The J. Christopher winery is located in Oregon’s Northern Willamette Valley in the Chehalem Mountains AVA (American Viticultural Area). In addition to our own Appassionata Vineyard, we source fruit from some of the best vineyards in Oregon, either farming the vineyards ourselves or working very closely with our growers.
The Willamette Valley begins at the Columbia River in Portland and runs southward through Salem to the Calapooya Mountains near Eugene. The Coast Range marks its western boundary and the Cascade Mountains border its eastern edge.
The climate here is generally mild, with cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers, though temperatures and rainfall vary widely throughout. The Willamette Valley as a whole is geologically diverse, made up of an old volcanic and sedimentary sea bed shaped and overlaid with material deposited by the Missoula Floods between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago.
The Chehalem Mountains AVA is a beautiful growing region of more than 100 square miles, located just 19 miles from Portland’s city center and 45 miles from the coast. Elevation in this AVA ranges from 200 to 1,633 feet, and temperatures and rainfall can vary widely. Millions of years of soil accumulation have created a rich geological experiment in one tightly packed geographical area; the soils in this AVA are amazingly diverse, encompassing everything from sedimentary sea beds to red volcanic soils to glacial sediment. In our Appassionata Vineyard, we have counted 11 different soil types. With the variations in aspect and soil, we have at least 10 or 12 distinctly different terroir possibilities to work with. It’s a really interesting piece of property geologically, which makes it fascinating viticulturally, as well. While there is no single character of wines from this diverse AVA, the basalt soils that are predominant in our Appassionata Vineyard tend to produce well-structured, mineral-focused, brighter-fruited Pinot Noirs.
In addition to our own Appassionata Vineyard, we source Chehalem Mountains fruit from the old-vine Medici Vineyard, which we also farm.
The Dundee Hills AVA is located about 28 miles southwest of Portland and 40 miles inland from the Oregon Coast. With the Coast Range providing protection from severe weather, the area gets about 30 to 45 inches of rain per year, most of which falls outside of the growing season. This appellation is defined by a chain of hills created by a combination of volcanic activity and tectonic shifts. It is well-known for its rich, red volcanic Jory soils, which were formed from ancient volcanic basalt and consist of silt, clay and loam. These soils typically reach a depth of four to six feet, providing optimal drainage for superior quality wine grapes. Pinot Noir from the Dundee Hills is characterized by fruit-driven elegance and deep, earthy complexity.
In the Dundee Hills AVA, we source fruit from these exceptional vineyards:
- Baptista-Maresh (which we farm ourselves)
- Nicholas Family Vineyard
- La Colina
The Eola-Amity Hills AVA lies about 15 miles south of the winery and covers almost 38,000 acres stretching from Amity to Salem. Like the Dundee Hills, this string of hills ranging from 250 to 700 feet in elevation was created by intense volcanic and tectonic activity. Two of the predominant influences on the style of wines from this AVA are the shallow soils and the Van Duzer Corridor. The shallow, rocky soils are mainly volcanic basalt, with some marine sediment and alluvial deposits, which provides good drainage for grapes of great concentration. The Van Duzer Corridor – a notch through the Coast Range – allows cool ocean winds to flow in from the west, dropping overnight temperatures dramatically. This natural cooling system allows developing grapes to retain a bright acidity and firm structure.
In the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, we source fruit from the beautiful Bieze vineyard.
The 60,000-acre Yamhill-Carlton AVA is a horseshoe-shaped bowl tucked into the foothills of the Coast Range. It runs from 200 to 1,000 feet in elevation and gets an average of 42 inches of rainfall each year, mainly from October through May; surrounding ridges shield vines from the worst of the weather during key growing times. This AVA is known for having some of the oldest soil in the valley. The dry, silty clay loam from ancient marine sediments drains quickly, forcing vines to dig deep for nutrients. As a result, wines from Yamhill-Carlton tend to have excellent structure, firm tannins, balanced acidity and good aging potential.
In the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, we source fruit from the aptly named Yamhill Vineyards.