Both are nested within the existing Willamette Valley AVA.

By Mike Pomranz
June 04, 2020
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According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)—which, despite the inelegant name, is in charge of officially defining America’s wine regions—the United States currently has 248 American Viticultural Areas or “AVAs.” But if you had checked the list earlier in the week, it would have been a couple of AVAs short: Two new AVAs have just been added in Oregon.

“Laurelwood District” and “Tualatin Hills” will be allowed on bottles from these new AVAs effective July 6, though the wines will also have to carry the designation of Willamette Valley—because both of these new smaller AVAs are completely nested in that larger AVA. Last year, the state of Oregon passed a law that nested AVAs have to also list the AVA they are encompassed by, known as “conjunctive labeling,” according to the Portland Business Journal.

A view of Ponzi Vineyards in Oregon's Willamette Valley.
John McAnulty/Getty Images/Getty Images

According to Ponzi Vineyards, which along with Dion Vineyards, petitioned the TTB for a Laurelwood District AVA back in 2016, this region’s boundary is “defined by the predominance of a unique soil series recognized as Laurelwood.” They continue, “This loess (windblown) soil consists of freshwater sedimentary topsoil over a fractured basalt subsoil. It encompasses over 33,000 acres of the North and East facing slope of the Chehalem Mountains, including the highest elevation in the Willamette Valley at 1633 ft.”

“It’s been a decade-long project so we couldn’t be more thrilled,” second-generation winemaker and winery owner Luisa Ponzi stated. “It’s a natural next step towards further defining the Willamette Valley.”

Speaking of which, Tualatin Hill’s petition has actually been sitting on the shelf longer, since 2015, when it was spearheaded by Alfredo Apolloni of Apolloni Vineyards, Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate, and Mike Kuenz of David Hill Vineyard and Winery. According to their announcement, this higher elevation area, defined by the watershed of the Tualatin River, is actually home to the first commercial vineyard in Oregon. Similar to the Laurelwood District, Tualatin Hill also boasts “a windblown volcanic soil mixed with basalt, known as Loess, deposited by the Missoula Floods 12,000 years ago.” The wineries add, “Laurelwood soils tend to lead to Pinot Noir with elegant structure and texture, with distinctive cherry, blackberry and spice, considered to reflect a more European style.”

Tualatin is also described as the “northernmost 15-mile slice of the Willamette Valley,” covering about 144,000 acres in all.

New AVAs are approved semi-regularly. For instance, two were announced last year: North Carolina’s Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County and Connecticut’s Eastern Connecticut Highlands. And currently, the TTB lists 18 pending petitions for AVAs across the country, including two more potential areas in Oregon. Mount Pisgah and Lower Long Tom are both still hoping to join the Oregon AVA party. Though things are already a bit crowed: Oregon now has 21 AVAs in total.