Umpqua Valley AVA

ava_umpqua-valleyLocation: Umpqua Valley AVA sits between the Coast Range to the west and the Cascade Range to the east, with the Willamette Valley AVA to the north and the Rogue Valley AVA to the south. Named for the legendary fishing river that runs nearby, the appellation stretches 65 miles from north to south, and is 25 miles from east to west.

Wine history: The Umpqua Valley’s winegrowing history dates back to the 1880s when German immigrants who had worked for the Beringer Bros., the oldest continuously operating vineyard in Napa, planted the first wine grape vineyard in the Valley. Post-Prohibition, Richard Sommer established Hillcrest Vineyards near Roseburg in 1961. He was the first to plant Pinot noir in Oregon despite being told by his UC Davis cohorts that it was impossible to successfully grow wine grapes in Oregon. Obviously, they were wrong. Just eight years later, in 1969, Paul Bjelland of Bjelland Vineyards founded the Oregon Winegrowers Association in the Umpqua Valley. During the 1970s, new wineries opened, including Henry Estate Winery, whose winemaker Scott Henry developed a now world-famous trellis system, which increases grape yield, among other benefits. The Umpqua Valley appellation continues to evolve as new winemakers discover the area, bringing with them a passion for innovation and world-class wine. The Umpqua Valley appellation became official in 1984.

Climate: One of Oregon’s more diverse climates, the Umpqua Valley can successfully grow both cool and warm varieties. It’s comprised of three distinct climatic sub-zones:  1) The northern area around the town of Elkton enjoys a cool, marine-influenced climate. It receives around 50 inches of annual rainfall, making irrigation unnecessary. Pinot noir and other cool-climate varieties thrive here. 2) The central area to the northwest of Roseburg has a transitional, or intermediate, climate where both cool and warm varieties do quite well.  3) The area south of Roseburg is warmer and more arid, similar to Rogue and Applegate Valleys to the south, making irrigation necessary. Warm-climate varieties, including Tempranillo, Syrah and Merlot thrive here.

Soils: Umpqua Valley soils are as varied as the climate. Generally, they are derived from a mix of metamorphic, sedimentary and volcanic rock, though more than 150 soil types have been identified in the region. The valley floor levels have mostly deep alluvial or heavy clay materials, while the hillsides and bench locations have mixed alluvial, silt or clay structures-all typically excellent for winegrowing.

Topography: The complex topography of the Umpqua Valley is a result of the collision of three mountain ranges of varying age and structure: the Klamath Mountains, the Coast Range and the Cascades. Many say the area should not be thought of as a single valley but, rather, more accurately “The Hundred Valleys of the Umpqua” because it is made up of a series of interconnecting small mountain ranges and valleys.