Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Give it Up for Oregon's 17th AVA

The Oregon Wine Board recently announced that Elkton Oregon received approval from the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau  (TTB) becoming the state’s newest American Viticultural Area (AVA). The Elkton Oregon AVA, Oregon's 17th, is located within the Umpqua Valley AVA, which is also a part of the greater Southern Oregon AVA.

Some call it terrior.

Similar to wine appellations in Europe, AVAs are designated when someone petitions the TTB proving that specific areas show qualities determined to be unique to that region's geography with boundaries that are specifically defined. The Elkton AVA is on the Umpqua River and a mere 36 miles from the Pacific Ocean. This location brings daily sea breezes and penetrating fog, giving Elkton its unique climate – cool, maritime and temperate. According to Charles Humble of the Oregon Wine Center, “The climate in Elkton is quite different from the prevailing perceptions of the surrounding areas. Southern Oregon is most often thought of as warmer and drier than winegrowing areas farther north in the Willamette Valley.”

Humble says, “The newest Oregon AVA is the fulfillment of wine pioneer Ken Thomason’s dream of growing world class cool climate Pinot noir and white grapes near the small town of Elkton, which has a population of 170. Thomason began planting grapes in 1972 on a west-facing bench two miles east of Elkton at a site now owned by Mike and Vonnie Landt of Rivers Edge Winery.”

The newly attained AVA status will enable winegrowers and winemakers within the Elkton Oregon AVA to better describe the origin of their wines while allowing consumers to better identify wines from that region at the point of sale. Some wineries and winemakers feel that narrowing the AVA down to such a small area actually makes it harder to sell the wine. I've heard people say they have a hard enough time describing to someone where the Willamette Valley is, or the Umpqua River Valley, much less having to explain places like Chehalem Mountain, or Elkton, for that matter. This argument speaks to me, but I'm not in education, I'm a marketing person…I've learned to embrace the KISS philosophy, Keep it Simple, Stupid.

Ultimately, this article isn't intended to debate the merits or detriments of AVAs, it's about sharing the news that Oregon now has 17 different and unique ways to denote their wines. So let's all raise our collective glass for a warm welcome to Elkton Oregon AVA. 

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