Yamhill County, the birthplace of Oregon’s world-class wines, contains two-thirds of the state’s vineyard acreage and is home to more than 200 wineries. The Willamette Valley, including the Eola Amity Hills region, is known for producing the cool-climate grape, Pinot Noir, and boasts a rare mix of family-owned vineyards, historic communities and culinary treasures. According to a recent article in our local newspaper “The Newberg Graphic,” Yamhill County has been named “Top Wine Producer” for the State of Oregon.
Willamette Valley Wine History
Modern winemaking in the Willamette Valley dates back over 40 years to three men from UC Davis who believed that Oregon was an ideal place to grow cool-climate varieties. Between 1965 and 1968, David Lett, Charles Coury, and Dick Erath separately forged their way to the north Willamette Valley despite negative rumblings from their Davis cohorts who told them it was impossible to grow wine grapes in Oregon. They were the first in Oregon to plant Pinot noir. They also planted small amounts of related varieties, including Pinot gris, Chardonnay, and Riesling.
These wine pioneers whole-heartedly believed that Oregon would one day become an important wine-growing region. Other believers were not far behind. Within the next decade, David and Ginny Adelsheim, Ronald and Marjorie Vuylsteke, Richard and Nancy Ponzi, Joe and Pat Campbell, Susan and Bill Sokol Blosser and Myron Redford all planted vineyards in the Willamette Valley. The families worked in a collaborative spirit, sharing advice, humor and encouragement, as they began writing history by producing superior wines in Oregon. Though, it wasn’t until David Lett entered his Oregon Pinot noir in the 1979 Gault-Millau French Wine Olympiades and won top Pinot noir honors against France’s best labels, that the world started to take notice of Oregon as a serious winemaking region.
The Willamette Valley became an official AVA in 1984. 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 honors for other such cool-climate varieties as Pinot gris, Dijon clone Chardonnay and Pinot blanc.
Today, the Willamette Valley wineries are a popular tourist destination with many bed & breakfasts, motels and fine restaurants available. An additional advantage for the wine tourist is the proximity of the wineries to Portland. From Portland, tourists can visit the Willamette Valley winery of their choice in anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours.
More Information & Links
- For a list of Yamhill County Wineries, please visit the Oregon Wines Directory to browse by winery.
- SIP – McMinvnille Food and Wine Classic
- Dundee Hills Winegrowers Association
- Yamhill-County Wine Appellation
- Yamhill County Wine Tours