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Roco Winery The Soles' small Wits' End Vineyard is situated on the southwest slope of the Chehalem Mountain Range, which recently has been approved as a distinctive American Viticultural Area (AVA). The site is superbly located at an elevation of 400'. In the winter the Chehalem Mountains rise up behind the vineyard protecting the vines from northeast Arctic winds, and in the summer the Dundee Hills (to the south) help to transition the Pacific Ocean winds into gentle afternoon breezes.
The vineyard was planted to a high plant density (2,200 vines per acre) on devigorated rootstocks with what Rollin considers "the three sexiest Dijon Pinot Noir clones available". Wits' End Vineyard site is predominantly marine sedimentary soil and farmed for low yields. Further, the 7-acre vineyard is enhanced by the unusual presence of two, year-round, fresh water springs. The private, cloistered nature and tranquility of the site flows into the essence of the wine.
The Chehalem Mountains are a single uplifted landmass with spurs, mountains and ridges such as Ribbon Ridge, Parrott Mountain and Bald Peak, which, at 1,663 feet above sea level, is the highest point within the Willamette Valley. This fluctuating topography means that growing conditions vary considerably throughout the range, resulting in grape ripening which can differ by as much as three weeks.
Tasting panels have determined that Chehalem Mountain wines share several common characteristics such as intensity of fruit flavors, often with a certain spiciness, and balanced tannins. The profiles are most evident in the Pinot Noirs, which, depending on soil type and meso-climate, can be elegant and spicy with red fruit, or deep and firmly structured with black fruit tones.
The Chehalem Mountains (pronounced "Sha-HAY-lum") is one of many unique growing regions in the Willamette Valley and throughout the state of Oregon," Located approximately 19 miles southwest of Portland, the new AVA is home to 31 wineries and encompasses 68,265 acres of which more than 1,600 are planted to wine grapes in over 100 vineyards. The region spans portions of Clackamas, Yamhill and Washington counties, and stretches 20 miles from the outskirts of Wilsonville in the southeast, past Sherwood and Newberg almost to Forest Grove in the northwest.
Pinot Noir is the predominant grape variety in the Chehalem Mountains. Pinot Gris and Chardonnay are also widely grown and, to a lesser extent, Pinot blanc and Riesling.The AVA approval is the final result of a collaborative process started in 2001, when north Willamette Valley winegrowers started meeting to define six new AVA's in the most densely planted of Oregon's wine growing areas. The TTB approved AVA petitions for nearby Dundee Hills, Yamhill-Carlton District, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge and Eola and Amity Hills.
Differentiating characteristics for the Chehalem Mountains AVA: Soils: There are three distinct soil types: brown marine sedimentary soils laid down under the ocean 20 million years ago; deep red basaltic soils derived from 13 million year-old lava flows; and gray ice age loess soils blown onto the north side of the mountains in the last million years.
Elevation: Most vineyards lie between 200 and 1,000 feet.
Climate: Temperatures vary within this region more than any other in the Willamette Valley because of the significant variations in elevation and exposure. Annual precipitation ranges from 37 inches in the lower elevations to almost 60 inches at the highest elevation.
Wine Industry: There are more vineyards and wineries within this AVA than within any of the others newly recognized. But the vineyards tend to be smaller (12.9 acres is the average) and just 2% of the AVA is planted to grapes, partially because the AVA is so large.