The winemakers of Oregon’s Willamette Valley is known for adhering more to Old World viticultural ontology than their southern neighbors. Accordingly, the region was quick to embrace American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s), the newish US equivalent of AOC’s. In fact, this week, two more AVA’s were designated within the Willamette Valley (which is also an AVA; think Venn diagram.)
With the introduction of “Laurelwood District” and “Tualatin Hills,” will bring the Beaver State’s AVA count up to 21. In compliance with state law, the labels will note both the smaller AVA and the parent, Willamette.
Laurelwood is about 33,000 and contains about 25 commercial wineries and 70 vineyards. In the AVA application approved by the TTB (yes, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau regulates wine designations), the region’s unique terroir is described.
“This loess (windblown) soil consists of freshwater sedimentary topsoil over a fractured basalt subsoil. It encompasses over 33,000 acres of the North and East facing slope of the Chehalem Mountains, including the highest elevation in the Willamette Valley at 1633 ft.”
The application for the 144,000 Tualatin described the land as the “northernmost 15-mile slice of the Willamette Valley.”
In 2016 the Johnson family, founders of Dion Vineyard, and the Ponzis, founders of Ponzi Vineyards, launched a collaborative effort to formally add the Laurelwood designation.
“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,” Anna Maria Ponzi, president and owner of Ponzi Vineyards, said in a statement.
The TTB demands that 85% of the grapes in wine must be grown in an AVA for the winery to use the region on their labelling. However, Oregon law is even stricter, demanding 95%.
The US now has 248 AVA’s with another 18 applications pending.