The Dundee Hills

The hands of geology have created quite a mold with the Dundee Hills. Ancient volcanos blanketed the region with lava millennia ago, depositing a layer of sediment that remains in the soil's cross-section today. Steady subsurface friction gradually lifted the landscape into the insulating mountain ranges that currently encapsulate the region. In what could have only been described as colossal, the Missoula Floods relayed minerals and nutrients from the Rocky Mountains to the Willamette Valley in a series of surging water flows. Less than 20,000 years ago, the rolling foothills of Dundee were half-submerged in water. Today, these hills are filled with some of the richest, best-draining, most wine-friendly soil on the planet.

The soil is the vine's food source, and you are what you eat. Roughly 80 percent is iron-rich Jory soil, a state-recognized variety thanks to legislation passed in 2007. Both Christmas trees and hazelnuts prefer to play in this deep crimson dirt, but it is vinifera - Pinot Noir especially - that really thrives here. About a third of the appellation's acreage is inhabited by grape vines. Though wine production in the region dates back to the era of the Native Americans, Pinot Noir farming began with pioneer David Lett and Eyrie Vineyards in the mid-1960s. Some 25 wineries now occupy the Dundee Hills, awarded an official AVA (American Viticultural Area) designate in late 2005.

These loamy surroundings allow for ideal wine personality. Low sugar levels and high acidity in area wines reflect - generally - the protected climate, good drainage and deepening vine roots of the appellation. What ends up in the glass is a style similar to that of Burgundy, France, yet very much its own. The best of both fruitiness and earthiness.