11 Appellations of the Willamette Valley

11 Appellations of the Willamette Valley – With Map

Willamette Valley constitutes Oregon’s most important wine-growing region, admired especially for New World Pinot Noir that tends to exemplify a style combining the elegance of Burgundy with the ripe fruit of California. Its vineyards prosper in the northwest corner of the state, where the Coast Range and Cascade Mountains help shield grapes from extreme weather conditions while maintaining a relatively cool climate. Within the Willamette Valley, 11 smaller American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) provide distinct wines that deserve a place in your glass.

Chehalem Mountains

Located 20 miles southwest of Portland, Chehalem Mountains received AVA status in 2006. It encompasses a 100-square-mile area within the northern Willamette Valley. An assortment of slopes, ravines, and peaks create a challenging landscape while providing committed grape growers with diverse soils, aspects, and elevations for viticulture. Pinot Noir represents the majority of plantings, but other varieties, including Pinot Gris and Chardonnay also succeed here. Dick Erath, Nancy Ponzi, and David Adelsheim were all early champions of wines from this locale, while others like Lachini Estate Vineyard followed in their footsteps.

Dundee Hills

Willamette Valley’s first Pinot Noir vines were established in the Dundee Hills, setting the scene for what would become Oregon’s most densely planted AVA and one of the most desirable. Viticultural pioneers in the 1960s quickly recognized the potential offered by its breathtaking hills and their red-tinged volcanic Jory soils, which provided excellent drainage. David Lett, Dick Erath, and Sokol Blosser paved the way, eventually attracting the attention of famed Burgundy producer Maison Joseph Drouhin who constructed a winery in 1987. Later on, beloved grower-producers such as Archery Summit also settled here. 

Eola-Amity Hills

Head an hour southwest of Portland to find this charming AVA benefitting from long days during the growing season and the cooling effects of Pacific winds blowing through breaks in the Coast Range mountains. Hillside vineyards on shallow soils also play an important role in viticulture here, yielding beautiful Pinot Noir and Chardonnay bottlings that continue to impress critics and casual enthusiasts alike.


Foothills of the Coast Range provide prime sites for McMinnville’s vineyards, located on shallow, marine-influenced soils. As the furthest west AVA in Willamette Valley, it feels the effects of a local rain shadow and cool air from the Van Duzer Corridor, resulting in extended hang time for Pinot Noir to develop greater flavor complexity. You can find smaller plantings of Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc here as well, and wineries like Yamhill Valley Vineyards.

Ribbon Ridge

Within the northwest corner of the Chehalem Mountains AVA lies an even smaller area known as Ribbon Ridge, which gained its AVA designation in 2005. Marine sedimentary soils define the crested landscape here, which contains a patchwork of renowned vineyards and wineries that benefit from relatively warmer, drier conditions than other portions of Willamette Valley. Wine production concentrates primarily on expressions of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris, many of outstanding quality.


The lofty Coast Range of mountains towers above the horseshoe-shaped Yamhill-Carlton AVA, creating a rain shadow that completely shelters the district, while the Chehalem Mountains northward and Dundee hills to the east offer further coverage. Willakenzie soils composed of sandy loam over marine sediments enrich the vineyards, drain quickly, and promote vine health and vigor – qualities appreciated by esteemed producers including Ken Wright Cellars, Dominio IV, and Wahle Cellars. The high diurnal range here yields complex and structured renditions of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay. 

Van Duzer Corridor

A gap within the Oregon Coast Range south of McMinnville and west of the Eola-Amity Hills, known as the Van Duzer Corridor, channels Pacific Ocean air currents throughout vineyards in the area. This effect helps vine canopies stay dry and moderates temperatures throughout the growing season, promoting the healthy development of Pinot Noir and other grape varieties. Here, Van Duzer Vineyards Estate produces some of the finest wines from the AVA. 

Laurelwood District

Demarcated by and named for the distinct Laurelwood soil found in the Chehalem Mountains, this up-and-coming AVA was approved in 2020 after proponents from Ponzi Vineyards and Dion Vineyards petitioned the Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Soils composed of basalt topped with loess support vine growth here. Laurelwood District also includes the highest elevation in the entire Willamette Valley. 

Tualatin Hills

The Coast Range and Chehalem Mountains moderate the weather conditions in the northern Willamette Valley, specifically around the Tualatin River watershed. The Tualatin Hills AVA was established here in 2020. It features a wealth of microclimates suitable for raising Pinot Noir on high levels of Laurelwood soils. 

Lower Long Tom

November of 2021 saw the creation of the Lower Long Tom AVA, which lies between Corvallis and Eugene in the southern Willamette Valley. Series of hills and valleys forged by the Long Tom River progress east to west and contain clay-loam “Bellpine” soils that force grape vine roots to dig deep for water. Approximately 12 wineries and 24 vineyards currently operate in this exciting new appellation. They focus on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc production.

Mount Pisgah, Polk County, Oregon

Willamette Valley’s newest AVA, Mount Pisgah, Polk County, Oregon, sits west of Salem within a rain shadow created by Laurel Mountain. Mount Pisgah was originally a seafloor volcano on which ancient marine sediment accumulated over millions of years. These features define the area’s geology, providing favorable shallow soils for cultivating vines varieties, including Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, and Tempranillo. 

Now that you’re familiar with all of Willamette Valley’s appellations, there’s no better time to build up a collection and compare bottles! Make WTSO.com your source for deep discounts on Oregon Pinot Noir!

Image/map by WillametteWines.com


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