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The Dirt on Willamette Valley

One of the joys of the Willamette Valley is the relatively easy to understand relationship between how the valley was formed, the types of soils contained within, and how it relates to the final wine.

Of course I’m simplifying things a bit, and terroir is a multi-dimensional topic well ahead of adding winemaker influence, but we can draw a few conclusions:

Volcanic soils (i.e. “Jory soils”) tend to make Pinot Noirs that lean toward the beautiful, the perfumed, the “uplifting” style, leaning toward red fruits.

Marine sediment soils tend to make Pinot Noirs that are darker and richer, with a pronounced depth of flavor, leaning toward black fruits.

Loess soils tend to make Pinot Noirs on the red fruit spectrum, with an earthy and sometimes peppery edge.

And finally the Missoula Floodplain soils are not ideal for grapevines but is ideal for just about anything else. This is why the valley floors are covered in interesting crops, and the vines don’t begin until 200-300 foot elevation

More links for learning about Willamette Valley dirt and terroir

Around the World in 80 Harvests: Why Dirt Matters – Oregon’s Willamette Valley

The Washington Post (possible paywall): Oregon Terroir is Multidimensional

There is no stronger voice in Oregon regarding terroir than the legendary winemaker Mark Vlossak of St. Innocent. I’ve been lucky enough to know Mark for years, and his seminars have been life changing for me. An independent wine journalist named Austin Beeman has made a great series of interviews which he posted to YouTube.