Wine history: McMinnville has a long farming history that dates back to the mid-1800s when berry fields, tree fruits and livestock dominated. All that began to change when, in 1970, one of Oregon’s winemaking pioneers, David Lett, bought an old turkey processing plant in McMinnville to house his winery. Soon after, winegrowers began planting vineyards and establishing wineries in the area and, in 1987, McMinnville held the very first International Pinot Noir Celebration. Held every July since, it’s a wildly popular three-day event where winemakers and enthusiasts from all over the world congregate for Pinot noir tastings, winery tours, and seminars. The McMinnville AVA was established in 2005. Today, the area continues to sprout more wineries and tasting rooms.
Climate: McMinnville sits in a protective weather shadow of the Coast Range. As a result, the primarily east- and south-facing vineyards receive less rainfall (just 33 inches annually, as compared to 40 inches in Eola-Amity Hills) than sites just 12 miles to the east. Those vineyards situated on the more southerly facing sites take advantage of the cooling winds from the Van Duzer Corridor, a break in the coast range that allows cool Pacific Ocean air to flow through, thus dropping evening temperatures in the region, which helps to keep grape acids firm. Compared to surrounding areas, McMinnville is, on average, warmer and drier, consisting of higher elevation vineyards (up to 1,000 feet) that are resistant to frost.
Soils: The soils are typically uplifted marine sedimentary loams and silts, with alluvial overlays. As compared to other appellations in the Willamette Valley, these soils are uniquely shallow for winegrowing with low total available moisture.
Topography: McMinnville’s elevation levels range from 200 to 1,000 feet, and the area encompasses the east and southeast slopes of the Coast Range foothills. Geologically, the most distinctive feature in this area is the Nestucca Formation, a 2,000-foot-thick bedrock formation that extends west of the city of McMinnville to the slopes of the Coast Range. This formation contains intrusions of marine basalts, which affect the region’s ground water composition, resulting in grapes with unique flavor and development characteristics.