Secret Somm: Regions within Willamette
The map above illustrates the sub-regions within Willamette Valley. The distinct differences between the wines in this region ultimately boils down to the soil. More than anything, soil affects the grapes the most in this wine region. There are no special lab tricks or even a micro-climate issues. The only slight difference to be noted is a slight difference in elevation but nothing dramatic. Make sure when you visit you take a peek at the soil and take notice when traveling between these sub-regions.
“Soil is an important component of terroir. The traditional definition of a superior Pinot Noir is one that expresses the uniqueness of the soil where the grapes were grown.”
The Dundee Hills are a north-south oriented line of hills on the western side of the Willamette River valley. The soil is RED in color here making them rich in iron, and more most crops relatively infertile, they are suitable for grape cultivation. The region gets 30 inches to 45 inches of rainfall per year. The Chehalem Mountains to the north protect the region from the cool breezes that enter Willamette Valley from the Columbia Gorge. Over 25 wineries and independent vineyards in this region produce over 44,000 cases of wine.
Watch out people here comes Josh Bergstrom, boy is this winemaker talented! From Biodynamic/Organic farming to artisanal winemaking this man has been knocking it out of the park since the early 2000’s, son of a doctor and French trained Josh makes single vineyard estate wines and a AVA selection that make you want more and more.
My favorite selection is the Bergstrom Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011. 13 acres just over 400ft elevation and surrounding the winery, this south facing vineyard shows me ton of minerality, with fresh snappy bright red fruit but due to a cool vintage loads of secondary flavors like pipe tobacco, cedar, and mint. This wine is a rock star and I am so happy to have the chance to drink it at the winery with some friends.
Stay tuned! Next week I will share another great sub-regions of the Willamette Valley.