The Tualatin Valley heightens its wine profile
Already home to one of this country's richest and growing wine industries, Oregon's Tualatin Valley can add another notch to its belt, as it's now home to two new American Viticultural Areas (AVAs): Tualatin Hills and Laurelwood District.
The announcement from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), was made Wednesday, June 3, and is effective, July 6, 2020.
The ruling comes as the result of a petition from Rudolf Marchesi, president of Montinore Estate, Alfredo Apolloni, owner and winemaker of Apolloni Vineyards, and Mike Kuenz, general manager of David Hill Vineyard and Winery, on behalf of themselves and other local grape growers and vintners in the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA, along with a separate petition from Luisa Ponzi, president of Ponzi Vineyards, Maria Ponzi, winemaker of Ponzi Vineyards, and Kevin Johnson, winemaker of Dion Vineyards as part of the Laurelwood District AVA.
AVA's are beneficial to winemakers because they provide an official name or label for the mutual benefit of both the wineries of the area, and the consumer. While winemakers obviously like to set their product apart from similar "makes and models," consumers equally seek wines from areas with distinctive characteristics. Using an AVA designation on a wine label allows vintners to describe more accurately the origin of their wines to consumers and helps consumers identify wines they may purchase.
"Our hope is this new AVA will better define this part of the Willamette Valley that is unique due to its geology and — therefore — its wines," said Luisa Ponzi, whose Ponzi Vineyards is part of the Laurelwood District AVA. "As consumers are eager to know about the products they purchase, this designation will allow us to tell the story of this special place and why our wines differ from others in the valley."
Located in the northwestern corner of the famed Willamette Valley wine region, Tualatin Valley is home to more than 31 estate wineries and tasting rooms, and the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA boasts 33 commercially-producing vineyards covering a total of roughly 860.5 acres. Signature grapes such as Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are among the dozens of varietals in the region, along with Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay and Rosé.
"The Tualatin Hills represents a special place in the Tualatin Valley, defined by its soil and climate," said Alfredo Apolloni. "This northernmost 15-mile slice of the Willamette Valley is sheltered to the west by some of the highest peaks of the Oregon Coast Range and shielded to the south by the large mass of the Chehalem Mountains."
The 144,000-acre Tualatin Hills AVA aligns with the watershed of the Tualatin River and encompasses part of the Tualatin Valley. The area is north of the Chehalem Mountains AVA with soils described as primarily Laurelwood Soils and similarly associated types, such as Kinton and Cornelius Soils. It's those soils — along with other aspects of course — that contribute to the unique qualities found in the newly created AVAs.
"The soil here is unique to this area," Marchesi said, "Which in part helps us differentiate our products from other Oregon area wines."
However, unlike its neighboring Laurelwood District AVA, the Tualatin Hills has slightly higher temperatures. Wineries in the new Tualatin Hills AVA include Apolloni Vineyards, David Hill Vineyard & Winery and Montinore Estate, in addition to Patton Valley Vineyard, Willamette Valley Vineyards' Tualatin Estate, Plum Hill Vineyards and Helvetia Vineyards and Winery.
The 33,600-acre Laurelwood District AVA covers the northern slopes of the Chehalem Mountains AVA, including Cornelius, Scholls and Sherwood. With iron-rich Missoula Flood loess soil contributing to the unique flavor of the wines, wineries from the Laurelwood District AVA include Ponzi Vineyards and Dion Vineyard, as well as Ardiri Winery and Vineyards, Blooming Hill Vineyard, Alloro Vineyard, Blakeslee Vineyard Estate, Cooper Mountain Vineyards, Elk Cove Vineyards, Freja Cellars, Hawks View Winery, Raptor Ridge Winery and Ruby Vineyard & Winery.
Any way you slice — or pour — it, the creation of the two new AVA's appears to be a win for wine enthusiasts within and beyond the Willamette Valley — something Marchesi couldn't help but agree with.
"Yes, this is a good day for both winemakers and consumers."
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