King Estate Winery, a long-time and leading producer of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, has joined Oregon’s best known wine growing region, the Willamette Valley.
Located in Eugene, Ore., King Estate petitioned the federal government in 2013 to expand the 5,360-square-mile Willamette Valley viticultural area by 29 square miles to include the winery. The expansion also includes an adjacent winery, Iris Vineyards, which supported the request. Neither winery existed when the Willamette Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) was formed in 1983, and both abut the previous border.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which oversees AVAs, approved the request on March 3, 2016, following an extensive public regulatory process. This is the first time since it was established in 1983 that the Willamette Valley AVA has been expanded.
One of 18 AVAs in Oregon, the Willamette Valley stretches 120 miles from the Columbia River south to the Douglas County line. It is 60 miles wide, bordered by the Cascade and Coast Range mountains.
AVAs are part of a so-called appellation system that defines winegrowing regions, and the terms are often used interchangeably. In order to have an AVA appear on a wine label in Oregon, at least 95 percent of the grapes used to produce the wine must be grown in that AVA.
Each AVA is distinguished by unique features relating to climate, soil and topography, which in turn shape the quality and characteristics of the wine produced there. The hallmark of the Willamette Valley AVA is a cooler climate suitable for grapes that don’t require strong heat and sun to ripen, such as Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. King Estate produces those varietals and more.
In approving King Estate’s request, the TTB agreed that its soils, elevations and temperatures are similar to those found within the existing Willamette Valley AVA. For example, the Willamette Valley AVA was formed around a roughly 1,000-foot elevation boundary, because that is the maximum elevation for successful viticulture in this region of Oregon. King Estate’s vines are planted between 600 and 1,050 feet in elevation, well within the current AVA range of 115 to 1,630 feet.
About King Estate: King Estate, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, is located southwest of Eugene, Ore., at the southern tip of the Willamette Valley. Founded in 1991 by the King family, King Estate is committed to producing wines of exceptional quality under sustainable farming methods, organic certification with Oregon Tilth, and is in transition to Demeter USA’s Biodynamic standards. King Estate focuses on producing world-class Oregon Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, and wines from the inland growing regions of Oregon and Washington under its North by Northwest label. To this day, King Estate is owned and operated by the King Family.
Map: A portion of the existing Willamette Valley AVA map is shown here.