Wine Country visitors soon arrive 'Inside the Industry'
By KARL KLOOSTER
Of the News-Register
If wine is one of your reasons for visiting the Yamhill Valley, you've hit the mother lode. Visitors to Wine Country soon find themselves "Inside the Industry."
Outstanding wines are grown and produced throughout Oregon, no more and none better than in Yamhill Valley Wine Country. This extraordinary area boasts the largest number of wineries, the most vineyard acreage and the widest acclaim for consistently high quality of any region in the state.
Pinot noir, the noble red wine grape from France's world-renowned Burgundy region, is responsible for Oregon's signature wines.
Wine pioneers of the area were convinced the Dundee Hills offered precisely the conditions that could give rise to greatness from this notoriously fickle variety. That conviction formed the foundation upon which northwestern Oregon built its reputation for wines that now rank among the world's finest.
The Valley's special suitability for pinot noir has led to plantings in virtually every promising area. Vineyards can be found on hillside slopes at almost all points of the compass, each yielding grapes that display their own distinctive characteristics.
Distinctive enough, in fact, that growers and wineries have been granted six American Viticultural Area designations from the federal government, allowing wines grown in those discrete areas to be legally differentiated from any others. There are just 14 AVAs statewide.
Not that pinot noir is the only exceptional variety grown and made here. Pinot gris, chardonnay, white riesling and pinot blanc - all white wines – among others, have also earned high praise for Yamhill Valley wineries.
And there are more than 200 Yamhill Valley wineries, including many that share space, equipment and even expertise.
From the visitor's point of view, Yamhill Wine Country has so much to offer that there’s no way all of it can be experienced in a weekend or even in a week. Visitors need to plan itineraries according to the style that suits them.
Coming in on 99W from the Portland metro area, you could stop at popular wineries near the main roadway, or head north onto Highway 240 where dozens of smaller wineries nestle along the southern slopes of the Chehalem Mountain Range.
If you drive into Dundee, a couple of roads to the right lead up into the Dundee Hills wherein lie a host of wineries whose grapes have benefited from that red, mineral-laden Jory soil.
Venturing west, you’ll find roads leading to the Yamhill-Carlton District, the first growing area you encounter when coming south from Forest Grove.
Salem-area motorists traveling north pass by the Eola Hills, with vines clinging to its western, southern and eastern slopes
McMinnville, the Yamhill Valley's largest town, is home to a host of wineries, including one with more than three dozen labels under one roof. That’s Northwest Wine Company, which is open to the public only on Memorial Day and Thanksgiving weekends.
The same goes for many of the small wineries in the area, so call before you go. Many take appointments, and that can be a special treat in itself.
The valley’s newest AVA, McMinnville, actually is in the coastal foothills southwest of that city. It is a growing area all its own, with climactic conditions are influenced by the VanDuzer Corridor.
Wherever you decide to go in Yamhill Wine Country, what you will find is wine the Oregon way: knowledgeable, friendly, welcoming people proudly present exceptional handcrafted products in a relaxed, low-key environment.
Have a grape time!