The Willamette Valley became an official region in 1983. Today, it is recognized as one of the premier wine producing areas in the world. It is most widely known for its award-winning Pinot noir, but consistently earns top honours for other such cool-climate varieties as Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc.
The valley is a huge and varied region that includes nine appellations: Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, Laurelwood District, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, Tualatin Hills, Van Duzer Corridor and Yamhill-Carlton.
Protected from cold Pacific Ocean air and rainstorms on the west by the Coast Range mountains, the Valley follows the Willamette River for more than a hundred and fifty kilometres from the Columbia River near Portland to just south of Eugene. The Cascade Range to the east forms a natural boundary and protects against the opposite extreme; the dry, desert-like climate of eastern Oregon. Overall, the climate boasts a long, gentle growing season, warm summers with cool evenings, a long and mild autumn.
The Willamette Valley is an old volcanic and sedimentary seabed that has been overlaid with gravel, silt, rock and boulders brought by the Missoula Floods from Montana and Washington between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago. The most common and famous of the volcanic soils is known as red Jory soil, which is found above 300 feet elevation provides excellent drainage for superior quality wine grapes. Anything below 300 feet elevation is primarily sedimentary-based soil.