Today was an exciting day in the Mia Block of our Estate vineyard here at the winery. A Portland State University student, Kathryn (Kat) Barnard, is working on her PhD dissertation about the terroir of the Willamette Valley. She will be visiting three vineyard sites where Lange Estate sources grapes: Lange Estate, Freedom Hill, and Yamhill Vineyards. These happen to be the three vineyards that our winemakers blend together to create one of our most popular wines: Three Hills Cuvee Pinot Noir. We also produce single vineyard bottlings from each of these vineyards.
Kat brought with her Dr. Scott Burns, the geology professor at PSU, along with some fellow students and dug a soil pit about 6 feet deep to analyze the Jory soil– also known as Xeric Haplohumult– here in the Dundee Hills. They were able to differentiate a few different layers as they dug further into the earth.
The top layer had a fair amount of pisolites throughout the soil, which are little concretions formed over time. These pisolites are much more common in Laurelwood soil, which contains a larger amount of loess (windblown silt). They are not very common in Jory soil, but when they are present in vineyards, some say they add more cherry flavors to the wine produced from those grapes.
The second layer was more of a mixture of the top and bottom layers. We happen to have a large amount of gophers and moles in the Mia Block, and because of that there are a lot of tunnels throughout the soil. When the older tunnels collapse and compact, they are given a new name: krotovina. These krotovina homogenize the soil layers, creating a “mixed zone”.
The deepest layer is all clay and very red (which is what Jory soil is known for), and the deeper you get, the redder the dirt. Dr. Burns told us the significance of the red color, “Red dirt means two things: it’s well drained and it’s old. This soil here is about 1 million years old. It is the epitome of absolutely great soil. Classic Jory!”
We wish Kat all the best in her pursuit of a doctorate, and we were glad to provide her with ample specimens to analyze over the next year.
Here’s to our wonderful soil, cheers! (mmm, I do taste cherry!)