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Overview of Chehalem Mountains AVA Wine Region

Background

The wine region of the Chehalem Mountains delivers wines of considerable complexity and intrigue because of the diversity of its heights, soils, and features[1]. The wines from the chilly climate and limitless combinations of soils and elevations are produced, with their distinct structure and aromas of strawberry and cherry in cooler vintages and darker fruit in riper years. The stunning topography and varied soils of the Chehalem Mountains produce incredibly flavorful and nuanced wines.

Situated in the northern Willamette Valley, southwest of Portland, the Chehalem Mountains AVA is a solitary elevated landmass that spans 20 miles in length and 5 miles in width, running from southeast to northwest. Ribbon Ridge and Parrett Mountain are just two of the many distinct spurs, mountains, and ridges that are part of it. Over 2,600 acres of grapes are planted in more than 179 vineyards and 53 wineries across the nearly 70,000 acres of this AVA.

Chehalem Mountains AVA
Chehalem Mountains AVA | Source

Date and process for when it became official AVA

Adelsheim Vineyard’s David Adelsheim is the one who headed the petition effort to establish the Chehalem Mountains AVA. He started the campaign in was 2001. In 2006, the AVA was formally founded.

Climate

The Chehalem Mountains have the biggest temperature difference in the Willamette Valley and the lowest and highest annual precipitation, measuring 37 inches and 60 inches, respectively. The ripening of Pinot Noir might vary by three weeks as a result of these changes.

 In comparison to the nearby valley floors, Ribbon Ridge’s grape-growing hillsides are marginally warmer and drier due to geological factors that shield them from the north, south, and west.

Chehalem Mountains
Chehalem Mountains | Source

Soil types

An area with a large variety of soil types can provide more complex, nuanced flavors. There are three types of soil in the Chehalem Mountains AVA: volcanic, marine sedimentary, and loess. The soil in Oregon’s Chehalem Mountains AVA is the most diverse of all the viticulture locations, which allows vintners to make exceptionally nuanced wines. Marine soils are richly colored and have a high concentration of quartz. Marine sandstones first surfaced in the Pacific Ocean’s shallow waters. Volcanic soils are formed on the southeast face of the Chehalem Mountains from the lava of Columbia River. Finally, loess soils, which are deposited by strong winds on the northeastern side of the Chehalem Mountains, are renowned for producing wine with exquisite, rich, and earthy tastes.

Key wineries in the region

Map of wineries

Map of wineries
Map of wineries | Source

Adelsheim Vineyard

Adelsheim Vineyard
Adelsheim Vineyard | Source

In 1971, David and Ginny Adelsheim bought their first 19 acres just outside of Newberg, Oregon, by chance, fate, and a single-minded goal to produce world-class wine in Oregon. Attracted by the land’s singular qualities and its closeness to Portland, they chose this location to lay down roots, plant the first Pinot noir rows along Quarter Mile Lane, and create Adelsheim, which would become the first winery in the history of the Chehalem Mountains in 1978[2]. Since 1971, they have been relentlessly pursuing benchmark wines that honor the exceptional wealth of the estate vines, which are characterized by some of the most varied soil types, exposures, and elevations in all of Oregon.

Alloro Vineyard

110 acres of distinctively shaped, Laurelwood soil with a loess origin make up Alloro Vineyard. Situated on a southwest-facing incline in the Chehalem Mountains of Oregon, this unique location is the essence of the state’s exceptional wines. All of the wines produced by the estate are made from a single, sustainably farmed vineyard. Winemaker Tom Fitzpatrick, studied at UC Davis and in Burgundy, feels that a wine should be an “expression of place, at a moment in time” and so convey the distinct character of an area as it is reflected in each vintage. 

Anne Amie Vineyards

Anne Amie Vineyards
Anne Amie Vineyards | Source

The grapes that dominate at Anne Amie Vineyards are Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc, which make up the majority of their production. Old-Vine Estate Müller-Thurgau, planted in 1979, rounds out the pinot family. The vineyards are situated in Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley, nestled in the Yamhill-Carlton District and on the steep hillsides of the Chehalem Mountains. The tasting room offers stunning views of the Pacific Coast Range and the vineyards.

Arlyn

Boasting 20 acres planted to Pinot noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay noir, Arlyn is a 40-acre farm situated in the Chehalem Mountains AVA, edging Ribbon Ridge. The farm is surrounded by a small group of historic animals to balance the vines. It is run biodynamically by owner Janis Pate, foreman Ulises Ayala, and a tiny but amazing workforce[3].  While you are there, you can see runner ducks, bunnies, honey bees, vineyard dogs, Jacob and Valais Blacknose sheep, Scottish Highland cattle, Mangalitsa/Tamworth pigs, and Boer goats. Arlyn’s core values include regenerative agriculture, dry farming, and the greatest care for all that grows.

Bells up Winery
Bells up Winery |Source

Bells Up Winery uses fruit only from its estate and from micro-sites in the Willamette Valley and Eastern Oregon to make handcrafted, classically styled Pinot Noir, Rosé, Pinot Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Every year, the winery produces about 500 cases.

Bells Up, led by winemaker Dave Specter, provides reserved, seated private tastings for just one party at a time. In a laid-back and leisurely manner, visitors sample the latest wine releases, discover the characteristics of the vintages, and take a tour of the winery barrel area.

Conclusion

It is evident that some of Oregon’s most illustrious and historic vineyards are located in the Chehalem Mountains AVA. As the highest point in the Willamette Valley, it offers an idyllic backdrop for a large number of vineyards and wineries with its many towering hilltops and patchwork of marine, volcanic, and windblown sediments. The region’s unique wines are mostly as a result of the varied soils, temperature, and topography, which add unmatched complexity and joy to each sip.

Quick facts:

  • It was established in 2006
  • The AVA has 53 wineries, 34 tasting rooms, and 179 vineyards.
  • The area tales 62,500 acres
  • Planted Area: 2,660 acres
  • Most common grape varieties: Pinot noir (69.89%), Pinot gris (3.79%), Chardonnay (3.75%)

Read More:

https://thisdayinwinehistory.com/david-adelsheim-and-chehalem-mountain/

References

[1] Chehalem Winery, “The Three Soils of the Chehalem Mountains AVA,” https://www.chehalemwines.com/blog/the-three-major-soils-of-the-chehalem-mountains-ava/

[2] ADELSHEIM VINEYARD, “Our Story,” https://www.adelsheim.com/about

[3] https://www.arlyn.farm/story

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