Learning My AVAs

by | Jan 6, 2009

American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs, define wine growing regions throughout the U.S. It’s a program administered by the ATF. Lately, I’ve been studying the local wine producing regions by visiting the areas on weekends and by looking at maps, like this one, care of the Oregon Wine Board.

According to WinesNW.com, when Willamette Valley AVA was first authorized 1984, its geographic description included some 3.3 million acres. Twenty years later, winemakers and wine growers succeeded in submitting applications for approval of six sub-regions within the Willamette Valley, to better describe micro climates proven over the years to be distinctly suited for the growing of wine grapes. McMinnville Foothills, Dundee Hills, Ribbon Ridge, the Yamhill-Carlton District, Eola-Amity Hills District and the Chehalem Mountains were all authorized as official American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in 2005 and 2006.

Once that data kind of sinks in, it’s time to start identifying certain wines with the characteristics found in a given AVA. For instance, we know that 2006 was a great year for pinot noir in the Willamette Valley. But was it a better year in Dundee Hills than it was in Eola-Amity Hills? I don’t know, but I know it’s going to be fun finding out. Some of the famous producers in Dundee Hills include Sokol Blosser, Archery Summit, Domaine Drouhin, Domaine Serene, Erath Winery and The Eyrie Vineyards. In other words, the classic Oregon producers. Eola-Amity Hill is more of a mystery. I’ll need to go looking for a bottle of Witness Tree or Strangeland.

BTW, where is the best place to buy locally produced pinot noir in NE Portland?