The McMinnville American Viticultural Area (AVA), wholly contained within the larger Willamette Valley AVA, sits to the west of McMinnville proper, about an hour and fifteen minutes on Highway 99 from Portland, Oregon. This AVA, established in 2005, derives its uniqueness from the similarities to its neighbors: Like Yamhill-Carlton to the west, the AVA is defined by elevation; 200-1000 feet above sea level. Also like Yamhill-Carlton, it’s on the edge of the rain shadow so the area gets less moisture than the vineyards further north. And then, similar to the Eola-Amity AVA to the east, dry winds rush in from the Van Duzer corridor, cooling the vineyards in the evening and stressing the vines even more.

Soil content in McMinnville is primarily marine sedimentary topsoil but what makes it unique is the rocky basalt layer beneath. This soil brings a bright acidity to the wines. The cool winds thicken the skins of the grapes to add balancing structure to the wines (although not as windy as Eola-Amity). But what might be the most distinguishing characteristic is the dark, deep color—darker than the rest of the valley.

“Ah, they’re dark and chewy,” muses winemaker Athena Pappas. “They’re the opposite of the Dundee Hills.” These wines are lovely “fooders,” full of black and blue fruit (like Yamhill-Carlton): blackberries, black cherries, plums, spices, and a great deal of structure. With a little time in the bottle, they’re balanced. A little longer, they’ll age beautifully, too. But food is what the McMinnville wines are all about.

Today there are 750 acres of vines planted, with 14 wineries to visit. One advantage here is their proximity to the town of McMinnville, chock full of great restaurants, tasting rooms and accessible lodging. The McMinnville Public Market is a fun place to check out the local produce and people while having lunch. All of this makes the McMinnville AVA arguably the easiest to explore in the Valley, and certainly the most memorable. ~Rob Boss


Top Varieties


Pinot Noir

Pinot Gris/Grigio

Pinot Blanc

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McMinnville Wineries - Highest Wine Critic Ratings

1.   Coleman Vineyard at Ten Oaks  
2.   Coeur de Terre & La Bete Tasting Room  
3.   Coeur de Terre Vineyard  
4.   J Wrigley Vineyards  
5.   Maysara Estate  
6.   Youngberg Hill Vineyards & Inn  
7.   Yamhill Valley Vineyards  

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All McMinnville Wineries (7) [map view]

Coeur de Terre & La Bete Tasting Room

Coeur de Terre Vineyard

Coleman Vineyard at Ten Oaks

J Wrigley Vineyards

Maysara Estate

Yamhill Valley Vineyards

Youngberg Hill Vineyards & Inn