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Yamhill-Carlton District

Appellation Approved: 2005

History: In 1974, Pat and Joe Campbell started Elk Cove Vineyards and produced the first commercial wine from this region.

Geography: The Yamhill-Carlton District is formed by the foothills of the Coastal Range, is located north of McMinnville and incorporates the towns of Carlton and Yamhill. The elevation contour is 200 to 1,000 feet above sea level. The North Yamhill River flows through the center of the appellation.

Size: 60,000 acres

Vineyards: 1,200 acres, 60 vineyards

Wineries: 20

Soils: Ancient marine sedimentary soils over sandstone and siltstone (Willakenzie series). The soils drain quickly creating a natural deficit-irrigation effect so that vines stop vegetative growth earlier here than elsewhere, leading to complete ripening, even in cooler growing seasons. The soils are the oldest in the Willamette Valley.

Climate: Protected by the Coastal Range Mountains to the west, the Chehalem Mountains to the north, and the Dundee hills to the east. There is still marine influence with more rain and wind than the Dundee Hills to the east. Average rainfall is 60 inches annually. The diagram from the Yamhill-Carlton District website shows the wind and weather patterns in the northern Willamette Valley.

Flavor Profile of Pinot Noirs: Black cherry, blackberry, black raspberry, black currant, blueberry, anise, clove, violet, lavender, pipe tobacco, wood smoke, chocolate, earthiness, and mushroom. Untamed, wild and brooding fruit. Lower acid than grapes grown on basaltic or loess soils. Broad, silky and rustic tannins.

Prominent Producers in the Appellation: Anne Amie Vineyards, Belle Pente Wine Cellars, Domaine Meriwether, Elk Cove Vineyards, Hamacher Wines, Kramer Vineyards, Lemelson Vineyard, Monks Gate Vineyard, Penner-Ash Wine Cellars, Retour Wines, Scott Paul, Shea Wine Cellars, Solena Cellars, Stag Hollow Wines & Vineyard, Thistle Wines, Twelve, and Willakenzie Estate Winery.

Appellation Website:

Focus on The Four Graces Doe Ridge Estate Vineyard

The Four Graces is a newer producer of Pinot Noir whose inaugural vintage was 2003. Named for the four daughters of proprietors Steve and Paula Black, the wines are sourced from the family’s 54-acre Black Family Estate Vineyard in the Dundee Hills appellation. A second vineyard, Doe Ridge Estate, is of particular interest. Located in the Yamhill-Carlton District appellation, this 90-acre site was bought and planted in 2005 and saw its first harvest this year. This is a very unique project. It consists of two 20-acre parcels divided by a natural habitat ravine containing a stream, with both parcels having very similar soils and exposure. The two parcels were planted at the same time to the same clones on identical rootstocks. One parcel is farmed biodynamically and the other one is farmed according to LIVE guidelines. As the vines mature, it will be very interesting to compare the Pinot Noirs that originate from the two highly similar, but differently farmed parcels of the same vineyard. Noted winegrower Laurent Montalieu (Willakenzie, Solena) and French consultant Phillippe Armenier are directing the biodynamic program and viticulturalist Luke Pedotti supervised the planting and management of the vineyards. Dijon clones 115, 667 and 77 and Pommard are grafted to divigorating rootstocks, 101-14 and Riparia Gloire, and are planted at 2555 vines per acre (1.9 m x 1.0 m spacing). An interview with both Laurent Montalieu and Luke Pedotti will be presented in a future Grape Radio podcast. I tasted briefly barrel samples of 2008 Doe Ridge Estate Pinot Noir from the two parcels and there were definite differences noted. The wines are too young to make any definitive characterizations.

The Four Graces has a tasteful tasting room with outdoor seating among the neighboring vineyard on Highway 99W in Dundee. The address is 9605 NE Fox Farm Road. The tasting room is open daily from 10:00 to 5:00. 503-554-0632. Visit the website at

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