About The Yamhill-Carlton AVA

Down To Earth in Oregon's Northern Willamette Valley

This pastoral corner of Oregon’s northern Willamette Valley was the final destination for many of the early Oregon Trail pioneers.

It is now being revitalized by a new wave of pioneers: committed, passionate winegrowers drawn to the area’s unique set of growing conditions.

North of McMinnville, Oregon, in the Northern Willamette Valley, the land slowly rises to the hamlets of Carlton and Yamhill. Low ridges surround the two communities in a horseshoe shape. The free-flowing North Yamhill River courses through the center of a lush patchwork quilt of nurseries, grain fields and orchards. The neatly combed benchlands and hillsides of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, an AVA established in 2004, are home to some of the finest Pinot Noir vineyards in the world. Historically nourished by forestry and farming, this area is rapidly emerging as a global center of Pinot Noir production.

Grapes Harvest Yamhill-Carlton AVA
Yamhill-Carlton AVA Oregon Vineyard

Oregon pinot noirs and chardonnays are world famous, justly so.

The Coast Range to the west soars to nearly 3500 feet (1200m), establishing a rain ‘shadow’ over the entire district. Additional protection is afforded by Chehalem Mountain to the north and the Dundee Hills to the east. The coarse-grained, ancient marine sediments native to the area are among the oldest soils in the Willamette Valley. These soils drain quickly, making them ideal for viticulture. Thus, the vines stop growing shoots and leaves earlier here than elsewhere, leading to more complete ripening, even in cooler growing seasons.

Our unique climate and geology allow Pinot Noir to develop deep ruby colors and broad, silky tannins. The mouth-filling wines exude powerful fruit aromas of raspberry, blackberry and black cherries, framed by minerality reminiscent of pipe tobacco, espresso, clove and dark chocolate and accented by scents of rose, violet, lavender and sweet wood smoke.

These are alluring, complex, supple gems of Pinot Noir to sip and savor.

Planting Vines Yamhill-Carlton AVA
Yamhill-Carlton AVA Oregon Winemaking
Yamhill-Carlton AVA Oregon Wine Events

Yamhill-Carlton Pinot noir is quintessential: it is redolent of blackberries, raspberries, cloves, tobacco, and coffee – all incredibly food friendly flavors.

Vitaly Paley
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Yamhill-Carlton AVA

Technical Details

Number of Wineries: 63
Number of Vineyards: 127
Planted Acres: 2,844
Primary Grape Varieties: Pinot noir, Pinot gris, and Chardonnay

Predominant Soil Types
: Marine sedimentary silt-loam soils are unique to the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. The soils are well drained which promotes earlier cessation of vegetative growth and more complete ripening and tannin development at lower levels of acidity. Thus the wine develops complex flavors, deep ruby colors, and broad silky tannins.

: The Yamhill-Carlton AVA is a south-facing horseshoe shaped bowl containing a series of eroded hills east of the higher-elevation Coast Range. Surrounding elevations provide a wind and rain shield that protects vines at critical times during the growing season.

: The Yamhill-Carlton AVA averages 42” of rainfall per year, predominantly from October thru May. Growing Degree Days average approximately 2300 degrees, which is ideal for Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Pinot gris. Evening cooling is provided by the Van Duzer Corridor maritime-influence, which is moderated by hills to the south.

Vineyards in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA are planted on hillsides and ridges at elevations from 200 to 800 feet above sea level, which create diverse microclimates.

Frequently Asked Questions

When was the Yamhill-Carlton AVA created?
AVA status was granted in 2004, though first allowed on a label for the 2003 vintage.

Where is the AVA located? 
The AVA is approximately 35 miles, or about a 45-minute drive, southwest of Portland, Oregon. It lies west of Newberg and north of McMinnville.

Why was the Yamhill-Carlton AVA created?
To distinguish fruit grown in the oldest marine sedimentary based soils from the greater Willamette Valley. This contributes to a wine profile that is distinct from neighboring AVAs in a number of important ways.

What are the most influential factors for producing wine from that AVA?
The most influential factors that produce distinctive wines from the Yamhill-Carlton AVA are its marine sedimentary soils and underlying siltstone-sandstone parent material. The soils are well drained with moderate water-holding capacity, which enhances ripening at higher levels of tannins and well-balanced acids. The 40-45 million year old parent material, the oldest in the valley, contribute spice and floral overtones to fruit flavors in the wine.

What characteristics do the wines of the AVA share? How are they different from surrounding AVAs?
These are plummy, black-fruited Pinot Noirs with notes of blackberry and black cherries, framed by minerality reminiscent of pipe tobacco, espresso, clove and dark chocolate, and accented by scents of rose, violet, lavender and forest floor.

A Yamhill-Carlton Pinot is typically lower in acidity, deeper in color, and breadth of mouth feel than that of neighboring regions. The wines have some of the darkest color of all Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs.

What does your motto “Down to Earth” mean?
The motto describes the unassuming nature and cooperative spirit of the people who have lived in this valley since the 1850s. The members of the Yamhill Carlton AVA continue this collegial community-minded spirit. “Down to Earth” also applies to qualities in our wines which are influenced by the mineral elements in our marine sedimentary soils.

Why does the AVA have an elevation requirement?
Soils on the valley floor, like much of the Willamette, are far too fertile, frost-prone, clay-laden, and wet. The AVA resides on hillsides between 200 and 1000 feet in elevation, the “sweet spot” for growing premium Pinot Noir.

Why does Pinot noir love Yamhill Carlton?
Temperature, geology, and rainfall combine to create the perfect environment for “world class” Pinot noir. The shallow marine sediments of the AVA encourage early ripening of Pinot Noir. Significant shifts in temperature between summer days and nights encourage thick, flavorful skins, and ripeness with excellent acidity. The Coast Range Mountains provide some shelter from the rains of the Pacific at critical times in the growing season.

What is the Yamhill-Carlton AVA “claim to fame”?
The wines and people of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA are “Down to Earth.” Wine quality comes from the soil and mother rock. The winegrowers are unpretentious and accessible. The winemakers pursue their art with quiet confidence – no hype, no flash.



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