The Rogue Valley viticultural area is located within Southern Oregon and is nestled among the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountain surrounding the Rogue river and its tributaries. Comprised of the river valleys of the Rogue River and its tributaries (the Illinois, Bear Creek and the Applegate) and at the convergence of three mountain ranges (the Klamath, the Coast Ranges and the Cascades) the soils are more variable than in some of the other Oregon appellations but are amongst the warmest and driest in the state. This allows for the production of a wider variety of grapes including: Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dolcetto, Gerwurztraminer, Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, Syrah, Tempranillo and Viognier.
Viticulture has a longer history in the Rogue Valley than in other parts of Oregon. The earliest settlers into the are in the 1840s planted the first vineyards and by 1852 Peter Britt planted vines that became the state’s first winery in 1873. The rebirth of the industry began in the late 1960s.
Stretching from Gaston to Newberg, Ribbon Ridge is one of the smaller appellations in the state (The smallest prior to the addition of Red Hill Douglas County, Oregon). Home to five wineries and twenty (20) vineyards, the area is like an island within the larger Chehalem and Willamette Valley AVAs and is protected by the surrounding mountains to allow for a consistently warmer and drier environment during the growing season. The soils in the area are from the Willakenzie series which are less red then the Jory soils but is deep, well drained with a low fertility that makes it perfect for wine grapes.
Viticulture began in the region in 1980 and became and AVA in 2005.
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.
That is my excuse, and I am sticking with it.
More WBC12 stories to come.
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.