Where a wine comes from matters, end of story. Every wine region imparts its own unique imprint on the wine it produces. To designate where different grapes are grown and where the wine is produced, countries have their own system of regional classifications. In France, they use AOC’s (Appelation d’origine controlee) and in Italy, they use DOC’s (Denominazione di origine controllata.) In America, we have American Viticultural Areas, or AVA’s.

AVA’s are a little less strict than their European counterparts. They require that at least 85% of the grapes in a wine must be grown within that AVA. (Both DOC and AOC require 100%.) AVA’s don’t have any additional regulations on winemaking, the types of grapes planted or harvesting techniques. 

AVA’s are established based on geographical and geological aspects of the area – climate influences, geographical elements, altitude and soil types. Only wine meeting the 85% grape requirement are allowed to include the specific AVA designation on the label.

While it is helpful for drinkers to see where their wine comes from, having established AVA’s is one way that American wine, and Oregon wine specifically, is becoming more legitimized and premium around the globe. Wine with an AVA on the label has to pass the 85% standard, (Oregon regulations being between 90-100%) ensuring that the wine will reflect the special terroir of that area. This shows that the wine has distinctive viticultural significance, and not just a random batch of grapes harvested from who knows where.   

Currently, there are around 244 AVA’s established in the United States, 19 of those are located in the state of Oregon. Of those 19, about half are sub-regions, located within a larger AVA.

The Willamette Valley is one of Oregon’s largest AVA’s, with seven sub-regions located inside. The most recent, Van Duzer Corridor, was just established in early 2019.

Explore each of the AVA’s in Willamette Valley below.

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Willamette Valley

  • Established: 1983
  • Total Area: 3,411,505 acres
  • Planted Area: 19,261 acres
  • Common Varieties: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay
  • Soil Type: Volcanic, loess and sedimentary

Eola-Amity Hills

  • Established: 2006
  • Total Area: 39,045 acres
  • Planted Area: 3,059 acres
  • Common Varieties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris
  • Soil Type: Sedimentary, Jory, basaltic clay, loam

Ribbon Ridge

  • Established: 2005
  • Total Area: 3,496 acres
  • Planted Area: 379 acres
  • Common Varieties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Gamay Noir
  • Soil Type: Ocean sedimentary

Yamhill-Carlton

  • Established: 2005
  • Total Area: 57,013 acres
  • Planted Area: 2,410 acres
  • Common Varieties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris
  • Soil Type: Ocean sedimentary

Dundee Hills

  • Established: 2005
  • Total Area: 12,605 acres
  • Planted Area: 2,226 acres
  • Common Varieties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris
  • Soil Type: Basaltic

McMinnville

  • Established: 2005
  • Total Area: 39,045 acres
  • Planted Area: 749 acres
  • Common Varieties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc
  • Soil Type: Mineral-rich, marine basalts, sandstone and mudstone

Chehalem Mountains

  • Established: 2006
  • Total Area: 62,187 acres
  • Planted Area: 2,685 acres
  • Common Varieties: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay
  • Soil Type: Hillside: Basaltic, ocean sedimentary and loess

Van Duzer Corridor

  • Established: 2019
  • Total Area: 60,000 acres
  • Planted Area: 1,000 acres
  • Common Varieties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc
  • Soil Type: Ocean sedimentary

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Sources:

Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau
Oregon Wines – Oregon Wines By Region
WINC – The Alphabet Soup of Wine Appellations
The Statesman Journal – Van Duzer Corridor named Willamette Valley’s newest AVA