Long, long ago before there were Grapes…

by Clark & Brigitte Hoss

Ancient History

Volcanic Eruptions and Missoula Floods

The fertile Willamette Valley wine growing region is the result of several cataclysmic geologic events beginning some 14 to 17 million years ago.  Long ago, eruptions from Oregon’s Cascade Range volcanoes unleashed tremendous lava flows, spreading thick layers of basalt onto the lands surrounding our now verdant valley.  

In addition to these hot molten eruptions, a subsequent cataclysmic event occurred near the end of the last Ice Age between 13,000 to 15,000 years ago. During this period, as vast amounts of ice melted, a series of rapid catastrophic floods hurled huge volumes of water and suspended materials down through the Columbia River Basin, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. These Missoula flood waters reached depths of nearly 400 feet in the Portland Metro area and deposited deep layers of “lake silt”, as well as the eroded and crushed basalt rock from earlier volcanic activity, throughout the valley floor.

The epic combination of lava flows and raging floods spawned the unique soil conditions that the Willamette Valley wine growers capitalize on today as they cultivate grapes and craft the magnificent wine that wine enthusiasts around the world so enjoy. One particular volcanic soil type, “Jory”, named after early Oregon pioneer William Jory,  received special tribute in 2011.  It was this year that Oregon’s State Legislature designated Jory as Oregon’s official state soil. We are pleased to say that our very own Dundee Hills are comprised of an exceptionally high concentration of Oregon’s Jory soil!

A view of the Willamette Valley from the Dundee Hills.

A view of the Willamette Valley from the Dundee Hills.

Turn of the Century History

From Dundee Scotland to Dundee Oregon

In the mid 1800’s a treaty between the United States and England opened Oregon territory to settlers from both countries, including fur trappers, missionaries, miners and railway men. The earliest pioneers, after months on the Oregon Trail, finally reached  Oregon’s promised land, with its rich forests as well as wide open lush green meadows.  This fertile valley, its mild climate, abundance of water and arable soil, promised those fortunate settlers a wealth of agricultural possibilities.  

News about this “garden land” spread rapidly.  As a result, what soon ensued was the evolution of a westward bound railway system. One noteworthy railway builder was William Reid, who decidedly named our town Dundee in honor of his birthplace Dundee, Scotland. William came from a pioneering railway family heritage as his father David Reid was conductor on the first railroad operation in Scotland.  Reid’s work in Oregon led to the establishment of the state’s comprehensive railway system, including several extensions into the western Willamette Valley.  With such a transportation system in place, rapid migrations of individuals headed to Oregon to claim farmlands, thereby establishing the seedling towns of what would eventually flourish into the greater Willamette Valley of today. 

Recent History

Lets make Wine!

Oregon’s Pinot Noir roots run deep… all the way to Burgundy France where thousands of years of cultivating grapes created the ultimate Pinot Noir.  In the mid 1960’s, Oregon’s own fledgeling artisan wine pioneers, including the Lett, Erath, and Adelsheim families, had incredible forethought and began importing French Pinot clones to Oregon. They recognized that on this side of the Atlantic, the hills of the Northern Willamette Valley offer unique farming conditions similar to those of France’s prestigious wine regions.  As is the case in Burgundy France, the Willamette Valley experiences hot, dry summers and moderate winters.  These weather conditions dance upon uniquely complex soils. Such synchronistic elements of climate and earth allow for the production of highly nuanced Pinot Noir flavor profiles so characteristic of the surrounding Dundee Hills AVA.