Small Wine Areas: The Dundee Hills Oregon

Sep 07, 2023Cambridge Wines

the rolling vineyards of Dundee Hills, Oregon, with rows of grapevines under a soft sunset, and a bottle of wine with a glass filled with red wine in the foreground, hand-drawn abstract illustration for a company blog, white background, professional, minimalist, clean lines, faded colors

The Dundee Hills AVA is a hidden gem nestled in the heart of Oregon wine country. This small wine-growing region is filled with rolling hills, picturesque vineyards, and a rich history of winemaking. If you're a wine lover looking to discover unique and exceptional wines, the Dundee Hills should be at the top of your list. Let's dive into what makes this area so special and why it's worth exploring.

Understanding the Dundee Hills AVA

The Dundee Hills AVA, located in Oregon's Willamette Valley, is known for its distinct geographical features that contribute to the exceptional wines produced here. The region is characterized by its volcanic soil, rich in nutrients and minerals, which lend a unique and robust flavor profile to the wines. The sloping hills provide excellent drainage, forcing the vines to dig deep for water, resulting in concentrated and flavorful grapes.

The Dundee Hills AVA is a wine lover's paradise, offering a captivating blend of natural beauty and viticultural excellence. Let's delve deeper into the geographical features and climate that make this region truly special.

Geographical Features of Dundee Hills

One of the standout features of the Dundee Hills is its ancient seabed soil, known as Jory soil. This well-draining soil composition is rich in iron and clay, creating the perfect environment for growing Pinot Noir grapes, the star of Dundee Hills. The elevation ranges from 200 to 1,000 feet, allowing for a diverse range of microclimates that add further complexity to the wines.

As you explore the Dundee Hills AVA, you'll notice the undulating landscape, with its gently rolling hills and picturesque vineyards. These hills not only provide a stunning backdrop but also play a crucial role in the development of the wines. The slopes offer natural drainage, preventing water from pooling around the vines and ensuring that the roots have access to just the right amount of moisture. This balance is essential for the vines to thrive and produce grapes of exceptional quality.

Furthermore, the volcanic origins of the soil in the Dundee Hills AVA contribute to the region's unique terroir. The volcanic ash and sediment deposited over thousands of years have infused the soil with a myriad of minerals, adding depth and complexity to the wines. This distinctive soil composition, combined with the elevation variations, creates a diverse tapestry of flavors that can be experienced in every sip.

Climate and its Impact on Wine Production

The climate of the Dundee Hills is influenced by the nearby Pacific Ocean, which brings cool marine breezes that moderate the temperatures and extend the growing season. This longer growing season allows the grapevines to mature slowly, resulting in beautifully balanced wines with vibrant acidity and expressive fruit flavors. The cool climate, combined with the unique soil composition, creates the perfect conditions for producing world-class Pinot Noir wines.

As you stroll through the vineyards of the Dundee Hills AVA, you'll feel the gentle caress of the ocean breeze, carrying with it the essence of the nearby coast. This maritime influence tempers the summer heat, preventing excessive ripening and preserving the grapes' natural acidity. The cool nights and warm days of the growing season allow the grapes to develop complex flavors while maintaining a refreshing crispness.

It's worth noting that the microclimates within the Dundee Hills AVA contribute to the diversity of wines produced in the region. The varying elevations and exposures to the sun create subtle differences in temperature and sunlight exposure, resulting in a range of flavors and styles. Winemakers carefully select vineyard sites based on these microclimates, ensuring that each plot of land contributes its unique character to the final blend.

When you uncork a bottle of Dundee Hills wine, you're not just tasting the fruits of the land; you're experiencing the harmonious marriage of soil, climate, and human craftsmanship. The Dundee Hills AVA is a testament to the art and science of winemaking, where nature's gifts are carefully nurtured and transformed into liquid poetry.

The History of Wine in Dundee Hills

The history of winemaking in the Dundee Hills dates back to the 1960s when a handful of visionaries recognized the region's winemaking potential. These pioneers were captivated by the unique terroir and saw the opportunity to create exceptional wines. They experimented with different grape varieties and winemaking techniques, laying the foundation for the vibrant wine industry that thrives in Dundee Hills today.

Early Beginnings and Pioneers

Among the early pioneers of the Dundee Hills were David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards and Dick Erath of Erath Winery. These trailblazers took a leap of faith and planted Pinot Noir vines in a region that was relatively unknown in the wine world. Their perseverance paid off, as their wines began to gain recognition and put the Dundee Hills on the map as a premier winegrowing region.

Evolution of the Wine Industry in Dundee Hills

Over the years, the wine industry in the Dundee Hills has flourished, attracting passionate winemakers and grape growers who are dedicated to producing high-quality wines. Today, the region boasts a diverse array of wineries, each with its own unique story and winemaking philosophy. From small family-owned wineries to larger, more established estates, there is something for every wine enthusiast to explore.

The Unique Grape Varieties of Dundee Hills

When it comes to grape varieties, the Dundee Hills is best known for its exceptional Pinot Noir wines. The cool climate and unique terroir of the region create the perfect conditions for growing this delicate and temperamental grape variety.

Pinot Noir: The Star of Dundee Hills

Pinot Noir thrives in the Dundee Hills, producing wines that are elegant, complex, and soulful. The wines exhibit flavors of red berries, cherries, earth, and a hint of spice, all wrapped in a silky texture. Each sip tells a story of the land and the skilled hands that crafted it. Whether you're a Pinot Noir aficionado or new to the grape, a visit to the Dundee Hills will give you a newfound appreciation for this remarkable wine.

Other Notable Grape Varieties

While Pinot Noir takes center stage in the Dundee Hills, there are other grape varieties that flourish in this region. Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Riesling are among the white grape varieties that produce exceptional wines. These wines showcase the freshness and vibrancy of the region, with crisp acidity and notes of citrus and stone fruits.

Exploring Dundee Hills Wineries

One of the best ways to fully experience the Dundee Hills is by visiting its renowned wineries. Each winery offers a unique tasting experience, allowing you to savor the diverse flavors and styles of the region's wines.

Noteworthy Wineries to Visit

Avant Wines, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, and Lange Estate Winery & Vineyards are just a few of the remarkable wineries worth visiting in the Dundee Hills. These wineries not only offer exceptional wines but also provide breathtaking views of the vineyards and the surrounding hills. Take your time to explore the wineries' tasting rooms, indulge in delicious wine flights, and perhaps even engage in a conversation with the winemakers themselves.

Wine Tasting Experiences in Dundee Hills

Whether you prefer a casual and relaxed atmosphere or a more formal and educational wine tasting experience, the Dundee Hills has it all. Some wineries offer seated tastings, where you can savor the wines at your own pace while enjoying the scenic views. Others may offer guided tours of their vineyards, giving you a deeper understanding of the winemaking process. Whatever your preference, the Dundee Hills promises an unforgettable wine tasting experience.

Pairing Dundee Hills Wines with Food

With their exceptional quality and nuanced flavors, Dundee Hills wines are a delight to pair with food. From classic dishes to innovative culinary creations, there are endless possibilities when it comes to food and wine pairing in this region.

Ideal Food Pairings for Dundee Hills Wines

Pinot Noir from the Dundee Hills pairs wonderfully with a range of dishes. Its versatility allows it to complement anything from grilled salmon to roasted duck or mushroom risotto. The earthy and fruity notes of the wine beautifully enhance the flavors of these dishes, creating a harmonious dining experience. For white wine lovers, the crisp acidity and vibrant flavors of Chardonnay and Pinot Gris make them an excellent choice to pair with seafood, poultry, and lighter pasta dishes.

Tips for Hosting a Wine and Food Pairing Party

If you're feeling inspired to host a wine and food pairing party centered around Dundee Hills wines, here are a few tips to ensure a successful and memorable event. First, consider designing a menu that offers a variety of flavors and textures to complement the wines. Encourage your guests to explore the nuances of the wines by providing tasting notes and suggestions for food pairings. Finally, create a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere where everyone can enjoy the wines, engage in lively conversation, and celebrate the joys of food and wine.

In conclusion, the Dundee Hills, Oregon, is a small wine area that packs a big punch. Its unique terroir, exceptional wines, and welcoming wineries make it a must-visit destination for wine enthusiasts. So, grab a glass, embark on a wine tasting adventure, and let the Dundee Hills captivate your senses with its world-class wines and breathtaking beauty.

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