Willamette Valley History

The History of Winemaking in the Willamette Valley

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Winemaking Is Part Of Willamette Valley History

Winemaking in Oregon was born in 1966, when a few graduates of the University of California, Davis purchased land in the Willamette Valley. David Lett, one of those hopeful and determined graduates, became the first person to start a vineyard in Dundee, naming it The Eyrie Vineyards.

Lett and his wife planted Pinot noir and a few other cool-climate varieties, and their first bottles appeared in 1970. A few years later, many other winemakers in the U.S. followed suit and established their own vineyards in the Valley.

In 1979, Lett shocked the winemaking world when he won top honors at the Gault-Millau French Wine Olympiades for his 1975 South Block Pinot noir. After this momentous victory, the world started to take notice and Oregon entered the World Atlas of Wine, a definitive guide to wine around the world. In 1983, the Willamette Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) was officially established. In 2005, the first sub-AVAs were approved: Dundee Hills, Yamhill-Carlton, Ribbon Ridge and McMinnville. A year later, two more AVAs were added: Eola-Amity Hills and Chehalem Mountains.

Today, the Willamette Valley is recognized as one of the top wine destinations in the world with over 500 wineries and 19,000 acres of vineyards. Famous for Pinot noir, Wine Spectator named Colene Clemens Dopp Creek Pinot noir its 7th best wine in 2018.

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