Willamette Valley AVA (American Viticulture Area) - established 1983 ('the Earth's Sweetest Dirt')

  • The vines of the Willamette Valley vineyards originate from the same vines found in Burgundy France, one of the oldest wine growing regions in the world. Historically known to supply wine to the Roman legions of Julius Caesar, these unique vines result in remarkable red, white and rosé wines.

  • Concentrated grape growing in Oregon began here, with initial plantings in 1966 and ongoing vineyard growth in the intervening 50 years adding over 15,000 acres, largely because of the benign but challenging cool climate, the protection of mountains on eastern and western boundaries and because of the favorable volcanic & sedimentary soil types--and, also largely because of one grape variety, Pinot noir.  A large AVA of 3,438,000 acres (5372 square miles), it runs from Portland in the north to Eugene in the south.

  • The overarching Willamette Valley region contains all vineyards including those outside of the sub-AVA’s. Wines labeled Willamette Valley could also be blends of several vineyards put together, which is quite common because vineyard sizes are small due to good available sloped and angled land.

More about the Willamette Valley AVA:

It takes a long time to make a great winegrowing region...

The Willamette Valley creation started about 15 to 17 million years ago when in far eastern Washington very fluid lava erupted and flowed west over portions of southwest Washington and northwest Oregon. During this period Basaltic Lava flowed right over the top of the Willamette Valley. Starting about five million years ago, mass tectonic uplift started to occur, as the North American plate slipped under the Pacific plate, creating what are now the Coast Range of Oregon. One of the many ripple effects of all of this land movement was the creation of the Dundee Hills, one of several AVAs within the valley.

Further defining the valley were the catastrophic Missoula Floods. These floods happened between 15,500 and 12,700 years ago, on the interval of one flood every 60 to 90 years. The floods were caused by a glacier heading south clogging rivers near Missoula, Montana. Lake Missoula would grow into a very large lake, and every 60 to 90 years would break through the ice damn rushing down from Montana into and eventually filling the Willamette Valley to a depth of 300 to 330 feet. As each of these floods receded, a small layer of sediment was laid down over the Willamette Valley, covering all elevations below 300 to 330 feet. Anything below 300 to 330 feet was a sedimentary based soil, while anything remaining above that elevation remained predominantly volcanic Jory soil.

The Willamette Valley has set an impressive standard for North American Pinot Noir, on par with the world’s best. Local winery owners have had way; consumers now crave not only Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, but also wines labeled from one of its many distinct sub-regions.

To acknowledge the uniqueness of certain smaller growing hillsides inside the valley, AVA designation was requested for six areas in the northern valley, which contain sixty % of the recently planted acreage of the Willamette Valley.  All these new AVAs have minimum elevations around 200 feet; some also have a maximum of 1000 feet.

The new AVAs:

  1. Dundee Hills AVA

  2. Yamhill-Carlton AVA

  3. Chehalem Mountains AVA

  4. Ribbon Ridge AVA

  5. McMinnville AVA/Downtown-Old town McMinnville

  6. Eola-Amity Hills AVA


The Dirt on Oregon AVAs




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