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.
Home of the first Pinot noir vineyard of the Willamette Valley, planted by David Lett of Eyrie Vineyard in 1966, today the Dundee Hills AVA remains the most densely planted AVA in the valley (and state). To its north sits the Chehalem Valley and to its south, runs the Willamette River. Within the region’s 12,500 acres, about 1,700 are planted to vine on predominantly basalt-based, volcanic, Jory soil.
Thin-skinned, finicky and temperamental, Pinot Noir is also one of the most rewarding grapes to grow and remains a labor of love for some of the greatest vignerons in Burgundy. Fairly adaptable but highly reflective of the environment in which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate and requires low yields to achieve high quality. Outside of France, outstanding examples come from in Oregon, California and throughout specific locations in wine-producing world. Somm Secret—André Tchelistcheff, California’s most influential post-Prohibition winemaker decidedly stayed away from the grape, claiming “God made Cabernet. The Devil made Pinot Noir.”