ava 12
1 of 11
Slideshow-prev-disabled Slideshow-next

The wine that Portland Monthly wine critic Conde Cox picked as the best Oregon wine to be released this year began its life as a grape vine planted in 1994. But it might not have existed at all without a law passed in 1973.

ava 6
2 of 11
Slideshow-prev Slideshow-next

As Cox describes it, the Archery Hills ‘Red Hills Estate’ 2006 Pinot Noir is like “a steel fist in a velvet glove.” With tart cherry flavors, mouthwatering tannins, and an unusually high alcohol content due to the hot growing season of 2006, this wine possesses great power restrained by elegance.

ava 2
3 of 11
Slideshow-prev Slideshow-next

But it might never have been made at all had the land where the wine’s grapes grew and the water that nourished the vines not been protected by Oregon’s major statewide land-use law, Oregon Senate Bill 100, passed in 1973.

ava 1
4 of 11
Slideshow-prev Slideshow-next

For Archery Hills’ 39-year-old winemaker Anna Matzinger, the Red Hills Estate vineyard that produced our winning wine is “a little secret”—not necessarily the land that produces grapes to please the masses, but her personal favorite. Like an artist’s coveted experiment, its wines offer their initial payoff in nourishing the thinking of the maker.

ava 4
5 of 11
Slideshow-prev Slideshow-next

Red Hills Estate sits atop a hill and faces south and east. It is exposed to lots of sun and is one of our windier sites, Anna says. It has a gently sloping grade with amazing views. The all-important soil the vines are planted in is called “jory,” a reddish-brown, silty loam that is Oregon’s official USDA-sanctioned state soil. It’s named for the Jory family, who arrived to the area via the Oregon Trail in 1852.

ava 5
6 of 11
Slideshow-prev Slideshow-next

The 28-acre Red Hills Estate lies in the Dundee Hills appellation, Oregon’s first “micro-AVA” (American Viticultural Area), a smaller area that is both geologically and climatically distinct from the larger Willamette Valley AVA.

ava 11
7 of 11
Slideshow-prev Slideshow-next

The hills’ distinctive loam, created by basaltic flows that engulfed the region 15 million years ago but later washed away in the great Missoula Floods of 15,000 years ago, has become the perfect place for growing grapes. It was in the Red Hills, not far from Red Hills Estate, that pinot noir pioneer David Lett planted his first grapes in 1965.

ava 13
8 of 11
Slideshow-prev Slideshow-next

Three years later, Senate Bill 100 led to the adoption of goals for all of Oregon’s land, such as the protection of scenic and agricultural resources. That, in turn, led every city in Oregon to mandate an urban growth boundary.

ava 14
9 of 11
Slideshow-prev Slideshow-next

But Red Hills Estate is less than two miles from Dundee and could easily have become populated with people’s homes or small “farmettes” if Oregon hadn’t adopted protections for the land.

In 1973, thanks to the urging and salesmanship of Governor Tom McCall and the deal-making acumen of Hector MacPherson, a Republican farmer from the rural Willamette Valley, and Ted Hallock, a liberal from Portland, the Oregon State Legislature passed a sweeping land law known as Senate Bill 100.

ava 8
10 of 11
Slideshow-prev Slideshow-next

Neither the owners nor the staff of Archery Summit—nor most of the other winemakers who produced the Willamette Valley wines our wine critic selected as this year’s best—believe Red Hills Estate would have necessarily become a McMansion subdivision without Senate Bill 100. But they are quick to point out that the conflicts over traffic, noise, and water that are often experienced on the edge of the suburbs simply don’t happen here. With land values unaffected by the allure of potential subdivisions, older farmers are less likely to sell out. The integrity of agricultural land, whether for food, wine, or nursery stock, has been maintained.

ava 15
11 of 11
Slideshow-prev Slideshow-next-disabled

And so, more than 40 years since pinot noir pioneer David Lett planted his first grapes, a $1 billion wine industry has blossomed in the Willamette Valley, home to Portland Monthly’s picks of the year.

ava 12
ava 6
ava 2
ava 1
ava 4
ava 5
Slideshow-next
ava 11
ava 13
ava 14
ava 8
ava 15
Slideshow-prev
More Slide shows

Please help us keep this community civil. We retain the right to remove or edit comments containing personal attacks or excessive profanity, and comments unrelated to the editorial content. Consult our Terms of Use for more details.