This appellation is unique for the state in that encompasses a single vineyard. Located near the town of Yoncalla, in the Umpqua Valley and home to Sienna Ridge Estate. The first vineyard was planted in Yoncalla in 1876 by the Applegate family. Sienna Ridge was settled by the Long Family in 1849 and was planted with vines in 2002 when Wayne Hitchings purchased part of the property.
The vineyard grows Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir in its well drained Jory soils. The official soil of the State of Oregon (every state has one… who knew?!), which are made of deep, well drained soils made of igneous rocks. Additionally, the vineyard is characterized by wildly fluctuating daily temperatures allows the grapes to develop intense flavors.
Oh, and the explanation for the super long appellation name? By being so specific it was unlikely to confused for Washington’s Red Mountain or California’s Red Hills Lake County AVAs.
Sienna Ridge Estate
1876 John Long Rd
Oakland, OR 97462
Ignite! is a speaking program where presenters speak for five minutes using 20 slides that automatically forward every 15 seconds. The motto is “enlighten us, but make it quick”. I decided that this year, I would try to participate at the Wine Bloggers’ Conference version. It is entitled, How Wine Made America.
Here is my attempt (luckily I didn’t spontaneously combust!)
Located within Oregon’s Willamette (dammit) Valley and AVA, McMinnville is located west of the city of the same name and has had a two hundred year history of agriculture. In 1970, viticulture began in the appellation when David Lett opened a winery and has hosted an International Pinot Noir Competition every July since 1987. The Appellation is based upon both location along the eastern and southeastern slopes of the foots hills of the Coast Range and elevation between 200 and 1000 feet. The soils are primarily marine soils with intrusions of basalt which provide the grapes with a distinctive flavor. The climate stays cool from ocean breezes that enter the area through the Van Duzer corridor and helps maintain a higher acidity in the grapes.
McMinnville contains 14 wineries and produces Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Riesling varietals.
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.
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.
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September 29, 2011