The smallest AVA in the Willamette Valley at a mere 5 ¼ square miles, Ribbon Ridge is nonetheless home to twenty vineyards and half as many wineries. This tiny spot on the beak of the parrot-shaped Chehalam Mountain AVA sits between 250’ and 631’ above sea level—45 minutes from Portland off of Highway 240. It’s a geological anomaly, like any self-respecting appellation.

The topsoil is beautiful, dark, sedimentary soil called Willakenzie (the name coming from a blending of the Willamette and McKenzie rivers). This is “younger” soil for the Willamette Valley, from the Missoula Floods, just 15,000 years ago. Normally, this is soil would be considered too rich for viticulture because the vines grow too easily. The plant puts its energy into growing up, not down, vines not roots, and that’s not the recipe to produce great wine. But it’s a very shallow layer - in some vineyards as little as eighteen inches - with sandstone beneath. The shallow topsoil doesn't retain much water in the summer, so the youngest vines are almost immediately, heavily stressed for moisture. What does this impart to the wine?

“It’s one of the more tannically structured in the Willamette Valley,” says Marcus Goodfellow of Matello. “The flavors are focused around red fruit, and I think loamy earth characteristics. Strawberry and cherry are the base and it builds from that. Tannins and acid are always pronounced, which is very similar to what you find in Burgundy.”

There’s a tension between the acidity and the tannins, he goes on. It’s that tension that personifies the “iron fist in a velvet glove” that makes great Pinot Noir. But these are wines that are in it for the long run: “The pronounced acidity and tannins are maybe not what you’d think of for dinner tonight,” says Marcus, “but to my mind, I think, “This is a wine that will age well.”

That they do—not being so readily drinkable as their peers down the road in Yamhill-Carlton. It takes a few extra years for that structure to mellow (the word "patience" frequently comes up in reviews) but the payoff is brilliant: plenty of spice and floral aromatics, elegant but focused fruit flavors. Expect big results from this compact AVA. ~Rob Boss


Top Varieties


Pinot Noir


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Ribbon Ridge Wineries - Highest Wine Critic Ratings

1.   Ayres Vineyard & Winery  
2.   Trisaetum Vineyards  
3.   Brick House Wine Company  
4.   Claygate Estate Vineyards  
5.   Domaine Divio  
6.   Redman Wines  
7.   Styring Vineyards  
8.   Aramenta Cellars  
9.   Utopia Vineyard and Cellars  

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All Ribbon Ridge Wineries (9) [map view]

Aramenta Cellars

Ayres Vineyard & Winery

Brick House Wine Company

Claygate Estate Vineyards

Domaine Divio

Redman Wines

Styring Vineyards

Trisaetum Vineyards

Utopia Vineyard and Cellars