Tualatin Hills and the Laurelwood District AVAs

The Willamette Valley celebrates two new bundles of wine joy! Not one but two American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs, have been approved by the TTB. Located in the northern portion of the Willamette Valley, both Tualatin Hills and the Laurelwood District, are over five years in the making.

Tualatin Hills

The effort to establish the new Tualatin Hills AVA was spearheaded by three wineries; Montinore Estate, Apolloni Vineyards and David Hill Vineyard and Winery. The new AVA is defined primary by the watershed of the Tualatin River, in total, roughly 144,000 acres. Tualatin Hills occupies the uppermost west corner of the larger Willamette Valley AVA, neighboring the Chehalem Mountains AVA to the east and the Yamhill-Carlton AVA to the south.

“Our northernmost 15-mile slice of the Willamette Valley is a special place in the Tualatin Hills defined by its soil and climate,” remarked Alfredo Apolloni, Owner and Winemaker of Apolloni Vineyards. “The new AVA designation will help highlight the unique and distinctive wines produced from our area and its soils, as we further define the exceptional places growing and producing wine in the Willamette Valley and in Oregon.” 

Composed primarily of Laurelwood soil– in fact, it’s the largest concentration of this soil type in the state– windblown loess deposited here roughly 15,000-13,000 years ago by the Missoula Floods. Pinot noir grown in Laurelwood soils tend to have notes of cherry, blackberry and baking spices. Click here to read more about the Missoula Floods and some of Oregon’s AVAs.

“This area has been our home for a long time,” commented Rudy Marchesi, Partner at Montinore Estate. “The unique combination of the Missoula Floods Loess soil and the protection of the coastal range create distinctive conditions that are reflected in each bottle we produce. We’re thrilled to have the designation to help people taste the characteristics of this special corner of the Valley.” 

Laurelwood District

Efforts to create the new Laurelwood District AVA were led by Dion and Ponzi Vineyards, two families with deep roots to the designated area. Research that culminated in 2016 with their TTB application, has finally come full circle with this week’s announcement by the TTB. Dion Vineyards’ Johnson family began farming grapes here in the 1972 and the Ponzi’s acquired a nearby vineyard shortly after, so it goes without saying that both families are intimately familiar with this land, soil and terroir.

Much like the nested Ribbon Ridge AVA, the new 33,000-acre Laurelwood District is also located solely within the Chehalem Mountains AVA, which is within the boundaries of the Willamette Valley AVA. Can you tell we love our AVAs within AVAs here in Oregon? Following the northern boundary of the Chehalem Mountains, the new wine growing region is defined, again, by Laurelwood soil. However, this soil is considered “old” Loess, estimated to be over 50,000 years old.

“Our hope is that this AVA will better define this part of the Willamette Valley that is unique due to its geology and therefore, its wines,” Anna Maria Ponzi, President and owner of Ponzi Vineyards, explained. “As consumers are eager to know more about the products they purchase, this designation enables us to tell the story of this place and why and how our wines are different.”

We’re confident in how to express this soil in the resulting wines,” Winemaker Luisa Ponzi said, noting Pinot noirs show blue and black fruit, spice and rustic tannins, while Chardonnays present white floral aromas, brilliant acidity and salinity.

Raise a glass as we cheer the birth of not one, but two lovely new AVAs! We celebrate these two grape growing regions that have been officially recognized for their uniqueness! The way we see it, two new family members of the Willamette Valley will help consumers, grape growers and winemakers continue to differentiate the qualities that sets these regions apart from others.

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About the Author: Michele Francisco

Michele Francisco, a founder and regular contributor to Winerabble, a blog primarily about Pacific Northwest wines, is living the dream in Portland, Oregon. Her passion leads some to believe she's got wine running through her veins. Contact Michele at michele@winerabble.com & be sure to visit her online portfolio at www.michelefrancisco.com.

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