Willamette Valley AVA

It’s Willamette Dammit! And rightfully so, as this appellation is the big daddy of Oregon winemaking. (also, it is pronounced Ora-gun not Or-e-gone. These folks are making you delicious wine. Be respectful of their ways).  Stretching 150 miles north to south and 60 miles wide in some places, this is the home of Pinot.  The climate is perfect for it.  Located in the same latitudes as the vineyards of Alsace and Burgundy with warm dry summers and a cool rainy season all that this viticultural area needed for success was the perfect soil conditions.  And what do you know?  They got them.  Oregon’s Jory soils are located in the foothills of the region are are composed of igneous rocks that were swept through the region thousands of years ago at the time of the Missoula Floods.  The soil is thick, well drained and full of minerally deposits that grapes just love.

While there is a long history of agriculture in the region, viticulture didn’t really take off until the mid to late 1960s  when UC Davis alum Charles Coury, Dick Erath and David Lett found their way up north of California.  From there the industry has grown by leaps and bounds with around 200 wineries and an additionally six new sub-appellations in existence.  And while Pinot Noir is King, it isn’t the only game in town, additionally grown are:

  • Auxerrois
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cascade
  • Chardonnay
  • Dolcetto
  • Gamay
  • Gewürztraminer
  • Malbec
  • Marechal Foch
  • Melon
  • Merlot
  • Muller Thurgau
  • Muscat Canelli
  • Muscat Ottonel
  • Nebbiolo
  • Pinot Blanc
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Riesling
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Syrah
  • Tocai Fruiulano
  • Viognier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Snake River Valley AVA

Located in both Oregon and Idaho the Snake River Valley was previously best known by me as the location where Evel Kneivel jumped a canyon with a rocket* (or a strangely conceived steam powered motorcycle). My eight-year old self aside, the appellation was designated in 2007 after the Idaho Grape Growers and Wine Producers Commission submitted the petition which was granted due to unique qualities of the region.

And what are those qualities? Specifically, it is cooler, drier, at a higher elevation and with a shorter growing season than nearby appellations (Oregon’s Umpqua Valley, Oregon and Washington’s Walla Walla Valley and California’s Napa Valley (which seems to be a de rigueur comparison)). Unlike many appellations, the soils are varied but are underlain by the remains of ancient Lake Idaho which largely forms the border of the area.

Viticulture had begun in Idaho in the 1860s but it wasn’t until the 1970s that it took root in the Snake River Valley. From that time number of wineries and vineyards to grown to nearly thirty and is producing wines from a wide range of vinifera grapes including:

  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Carmenére
  • Chardonnay
  • Gewürztraminer
  • Lemberger
  • Malbec
  • Merlot
  • Mourvédre
  • Muscat
  • Petite Sirah
  • Petit Verdot
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Primitivo
  • Riesling
  • Sangiovese
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Semillon
  • Syrah
  • Tempranillo
  • Viognier

I have been to Idaho, though not near the AVA but I did stop and buy a from the appellation.  The wine was a dry Riesling from Ste. Chapelle and I will be looking for more in the future as it was dry and crisp with a bright burst of fruit.  Sadly, on my trip to Oregon this year for WBC12, I was no where near the Snake River Valley.  Maybe next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Turns out the area that Evel Knievel took off from and landed was in the AVA. Worlds colliding?!

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Mad, Hot Wine Tasting Skillz!

That is my explanation and I am sticking to it.

Yes, I am working slightly backwards, but that is the nature of my brain at the moment.

Yes, I have returned from Portland, Oregon and the 2012 Wine Bloggers’s Conference. Yes, I saw old friends, made new friends, made Kevin observe me in my natural environment…. oops. That sounded dirty. The point is that I am telling this tale out of order.


So last part first is this. At the end of each conference there is the introduction of the venue for the next event. Kind of like at the closing ceremony at the Olympics where England turned the stadium over to Rio de Janeiro.. In this case, it was Portland making a little room for Penticton, British Columbia. Now imagine that Rio brought wine. Now you are getting the idea.

Penticton is in the Okanagan region of British Columbia. Now, I have been to Canada before. I grew up on the border near Niagara Falls. And due to Kevin’s work schedule, I got to spend some spectacular times in Winnepeg, Manitoba and Edmonton, Alberta. We vacationed at Lake Louise in Banff and another vacation in Vancouver and Vancouver Island. And yes, I am looking forward to my visit next spring (making a mental note to get my passport renewed…).

But back to the wine tasting.

As an introduction to our conference next year, the folks from Penticton brought Okanagan wine… and gave us a blind tasting. With a challenge. Each table got a red and white and we had to figure out what they were. Generally speaking I hate doing this. I am typically pretty bad at it unless it is pretty obvious. In this case, I knew that they were from the Okanagan, so that gave us lots of hints. Pretty quickly Kevin and I and our table mates, Robin Ross of Underground Cellar, Glynis Hill of Vino-Noire and Julie Crafton from Napa Valley Vintners quickly narrowed down the red to a Pinot Noir and the white to a Pinot Gris. We narrowed down the year for each and then of course, we knew it was to the Okanagan. Then we got chatting… just as we needed to turn in our entry I scribbled down a couple of sub-appellations that we had chatted about but never really agreed upon.

Amazingly enough. We scored a perfect score.

Pure skill.

That is my excuse, and I am sticking with it.

More WBC12 stories to come.

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor