view of the Willamette Valley looking southwest to the Coast Range.
The Willamette Valley stretches roughly 110 miles north-south and 60 miles
east-west. Its borders are defined by the Coast Range
on the west, the Cascades on the east, the Columbia River on the north,
and south to the hills of Eugene. The early Oregon Trail pioneers heard
tales of the lush, green valley and fought unimaginable hardships to reach
it. The earliest vineyards were planted along the wall of the Coast Range
on the west side of the Valley. The soils, rainfall, topography and
weather in the region, combined with other meso-climate characteristics,
proved suitable for cool-climate viticulture practices.
Our macro-climates are influenced by three openings in the Coast Range
which bring cool air from the Pacific into the Valley (thanks to Greg
Jones for clarifying macro-, meso- and micro-climates in his contribution
to the current edition of the Oregon Wine Grape
Grower's Guide). One is called the Van Duzer Corridor, which
runs from Lincoln City on the coast to Salem in the Valley. The other two
are unnamed; one runs from Newport to Corvallis and the other from
Florence to Eugene. Cool night air moderates the hot summer days and tends
to preserve acidity in the grapes during the latter part of ripening.
Summer temperatures can reach the high 90s and sometimes 100+, although
mid-to-high 80s are more common. Summer nights tend to be cool and
refreshing, which the grapes appreciate as much as the Valley's residents
do. Winters are relatively mild, although overnight temperatures do drop
below freezing often during December and January. Spring and Fall both
tend to be mild and quite pleasant.
Annual rainfall in the Valley is 40-45 inches. A few miles west, heading
into the Coast Range, the rainfall increases dramatically. In fact, it's
said that rainfall increases by 10" for every 10 miles you travel
west. Coastal rainfall is in the 80" plus range. While rainfall in
the Valley is rarely a downpour, or accompanied by thunderstorms, it tends
to be steadily wet in the winter (if only as mist). However, it must be
noted that no true Oregonian owns (or at least admits to owning)
an umbrella. You can count on some amount of rain from September through
June. July and August are drier and almost rain-free. Most areas receive a
few inches total snowfall in the winter, most often a dusting that melts
The Willamette Valley's farmlands stretch far and wide, comfortably
supporting crops of nursery stock, wheat, mint, grass seed, blueberries,
blackberries, marionberries, raspberries, hazelnuts, garlic, organic
produce gardens, and Christmas trees. They all share space with the
growing wine-grape industry; there is little competition for acreage.