Oregon gets new American Viticultural Area
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Seven years of data collection, committee meetings and bureaucratic curveballs later, Oregon finally has a new American Viticultural Area: the Van Duzer Corridor.
An American Viticultural Area - commonly referred to as an AVA - is a grape-growing region recognized by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for its unique combination of climate, soils and other geographical characteristics such as elevation.
There are currently 242 AVAs in 26 states, with California topping the list at 139. The TTB announced in a Dec. 14 press release several more, including the Van Duzer Corridor, will be officially added Jan. 19.
In addition to becoming the 19th AVA in Oregon, the Van Duzer Corridor joins Yamhill-Carlton, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, Eola-Amity Hills, Dundee Hills and the Chehalem Mountains as the seventh sub-appellation of the larger Willamette Valley AVA.
The Van Duzer Corridor AVA covers 59,871 acres 20 miles northwest of Salem. The area includes 18 commercial vineyards and six commercially bonded wineries: Andanté Vineyard, Chateau Bianca Winery, Firesteed, Johan Vineyards, Left Coast Cellars and Van Duzer Vineyards.
Attaining AVA status requires winegrowers in a region not only to prove their soils and climate are unique in some way, but they also have to demonstrate their geographical boundaries are legitimate and prove the area is known locally or nationally by the proposed name of the AVA. The AVA process typically takes 3-4 years to complete, but there was nothing typical about this application.
In the spring of 2011 Jeff Havlin, the owner of Fender’s Rest Vineyard, organized a meeting of nearby winery and vineyard owners to explore their AVA options. They knew their soils - marine sedimentary with a bit of basalt resting on top of siltstone bedrock - were unique to the area, but the real ace in the hole was the wind.
The Van Duzer Corridor AVA is blessed by a cut in the Coast Range that allows cool Pacific Ocean winds to barrel into its vineyards in the late afternoon. Those powerful winds, which can gust to 30-50 miles per hour, help reduce mildew pressure and other diseases by drying out the vines and grapes.
Havlin also credits the Van Duzer winds with dropping overnight temperatures to the point where they add acidity and thicken the skins of the fruit.
“Grapes develop thicker skins in response to the high winds, and the skins are where all the good stuff is,” Havlin said. “The thicker skins are why we can make darker, richer pinot noir here.”
The only problem with the application they submitted to the TTB in 2012 was the proposed AVA name: Perrydale Hills. It turns out Havlin’s group couldn’t find a shred of historical evidence to support their claim the area is known as the Perrydale Hills.
“We even looked for inscriptions in old family Bibles,” Havlin said.
The group submitted a new proposal with the Van Duzer Corridor name. The process moved along in usual fashion until January 2017. When President Donald Trump took office he immediately placed a freeze on new regulations, which included signing off on new AVAs. The moratorium was finally lifted and the process took its course. Now, nearly eight years after the process began, the Van Duzer Corridor AVA can appear on wine labels.
When asked if he had any advice for wine colleagues who are thinking about applying for AVA status, Havlin said: “Have patience and a sense of humor.”