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Meeting with winemakers, I learn something new every single time. But when I sat down with Scott Flora of Native Flora in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, some of the things he spoke about seemed to contradict what I had generally heard from others or studied in books. I was fascinated by his contrarian approach. But Scott is not a contrarian just for the sake of it. Through logic and empirical research he has drawn conclusions for the practices he has chosen and the resulting wines speak for themselves. I wrote about Scott Flora's approach in the Napa Valley Register, which you can read here. Every winemaker has their own way of doing things. Most winemakers when asked where a vineyard should be planted will tell you south-facing. But not Scott Flora. Ask a winemaker if a warm-climate grape such as Malbec can be planted in a region known for Pinot Noir, and they will likely say no. But not Scott Flora. In fact, if you tell Scott Flora that it cannot be done, or should not be done, he will likely try it and prove you wrong. And despite being contrary, he seems to be doing everything right.
The Willamette Valley in Oregon spans from Portland in the north to Eugene in the south. Within this larger AVA, there are seven AVA's. Perhaps you have heard of Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Yamhill-Carlton, Ribbon Ridge or even the newest Van Duzer Corridor. But, how can you remember each of these AVAs and what is the difference in the Pinot Noir produced in each area. I spent four intensive days in the Willamette Valley on the Wine Writers Educational Tour in August and we delved into each AVA. I wrote about it in the Napa Valley Register which you can read here. But, take a close look at the map of the Willamette Valley AVAs and you will find some unique shapes that make the AVAs all the easier to remember.
When we talk about wine regions, we see the big picture: Napa, Sonoma, Santa Ynez Valley, Willamette Valley, etc.
Each region is then broken up into AVAs (American Viticulture Areas). How each AVA is determined is based on a common set of attributes and microclimates that contribute to the uniqueness of the wines produced. As wine regions have evolved in the United States, new AVAs have been created.
It is not just about buying a wine from Napa, but is it from Howell Mountain AVA, Diamond Mountain AVA, Spring Mountain AVA or another AVA? What about Sonoma? What about the Santa Ynez Valley?
And what about the Willamette Valley? Do you know what the AVAs are within the Willamette Valley? Can you tell the difference between one AVA and another?