The seed for Averæn was planted when Baron, Noah & Steve from Banshee Wines in Sonoma attended IPNC in the Willamette Valley in 2013 as a featured winery with Banshee Wines (their Sonoma winery). They were sitting around a campfire talking about the similarities between the cold and foggy Sonoma Coast and the various sub-appellations of the Willamette Valley. Cold winds that funnel from the Pacific Ocean through low-lying gaps in the coastal mountain ranges (Van Duzer Corridor in Oregon and Petaluma Wind Gap in Sonoma); a mix of marine sedimentary and volcanic influenced soils; micro-terroirs. The similarities were shocking. They saw the potential to make wine at the very highest level, from top vineyard sites, all at a cost that was 25% less than what they were experiencing in the Sonoma Coast. Oregon reminded them of where the Sonoma Coast was 10-15 years ago. Still finding its way in terms of consistency, but when done right, way over-delivering. The quality was there in a big way, but the prices were still so reasonable.
Over the next two years, they established themselves in Oregon – developing relationships with growers, locking in grape contracts, and finding a great custom crush partner (with lots of small fermenters – a winemakers dream!). In 2016, they released their first wine – the only wine of the vintage – 2015 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, sourced from eight vineyards across the appellation. It was an instant success nationally both in the press with 91 points out of the gate from Vinous as well as with fine wine retailers and restaurants.
Today they continue to dial in their vineyard sourcing, establishing long term contracts and relationships with a stable of top-notch growers. In addition to the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, which represents over 75% of their production, they have expanded to new varieties (Chardonnay and Riesling), added Rose to the mix, and elevated their game to include the Flood Line (“reserve”) range, and a limited selection of four-barrel single-vineyard wines.
Running north to south, adjacent to the Willamette River, the Eola-Amity Hills AVA has shallow and well-drained soils created from ancient lava flows (called Jory), marine sediments, rocks and alluvial deposits. These soils force vine roots to dig deep, producing small grapes with great concentration.
Like in the McMinnville sub-AVA, cold Pacific air streams in via the Van Duzer Corridor and assists the maintenance of higher acidity in its grapes. This great concentration, combined with marked acidity, give the Eola-Amity Hills wines—namely Pinot noir—their distinct character. While the region covers 40,000 acres, no more than 1,400 acres are covered in vine.
Riesling possesses a remarkable ability to reflect the character of wherever it is grown while still maintaining its identity. A regal variety of incredible purity and precision, this versatile grape can be just as enjoyable dry or sweet, young or old, still or sparkling and can age longer than nearly any other white variety. Somm Secret—Given how difficult it is to discern the level of sweetness in a Riesling from the label, here are some clues to find the dry ones. First, look for the world “trocken.” (“Halbtrocken” or “feinherb” mean off-dry.) Also a higher abv usually indicates a drier Riesling.