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Yamhill County is situated in the topmost part of the Willamette Valley region in Oregon. Though there is a history of wine-making in the region dating back to the 1850s with the first immigrant settlers, it wasn’t until long after the Repeal of the Prohibition that things began to take shape wine-wise.
In the 1960s, oenologists from UC Davis saw the potential for wine production in the area, even though from a temperature perspective, the region’s climate was deemed to cool for quality production. Still, David Lett, Dick Erath and Charles Coury insisted on following up on their independent research and established their own vineyards within Yamhill County (Eyrie Vineyards, Erath Winery and David Hill Vineyard respectively). The varietals they chose to grow, Pinot Noir among them, were carefully selected according to what their research found suited to the terroir and climate. At Eyrie Vineyards in the Dundee Hills, David Lett is credited with planting the first Pinot Gris in the United States. By the 1970s, he entered his Pinot Noir into the “Wine Olympics” blind tastings in France, scoring well among notable producers. In 1980, his 1975 Pinot Noir won second place against Robert Drouhin’s 1959 Chambolle-Musigny, solidifying Oregon’s place on the wine map. Today, its close proximity to Portland makes its wineries a favorite tour destination.
Yamhill County has a range of microclimates and terroirs. Generally, the region is considered cool climate, with mild summers and autumns that can be susceptible to heavy rainfall. The gem of the region is its Pinot Noir, with many comparisons to the illustrious wines from Burgundy. Other popular grape varietals grown in the valley are Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. Late harvest dessert wines are often produced from Muscat Blanc (a.k.a. Muscat Cannelli).
The subregions of Yamhill County are:
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