Located southwest of the city of the same name, the McMinnville viticultural area was created in 2005 and is found between Sheridan and McMinnville. The appellation surrounds Gopher, Muddy and Dupee Valleys and is found at elevations between 200 and 800 feet above sea level. The geology and climate are notably different from the surrounding Willamette Valley.
McMinnville was formed by the uplift of ancient marine sediments, primarily mudstones, and sandstones. The uplift was caused by movement of the Juan de Fuca plate as it was subducted under North America which created the Oregon coast range. These rocks were then subject to volcanic flows of basalt from the Columbia River flows. The hills of McMinnville largely face south and east and are located at a boundary between the northern and central coast ranges which optimizes the amount of sunshine it receives and protects it from the full effect of the Pacific Ocean. Rivers have acted on these rocks over millions of years to create the unique terroir. The soils in McMinneville are among the oldest and most complex in the state. They are more shallow than the those in the valley floor as well as less fertile and soil water holding capacity. As a result, the vines must work harder to establish a foothold in the hills.
McMinnville’s unique terroir has an impact on its climate as well. The hills are less likely to suffer from damaging frosts and are drier and warmer which prevents molds and mildews. Lest the grapes ripen too quickly, cool afternoon ocean breezes flow up the Van Duzer corridor along the course of the Salmon River at that coast range border to allow fruit to develop more slowly, improving flavors and structure.
The city of McMinnville has long been an agricultural district. Prior to the 1970s when viticulture became dominant the area was producing other fruit and dairy cows. Now that wine is king, it is known for fruit-forward wines with good acidity and minerality. The primary varieties produced in the McMinnville AVA include Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Riesling.
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