ABOUT THE WILLAMETTE VALLEY
Adelsheim Ribbon Springs Vineyard by Kent Derek Studio
The Willamette Valley, Oregon’s leading wine region, has two-thirds of the state’s wineries and vineyards and is home to nearly 700 wineries. It is recognized as one of the premier Pinot noir–producing areas in the world.
The Willamette Valley is a huge and varied appellation that includes nine nested appellations: Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, Laurelwood District, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, Tualatin Hills, Van Duzer Corridor and Yamhill-Carlton.
Buffered from Pacific storms on the west by the Coast Range, the valley follows the Willamette River north to south for more than a hundred miles from the Columbia River near Portland to just south of Eugene. To the east, the Cascade Range draws the boundary between the Willamette Valley’s misty, cool climate and the drier, more extreme climate of eastern Oregon.
At its widest point, this long, broad valley spans sixty miles. Overall, the climate boasts a long, gentle growing season – warm summers with cool evenings; bursts of Indian summer into fall; mild winters followed by long springs. In ideal years the maritime climate provides the best conditions possible for growing the cool-climate grape variety for which Oregon is best known: Pinot noir. In lesser years, fall weather can be tricky, causing winemakers to pull their hair. By this measure the Willamette Valley compares favorably with the Burgundy and Alsace regions of France. And, like it or not, the often finicky Willamette Valley climate is the promised land for Pinot noir in America. Wineries also produce Pinot gris, Pinot blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Melon, Gewürztraminer, sparkling wine, Sauvignon blanc, Syrah and Gamay, among other lesser-known varieties.
The Willamette Valley wineries are a popular tourist destination, with the area boasting a luxury destination resort, several high-end inns and many delightful bed & breakfasts. The valley also offers a long list of fine dining restaurants. An additional advantage for the wine tourist is the proximity of the wineries to Portland. From Portland in the north or Eugene in the south, tourists can visit the Willamette Valley winery of their choice in anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours.