s for sure!

Stoller

The view from Stoller Winery Dundee HIlls Oregon 2011
The view from Stoller 2011

At Stoller, Adam was also a member, and he was doing a pick up, so we got a little extra special treatment. I remember a Tempranillo they had that I wish we would have taken home with us. And I remember a story about the honey that they were hoping to get from hives in a black berry patch part way up the hill.

Lange

Up on the hill at Lange, we were greeted by Jack, the vineyard cat and stepped into the tiny tasting room where they were boxing up their wine club shipment. I remember a moving experience tasting their Pinot Noir (if I close my eyes, I can still taste it).

Argyle

Argyle tasting room Dundee Oregon circa 2011
Argyle tasting room Dundee Oregon circa 2011

At Argyle we enjoyed some bubbles and I got hooked on their Black Brut. This was back when Rollin Soles the pioneering vintner was still the winemaker. I remember thinking how cool it was that Lyle Lovett was his friend from college. They are two unique and iconic individuals in their own right.

Vidon

When we visited Vidon, we met Don the owner, when he came in off the tractor. Don was still busy in the vineyard back then. He was a particle physicist by training and worked with NASA before he purchased the property in the Chehalem Mountains in 1999. We also visited Vista Hills. It was late in the day, and close to the cottage and they snuck us in as their last tasting. The views are stunning and the wines delicious. We returned to them on our last trip again, just before the announcement that they had been purchased by Coppola.

We’ve waxed poetic on some of this before…

You can read a little about the Stoller Tempranillo, the Lange Pinot Noir and the Argyle Black Brut in our piece Wines I can’t forget Part 1

Or about that Trisaetum Coastal Riesling in Wines I Can’t forget Part 3.

And in our piece on Gravity flow wineries, we talk a bit about Willakenzie.

Returning to Oregon in 2018

Last year we returned to this region that had so enchanted us. We spent 5 days exploring AVA’s within the Willamette Valley. Actually trying to visit each of the AVA’s and the proposed AVA’s. We gathered so much content, that we are still putting out pieces! We also were able to enjoy the last “Uncommon Wine Festival” at Vista Hills, where we spent a day tasting and talking with up and coming wine makers.

  • Winemakers setting up for the Uncommon wine Festival at Vista Hills
  • Deven & Calli with Joyful Noise
  • Vista Hills Uncommon Wine Festival Ryan Pickens
  • Libertine Wines, Alex Neely
  • Libertine Bottle Shots
  • Libertine Pouring Botrytis Reisling
  • a Cheerful Note, Ariel Eberle
  • A Cheerful Note with Ariel Eberle, the story behind the label
  • Ross & Bee Maloof
  • Maloof 2017 Where ya Pjs at?
  • Leah Jørgensen Wine - inspired by the Loire Valley
  • 2016 Oregon "Tour Rain" Vin Rouge
  • Fossil & Farm Jim & Jenny

You can see Mega Mix Video and read about the day at Vista Hills Vineyard and the Uncommom Wine Festival.

Willamette Valley AVAs

Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association
Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association Map data by everyvine.com, design by John Fisher, geologic cross section by Timothy A. Cross, special thanks to Patrick Reuter.”

We did a Primer on this that you can read here. We managed to visit most of the AVAs.

Current Willamette Valley AVAs

We managed to visit a winery or tasting room representing each of the current AVAs

  • Chehalem Mountains AVA from Beckham Vineyards
  • Trisaetum Vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge AVA
  • Vista Hills Sunset Dundee Hills-
  • View of Yamhill-Carlton from Fairsing vineyard
  • Johan Vineyards in the proposed Van Duzer Corridor AVA
  • McMinnville AVA
  • Brittan Vineyards in the McMinnville AVA
  • The Eola Amity Hills
  • Chehalem Mountains AVA – est 2006 where we visited Beckham Vineyards and met both Annedria and Andrew.
  • Dundee Hills AVA – est 2005 where we visited Vista Hills to taste their wine as well as enjoy the hospitality of the Uncommon Wine Festival
  • Eola-Amity Hills AVA – est 2006. We visited the Evening Land tasting room in Dundee and then drove to see the vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills.
  • McMinnville AVA – est 2005. We visited Brittan Vineyards tasting room and then did a drive by of the McMinnville vineyard on the way to the coast.
  • Ribbon Ridge AVA – est 2005, where we revisited Trisaetum.
  • Van Duzer Corridor AVA – est 2019, actually established after we visited! We visited Johan here and fell in love.
  • Yamhill-Carlton AVA – est 2005. We spent a wonderful evening enjoy the sunset view at Fairsing Vineyard (along with smores!)

Proposed Willamette Valley AVAs

In addition there are 4 more proposed AVAs, which include:

  • Illahe Panorama
  • Lowell Ford, Illahe Vineyards
  • Montinore Vineyards sign
  • Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate
  • Panorama from Ponzi
  • Mt Pisgah/Polk County AVA. Located near Salem, we spent 1/2 a day with Lowell Ford owner of Illahe Vineyard.
  • Laurelwood AVA. We visited Ponzi Vineyards in this proposed AVA which is the Northern facing slopes of the Chehalem Mountains.
  • Tualatin Hills AVA. Located North of Yamhill-Carlton and West of Chehalem Mountians, we visited with Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate.
  • Lower Long Tom AVA. Okay…we didn’t make it here. It is far south between Corvalis and Eugene and there was just not enough time.

Do it!

Our trailer on Willamette Valley AVAs and proposed AVAs

Get yourself to Oregon. You won’t regret it. Be it the Willamette Valley or further south in the Umpqua, Applegate or Rogue Valleys. Or maybe you head to some of those border areas that share AVAs with Washington. (they are good about sharing in Oregon)

You can find great information on Oregon from the Oregon Wine Board, Willamette Valley Wineries and the Southern Oregon Winery Association to get you started!

And don’t forget to check back here! We have loads of posts on our last trip and there will be more as we head back again this July!

More on Oregon wine Country

Here are a few you might want to check out:

And there are more, check the bottom of each page for other related pieces.

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Day 9 of the 12 Days of Wine with Beckham Estate AD “Creta” Pinot Noir & bacon wrapped dates

Chehalem Mountains AVA from Beckham Vineyards

Andrew Beckham has merged his two loves, ceramics and wine.  The bottle for this wine lists it as “Creta A.D. Beckham MMXVI Amphora Pinot Noir”.  This wine was made in a terra cotta vessel.  A vessel made right here in his studio on the vineyard. 

There is a long story to go with this.  A beautiful and very real story, patiently told to me by Andrew’s wife Annedria, when we visited them at the Beckham Estate Vineyard this summer.  That story will have to wait for another day.  Soon, I promise.  Today,  we are going to talk about this wine.

A.D. Beckham 2016 “Creta” Amphora Pinot Noir

Ad Beckham 2016 Amphora Pinot Noir
A.D. Beckham 2016 “Creta” Amphora Pinot Noir

“Creta”  is latin for clay and this wine was fermented and aged in terra cotta and bottled un-fined, un-filtered.

From Beckham Estate Vineyard http://beckhamestatevineyard.orderport.net/product-details/0076/2016-AD-Beckham-Creta-Pinot-Noir
Beckham Vineyard the view from the tasting room
Beckham Vineyard the view from the tasting room

The vineyard and winery sit in the Chehalem Mountain AVA on Parrett Mountain, where the vineyard elevation lands at 412 to 568 feet.  Soils here are Jory and Saum. This wine, of which there were only 100 cases made, is unfined and unfiltered, and if you want to get all geeky, the Pinot clones are Pommard, Wädenswil, and Dijon 115 and 777.  This is 30% whole cluster.

Beckham Vineyard, The view West
Beckham Vineyard, The view West from Parrett Mountain

What to pair?

Annedria Beckham got back to me with a beautiful recipe that she had just paired with the Creta Amphora Pinot Noir.

Hello Robin,

As we just had our 3 pigs butchered we have a wealth of pork in our freezer. I made this recipe the other evening and it went beautifully with the AD Beckham Creta Pinot noir’s  bright cherry and cranberry notes. You could substitute duck breast for the pork for an equally delicious meal.
 
Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Cherry-Thyme Pan Sauce
modified from Epicurious
INGREDIENTS
·         1 teaspoon ground coriander
·         Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
·         2 pork tenderloins (about 2 pounds total)
·         2 tablespoons olive oil
·         1 large shallot, thinly sliced 1/4 cup
·         10 sprigs thyme
·         1 1/4 cups dry red wine
·         1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
·         1 tablespoon sugar
·         1 (10-ounce) package frozen dark sweet cherries, thawed, halved (about 2 cups)
·         1-2 tablespoon cold unsalted butter 
PREPARATION
1.       Combine coriander, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a small bowl. Rub pork with spice mixture.
2.       Heat oil in a 12″ heavy skillet over medium-high until hot but not smoking. Reduce heat to medium and cook pork, turning occasionally, until meat is browned on all sides and an instant-read thermometer inserted diagonally into the center of each tenderloin registers 145°F, 20–25 minutes. Transfer pork with tongs to a cutting board (do not wipe out skillet) and let stand 10 minutes.
3.       Meanwhile, cook shallot and thyme in skillet, stirring, until softened and lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add wine, vinegar, and sugar. Bring to simmer and cook, scraping up any browned bits and stirring frequently, until liquid is reduced by about half and shallots are tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in cherries, any accumulated juices, and 3/4 tsp. salt and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat, add butter, and swirl skillet to combine. Pluck out thyme sprigs,  taste, then season with salt and pepper as needed. Slice pork and serve with sauce.
Cheers!

Annedria Beckham of Beckham Estate Vineyard

This recipe had my mouth watering. Sadly, this was a late night pairing and the recipe arrived too late for us to gather all the ingredients.  I look forward to them releasing the 2017 Creta Pinot, so I can get a bottle and try it with this amazing recipe. The cherries, the balsamic, the thyme, the pork…all would be perfect with this wine. And actually, Annedria’s suggestion of duck, is really what I may try! But for tonight, we will have to do without.

Michael made do with gourmet sliders and bacon wrapped dates waiting to pair with this wine.  Michael wrapped the dates in a maple bacon, so we had that sweet and savory combo and found that it went brilliantly with the wine.  With the sliders, I have to admit, I slathered one bun with lobster pate and the other with tomato marmalade, the sweet, the savory, the rich…all played perfectly against this wine

Beckham 2016 Creta Amphora Pinot Noir
Beckham 2016 Creta Amphora Pinot Noir

The Wine

So what does it mean to the wine to have the wine fermented and aged in clay rather than wood? 

Maybe it was just my brain making the association, but I felt like I could smell the clay on this wine.  On the nose, it starts with baking spices and deep red fruit (that is the cherry and cranberry Annedria mentioned).  It is medium bodied, but flavorful, so it feels bigger in your mouth.  The tannins are smooth, but lively and long lasting.  As it opened up I got more mocha/cocoa on the nose, and it felt darker in my mouth and more savory.  Later as I tasted I got wilted rose petals and a little salinity.  Going back to the clay, the nose always hit me as very fine particles (like clay and cocoa powder), which gave the wine a smoothness that I found really appealing.

I was really enchanted by this wine.

Need some?

I will apologize for taunting you with this beautiful wine.  This vintage is sold out.  But…new vintages lay ahead ( I think they are bottling the 2017 Estate Pinot Noirs currently) and you can purchase their wines from their site.

Want to Visit?

The entrance to Beckham Vineyards from SW Heater Road
The entrance to Beckham Vineyards from SW Heater Road

They are typically open Fridays and Saturdays from 11-5. They are closed from December 17th, 2018 -February 1st, 2019 except by appointment. (So schedule an appointment or plan your trip after Feb 1st)

To schedule an appointment email them at [email protected]

Want more?  Click through to all of our 12 Days of Wine posts!

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.


Oregon Wine Country

Join us on our exploration of Wine from across the Oregon Wine Region. Interviews with winemakers. Wine Festivals. Explore the AVA’s and discover the Terroir, The stories, The Wine, all across Oregon Wine Country beginning in the Willamette Valley. Follow us at Crushedgrapechronicles.com for your Oregon Wine Adventure.

Oregon’s Willamette Valley AVAs – a Primer

Vista Hills Vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA

Oregon’s Willamette Valley …You picture green hills, rain and beards, don’t you? Well as we visited in July, we found lots of the first, very little of the second and enough of the third to keep the myth alive.

After flying into Portland, we made the relatively quick drive, over one of the many bridges across the Willamette River and into the Willamette Valley. Our goal with this trip was to visit each of the AVA’s (American Viticulture Areas) and most of the Proposed AVA’s and learn a little about them to give us a better overall understanding of the area. We managed to visit all but one of the Proposed AVA’s. We did not have the time to make the drive to the proposed Lower Long Tom AVA, which is much closer to Eugene than to Portland.

I did a bit of research to prepare for the trip and thought I would share some of that, in case you are not familiar with the region.

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 with the new Van Duzer Corridor within the Willamette Valley the possible 19th. 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.

Willamette Valley

This trip was focused on the Willamette Valley and the Willamette Valley Wineries Association has a gorgeous map of the Valley.

Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association

Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association Map data by everyvine.com, design by John Fisher, geologic cross section by Timothy A. Cross, special thanks to Patrick Reuter.”

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)

Chehalem Mountains AVA

Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association

Chehalem Mountains, Ribbon Ridge AVAs (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

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.

Chehalem Mountains AVA from Beckham Vineyards

Chehalem Mountains AVA from Beckham Vineyards

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

Yamhill-Carlton AVA Map (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

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.

View of Yamhill-Carlton from Fairsing vineyard

View of Yamhill-Carlton from Fairsing vineyard

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

Chehalem Mountains, Ribbon Ridge AVAs (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

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.

Trisaetum Vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge AVA

Trisaetum Vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge AVA

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/

Dundee Hills AVA

Dundee Hills AVA

Dundee Hills AVA (Willamette Valley Map Courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

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.

Vista Hills Vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA

Vista Hills Vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA

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

McMinnville AVA (Willamette Valley Map Courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

Also established in 2005, the McMinnville AVA takes it’s name from the city of McMinnville which sits just east of the AVA.

McMinnville AVA

Vineyards in the McMinnville 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

Eola-Amity Hills AVA Map (Willamette Valley Map Courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

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.

Vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA

Vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA

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/

Proposed AVAs

There are 5 AVAs that are proposed and in process. While the Van Duzer Corridor AVA is likely to be the next approved, we are going to go North to South again so that you have a better geographical idea of where these AVAs sit. Keep in mind that we are showing you maps of the general area, the boundries are actually much more detailed. We will dive into that as we explore each of these proposed AVAs in a future post.

Tualatin Hills AVA

General Area of the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA

General Area of the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

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.

Montinore Vineyards in the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA

Montinore Vineyards in the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA

The soils here are Laurelwood. Not to be confused with the proposed AVA, this soil series is volcanic basalt and loess (windblown silt). In addition the reddish soils here have pisolites (tiny balls of iron manganese).

Being due east of the Coast Range also allows them a rain shadow, so conditions here are dryer and allow for diurnal temperature shifts (day to night temperatures).

Laurelwood AVA

General Area of the proposed Laurelwood AVA

General Area of the proposed Laurelwood AVA (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

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.

Ponzi Vineyard in the proposed Laurelwood AVA

Ponzi Vineyard in the proposed Laurelwood AVA

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.

Van Duzer Corridor AVA

General Area of the proposed Van Duzer Corridor AVA

General Area of the proposed Van Duzer Corridor AVA (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

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

Johan Vineyards in the proposed Van Duzer Corridor AVA

Johan Vineyards in the proposed 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.

Mt. Pisgah/Polk County AVA

General Area of the proposed Mount Pisgah AVA

General Area of the proposed Mount Pisgah AVA (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

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.

Illahe Vineyard in the proposed Mount Pisgah/Polk County AVA

Illahe Vineyard in the proposed Mount Pisgah/Polk County AVA

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

General Area of the proposed Lower Long Tom AVA

General Area of the proposed Lower Long Tom AVA (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

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.

Next, the details….

That’s just our overview. We visited all but one of these areas and we look forward to deeper dives into each AVA, with more geeky details about climate and soil and what that means for the wines. In the meantime, if you are looking for further information, you can visit Willamette Valley Wine, Oregon Wine, or check out this great article in the Oregon Wine Press.

And if you are as in love with this beautiful map as I am, you can get one of your own at Willamette Valley Wine

Watch here as we delve deeper into Oregon Wines. We have multiple interviews with fascinating wine makers to share with you, including a morning spent with Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate, who is instrumental in the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA.

You can also read our piece on the Uncommon Wine Festival, with our interview with Dave Pettersen the Winemaker and CEO of Vista Hills who founded the event. We look forward to bringing you interviews and discussions with all of the winemakers from this event. So check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles . And don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram