Willamette Valley AVA
The Willamette Valley contains six sub-appellations located in the northern and central part of the region: Chehalem Mountains and Ribbon Ridge, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, Yamhill-Carlton and McMinnville.
History: Between 1965 and 1968, David Lett, Charles Coury and Dick Erath separately forged their way to the north Willamette Valley despite negative rumblings from their UC Davis college friends who told them growing winegrapes in Oregon was impossible. The pioneers proved their peers wrong, as the Willamette Valley is now recognized as one of world’s finest wine regions, growing world-class Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, as well as other varietals.
Location: The largest Oregon AVA at 5,200 square miles, the Willamette Valley encompasses the drainage basin of the Willamette River. It runs from the Columbia River in Portland, south through Salem, to the Calapooya Mountains near Eugene. The Coast Range marks its west boundary and the Cascade Mountains its east.
Climate: Winters are typically cool and wet; summers are dry and warm. Heat above 90°F only occurs five to 15 days per year, and the temperature drops below 0°F once every 25 years. Most rainfall occurs in late autumn, winter and early spring, when temperatures are the coldest. The valley gets relatively little snow, five to 10 inches per year.
Soils: The Willamette Valley is an old volcanic and sedimentary seabed overlaid with gravel, silt, rock and boulders brought by the Missoula Floods from Montana and Washington between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago. The most common of the volcanic type is red Jory soil.
Topography: The Willamette Valley is protected by the Coast Range to the west, the Cascades to the east and a series of hills to the north. The largest concentration of vineyards is located to the west of the Willamette River, on the leeward slopes of the Coast Range, or among the valleys created by the river’s tributaries. Most of the region’s vineyards are a few hundred feet above sea level, with some exceptions.