Before we jump into the deep end and explore the Willamette Valley, here are some key factoids about the region:
Region: Willamette Valley granted AVA status 1983
Sub-regions: With year granted AVA status
Chehalem Mountains 2006
Ribbon Ridge 2005
Dundee Hills 2004
Yamhill-Carlton District 2005
Eola-Amity Hills 2006
Location: Commences in the north just south of Portland traveling southward to Eugene. Western and eastern boundries include the Oregon Coast Range and the Cascade Mountains respectively. The Willamette Valley AVA is the largest in Oregon, encompassing 5,200 square miles.
Latitude: 45 degrees
Elevation: Vineyards planted between 200-1000 feet above sea level on predominantly hillside slopes above and away from richer alluvial soils found on the valley floor.
Climate: Maritime. Cool, wet winters and long dry summers. 50% of annual rainfall generally occurs between December – February. Long growing season. Protected from excessive coastal rainfall by the Coast Range on western side, and harsh continental climate temperatures to the east by the Cascade Mountains.
Important Geographical Markers: Coast Range, Cascade Mountains, Willamette River, Van Duzer Corridor
Soil: Volcanic, loess and sedimentary soils.
Chehalem Mountains: Basalt, ocean sedimentary, loess (lake bed sedimentary soils)
Ribbon Ridge: Largely marine sedimentary
Dundee Hills: Basalt –lava flow yielding red soils known as “Jory”
Yamhill-Carlton District: Largely marine sedimentary. Some of the oldest in the Valley.
McMinnville: Marine sedimentary, loam and silt resting on basalt. In general shallower soils.
Eola-Amity Hills: Basalt with marine sedimentary and alluvial deposits. In general shallower topsoils. Significant wind and cooling influence provided by the Van Duzer corridor, a gap within the mountainous Coast Range.
Chief Hazards: Spring frosts, insufficient rain during growing season, early fall rains at or around harvest time.
Harvest: Generally late September-early October
Principal Varieties: pinot noir, pinot gris, riesling, chardonnay
Other Varieties: numerous including merlot, tempranillo, gruner veltliner, gewurztraminer, semillon
Total area under vine: 14000+ acres
Number of wineries: 200+
Next: OPC’s “soil pit”