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Dundee Hills

Appellation Approved: 2005

History: The Dundee Hills is the birthplace of Oregon Pinot Noir. It was here in 1966 that David Lett planted the first Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley (The Eyrie Vineyard). A few years later, Dick Erath, the Sokol Blossers and others cleared south facing slopes in the Dundee Hills to plant many of Oregon’s first vineyards. Burgundy producer Maison Joseph Drouhin embraced the Dundee Hills as the next frontier in Burgundian varietals and bought 225 acres in 1987. The appellation’s byline has become, “The heart and soil of Oregon Pinot Noir.” The original name proposed for the appellation was “Red Hills,” but was subsequently changed to avoid possible confusion with other domestic and international “Red Hill” or “Red Hills” viticultural regions. The Dundee Hills Winegrowers Association (DHWA) was formed in March, 2006. The DHWA President is Jesse Lange of Lange Estate Winery.

Geography: Located 28 miles southwest of Portland and 40 miles east of the Pacific Ocean. The Dundee Hills is an uplifted land mass in the center of the Willamette Valley, protected from extreme weather originating in the Columbia River Gorge to the north by the Chehalem Mountains and shielded to the west from Pacific Ocean rainstorms and winds by the Coastal Mountain Range. Dundee Hills is a north-south spine with ridges surrounded by small valleys on the east, south and west sides. The defining boundaries are Highway 240 to the north, Abbey Road to the west and Highway 99 to the south and east. The appellation elevation contours are from 200 to 1,067 feet above sea level.

Size: 6,490 acres

Vineyards: 2,000 acres, 50 vineyards. The Dundee Hills is the most densely populated sub-appellation in the Willamette Valley. Many vineyards are own rooted and quite old. The most prevalent clones in established vineyards are Pommard and Wädenswil, Oregon’s historical clones.

Wineries: 32

Soils: Primarily volcanic Jory soils over sedimentary sandstone formed by ancient Columbia River basalt lava flows. The Jory series of reddish silt clay and loam is stained red with iron oxide (“Red Hills of Dundee”) and is the most defining and distinguishing feature of this appellation. 85% of the soil in the appellation is Jory series which is primarily found on the Dundee Hills eastern side. The soils typically extend 4 to 6 feet deep and show good drainage. The sedimentary Willakenzie soil series covers the steeper sloes of the Dundee Hills area’s western side.

Climate: Because of its protected location, the Dundee Hills viticultural area is shielded from marked climatic variations. The nights are warmer, there is less risk of low-elevation fog and frost and the appellation is drier than the surrounding areas. The Dundee Hills receives about a third as much rain as the Coast Range (30-45 inches compared to 90-135 inches).

Flavor Profile of Pinot Noirs: Nuanced, delicate, fruit-centric with good acidity and soft and silky textures. Red fruits (can be black depending on vintage) such as cherry and raspberry, pomegranate, sassafras, cola, Dr. Pepper, earth, baking spices, floral aromatics. Winemakers feel that wines from the Dundee Hills “jump out” and are distinctive enough to identify on a regular basis.

Prominent Producers in the Appellation: Ana Vineyards, Anderson Family, Archery Summit, Argyle Winery, Arterberry, Ayoub Vineyard, Bella Vida Vineyard, Cottonwood Winery of Oregon, Daedalus Cellars, DePonte Cellars, Dobbes Family Estate, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Domaine Serene, Duck Pond Cellars, Durant Vineyards at Red Ridge Farms, Dusky Goose, Erath Winery, The Eyrie Vineyards, The Four Graces, Lange Estate Winery and Vineyards, Le Cadeau Vineyard, Rambouillet Vineyard, Sokol Blosser Winery, Stoller Winery and Vineyards, Thistle Wines, Torii Mor Vineyard and Winery, Vista Hills Winery and Vineyard, Westrey Wine Co., White Rose Wines, Winderlea Vineyard & Winery, Wine Country Farm Cellars, Winter’s Hill Vineyard. (Note, some producers have a Dundee Hills vineyard but the winery is at another location.)

Appellation Website:

Dundee Hills Tasting

On Monday, November 10, I met with Sheila Nicholas, owner of Anam Cara Cellars, Jesse Lange, proprietor and winemaker of Lange Estate Winery, and Joe Dobbes, proprietor and winemaker of Dobbes Family Estate. At the Dundee Bistro, we tasted through a representative series of 2006 Dundee Hills Pinot Noirs. The 2006 vintage was warm and the fruit in these wines shows great ripeness, while retaining adequate acidity. The 2006 vintage had the third highest heat units since 1983. Although the Dundee Hills Pinot Noirs are known for redder fruit profiles, the warm 2006 vintage produced some wines with darker fruit profiles. After tasting these wines and the Chehalem Mountains wines the next day, I felt more confident in understanding the aromatic and flavor differences apparent in the wines from the two appellations.

2006 Argyle Spirithouse Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 1,360 cases, $85. This bottling from the Knudsen Vineyard in the Dundee Hills is Argyle’s top-of-the-line Pinot Noir. The winemaker is Rollin Soles. · Great core of dusty cherry fruit with notes of spice and roses and the right touch of acidity on the tangy finish. Plenty of structure to last. The silky texture is memorable.

2006 Daedalus Cellars Labyrinth Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

620 cases, $45. 32% Dundee Hills fruit (Maresh Vineyard, Murto Vineyard), 24% Chehalem Mountains fruit (Carabella Vineyard), and 44% Eola-Amity Hills fruit (Seven Springs Vineyard). Pommard (mostly), Wädenswil, and 114 clones. 7-32 day cold soak, 15% whole cluster fermentation, total skin contact 17 to 42 days, aged 14 months in French oak 28% new, 32% second fill and 40% neutral. Unfined and unfiltered. · A darker fruit driven wine with layered flavors and appealing floral aromas. Nicely balanced with perfect integration of oak.

2006 Dobbes Family Estate Meyer Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., 174 cases, $65. 100% Meyer Vineyard fruit. Laurelwood soil. 70% whole cluster fermentation. 6 day cold soak, indigenous fermentation, aged 11 months in 50/50 new to neutral French oak, racked twice before bottling. · A very elegant wine showing off attractive bright red cherry, pomegranate and spice complimented by earth and hay. An engaging and harmonious Pinot with supple tannins, a seductively silky mouth feel and vibrant acidity.

2006 Erath Estate Selection Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $36. A blend of the best wines from several sites, mostly Knight’s Gambit Vineyard. Aged 15 months in 40% new French oak. The winemaker is Gary Horner. · Super ripe chewy dark fruit with a hint of raisin, cinnamon and oak. Plush mouth feel with prominent ripe, sweet tannins.

2006 The Eyrie Vineyards Estate Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

1,670 cases, $33. Yields of 2.2 tons per acre of fully ripened fruit. This is the estate’s “young vine” cuvée, with vines averaging 20 years in 2006. Aged in mostly neutral French oak for nearly two years. · A bit austere and quite elegant typical of the Eyrie style. Tart red cherry and cranberry flavors accented by herbs and stem spice with distinctive aromas of wildflowers. Better matched with food than sipped alone.

2006 Lange Estate Winery and Vineyards Lange Estate Vineyard Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 285 cases, $60. Yields were 2 tons per acre. Aged 13 months in 40% new French oak. · Bright red cherry and rose petal aromas. Juicy and succulent red cherry and raspberry fruit coat the mouth with hints of dust and Xmas spice and ending in a long, scented finish. The whole package is impressively harmonious.

2006 Stoller Vineyards JV Estate Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 3,035 cases, $28, screw cap. Younger high density plantings. Clones 115, 667, 777, Pommard, and Wädenswil. De-stemmed into steel fermentation tanks, 7-10 days cold soak, 50/50 native/commercial yeast fermentation, aged 10 months in 35% new and 65% neutral French oak. · This wine is a strawberry rocket with plentiful strawberry notes prominent among the melange of berries featured in the aromas and flavors. The nose offers oak vanillin and caramel as well. Really tasty with enough mid-palate richness to stand up to substantial food. Nicely balanced with a short, but tangy finish.

2006 Torii Mor Dundee Hills Select Pinot Noir

14.33% alc., 409 cases, $52. La Colina, Bella Vida, and Estate vineyards. Aged 13 months in 23% new, 26% one year old and 23% two year old French oak barrels. Racked twice. Jacques Tardy is the winemaker. · Dusty red cherries, raspberries and pomegranates with prominent baking spices. Clean, smooth, elegant and stylish. A wine lover’s Pinot.

2006 White Rose Dragon’s Bluff White Rose Vineyard Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

13.9% alc.,198 cases, $75. This wine is produced only in exceptional vintages. The White Rose Vineyard was planted in 1980 on east facing Jory soils at 750-900 feet (one of the highest in the Dundee Hills). The wine represents a selection of the best barrels from the vineyard. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels. · Tremendous aromas of red cherries, Asian spice and warm cookies. Sweet red fruit fills the mid palate with touches of sassafras and oak. Nicely composed and very approachable now, although the core of flavors will be more expressive with a couple of years in the cellar.

2006 Winter’s Hill Vineyard Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 1,195 cases, $29. From 21 acres of Pinot Noir planted between 1990 and 2000, primarily Pommard, Dijon 114 and 115, with some Wädenswil. The vineyard is south facing at an elevation of 525 to 730 feet. 100% de-stemmed, 2 day cold soak, fermented in one-ton fermenters using inoculated yeast, and aged in 25% new oak (French and American). · Very ripe dark cherry flavor profile with a hint of musk, pepper and spice. Lush and tasty on the palate with a lively finish.

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