Northwest of Oregon’s capitol, Salem, the Eola-Amity Hills are cooler and moister than the viticultural areas previously discussed. Pacific winds blowing through the Van Duzer corridor allow for moderated summer temperatures and increased cold season precipitation. The soils are a mixture of basalt (as the Pacific Northwest is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire), marine sediments and alluvial soils from the ice-aged Missoula Floods.
Viticulture in the appellation began in the 1850s but became much more common in the 1970s. Like other cool climate regions, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot are common plantings.
The Dundee Hills are located within Willamette Valley and largely encompass the land above the 200 foot elevation mark surrounding the Red Hills of Dundee. The area is isolated from the extreme precipitation of the coast by the coastal range and the coolest temperatures by the Chehalem mountains and are known for warmer evenings and less fog that some of the surrounding appellations. The soils are a distinctive red from rion deposits are are known as Jory soils made up of basalt, a volcanic rock mixed with loam, clay and silt. The soils are up to six feet deep allowing for excellent drainage.
Viticulture didn’t come to the Dundee Hills until the late 1960s but it has quickly become known for cooler climate varietals such as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, with vineyards such as Domaine Drouhin, Erath and Eeyrie and Sokol-Blosser leading the way. The area is home to 25 wineries and 50 vineyards.
The Columbia Valley is another border hopping appellation in the Pacific Northwest, the majority of which is in the State of Washington and includes eleven millions acres of land that include multiple micro-climates in appellations. The area encompasses the river valleys of the Columbia and Yakima rivers and is bordered to the west by the Cascades Range. Despite the varieties of growing environments the appellation is mostly known for its high desert climate and well drained soils formed from ice age floods known as the Missoula Floods.
Viticulture on the Oregon side has existed for over 100 years and began with Zinfandel in an area referred to as the Pines near the Dalles (which sounds like how old ladies in my home town describe locations) about a century ago. Because of the even climate and temperatures and increased sunlight (an average of 2 hours longer than in California) the are is able to support a wide variety of varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewurtztraminer Merlot, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Syrah.
Oregon shares a couple of viticulture areas with the great state of Washington and the Columbia Gorge is one of them. As you might guess, this area is a gorge on the Columbia River. It is also the only sea level break in the Cascade Range from Canada to California. That is a long way without a break. From the west the Gorge has mild ocean temperatures and a rainy climate. As you head east the winds pick up to form a wind tunnel in the narrowest part of the passage and continues through the Cascades into what is called the rain shadow. Rain falls plentifully to the west of the mountains but is exhausted on the eastern plateaus. The soils are volcanic and mixed with alluvial deposits and wind blown silts.
Wine production in the appellation dates back to the 1880s when the Jewitt family settled and planted vines brought with them from Illinois but have become more abundant with modern viticultural practices. Currently there are 50 vineyards of which 26 are in Oregon and 31 wineries of which 18 are located in state. Grape varietals produced include Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Riesling.
Next up alphabetically speaking are the Chehalem Mountains. This appellation snakes around the town of Newburg and the Willamette (dammit) River in northwestern Oregon just southwest of Portland. The area has grown from a few vineyards in the late 1960s to 100 vineyards and 31 wineries currently. The mountains are the highest in the valley and contain soils of basalt, eolian silt and ocean sediments. Along with being the highest land within the Valley, the weather is the most varied allowing for multiple micro-climates at elevations that range from 200- 1,633 feet. Grapes produced in the region include Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Riesling.
It is summer, the weather has been miserable here in the midwest so it is time to decamp to more favorable climes. And what place is the best to take off for when you are looking for cooler weather? The Pacific Northwest, of course!
Actually, it is time for this year’s Wine Bloggers’ Conference and this year it will be in breezy Portland, Oregon. Well, in Portland Oregon, anyway. Apparently the temperatures will be not so breezy, but rather about 102. Hahah. The jokes on me!
So I am busily re-arranging my wardrobe for the trip and thought I would start showing off my maps of Oregon viticultural areas.
There are about 16 different AVAs in Oregon, so I am going to tackle them alphabetically (‘ya gotta chose something!). This means that we will start with the Applegate Valley AVA.
Located in southern Oregon and part of the Southern Oregon AVA and Rogue Valley AVA, this appellation is relatively small with only about 400 acres planted in vines. Historically, it is important as it is where some of the earliest vineyards in the state were planted and home to the first commercial winery there. It is currently home to six wineries and is planted mainly with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah.
There is more to my neighbor to the north besides cheese and the Green Bay Packers. I have had several nice experiences in the Dairy State and am pleased to learn that an application has been filed for a new appellation.
By CJ Moss via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.
Called Wisconsin Ledge, this potential AVA consists of the western most part of the Niagara Escarpment as it reappears out of Lake Michigan. The application points out the regions underlying rocks of dolomite (Lockport Dolomite) which provide minerals as well as drainage to the areas soils and are overlain with sand, loam and glacial moraines. If this sounds vaguely familiar, it is because it exceptionally close to the geography of the Niagara Escarpment AVA in western New York State. In the case of the New York appellation, the climate is moderated by two Great Lakes (Erie and Ontario) and the prevailing west wind that would blow across them. The Wisconsin Ledge has a more moderate temperature due to its proximity to Lake Michigan but the west winds would be more continental.
The new potential AVA is located in the Door Peninsula, south of the Fox River, east of Lake Winnebago and north of County Highway T (North of Milwaukee). This area is already home to at least twelve wineries including the Cedar Creek Winery in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.
Map by Gretchen Neuman for VinoVerve.com under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 unported license.
So three cheers to Wisconsin Ledge! It is about time that they got some wine with that cheese!
October 25, 2011
Once I am on a mapping roll, I sometimes can’t stop. Here is the McMinnville AVA from Oregon and the Arroyo Grande Valley AVA from California. You might be wondering why I working on west coast appellations, but all will be revealed soon enough.
image-6370″ title=”Arroyo Grande Valley AVA” src=”http://vinoverve.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/ArroyoGrande.001-263×300.jpg” alt=”” width=”263″ height=”300″ />
September 29, 2011
It may look like there is nothing going on here at VinoVerve, but we are always plugging away at something…
New additions to the site include:
Gretchen Neuman, VinoVerve.com Editor, September 28, 2011
Kevin and I are headed to NOLA this weekend to watch some football and sample the delights of the city. He asked me to see if we could stop at a winery on our way there. I checked my map. Each dot represents a winery.
It appears that we will have plenty of choices depending on what route we take.
Good thing we don’t live in a wine producing region, eh? It appears that we will have 20 options in the deep south.. and more as we head north.
Laissez les bontemps rollez.
What’s your favorite southern winery?
Gretchen Neuman, VinoVerve.com Editor, September 13, 2011