Swiftwater Cellars sources its grapes from some of the premiere vineyards of the Pacific Northwest. Our goal is to identify the best grape varieties from the best viticultural sites and make them part of our program.
With his years of winemaking and vineyard management experience, Andrew Wisniewski brings an informed knowledge to his fruit selections. He recognizes that every year can produce dramatically different fruit and responds accordingly by picking and choosing the vineyard sites that will work best to honor the philosophy behind the Swiftwater Cellars wines. Sourcing from selected vineyards of certain AVA’s allows us to consistently produce wines with balanced complexity and high quality.
The Columbia Valley is home to over 99% of all of Washington’s vinifera acreage. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted grape followed by Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Syrah. However, over 30 vinifera varieties are currently planted in this region.
As one of the warmest regions in the state, the Wahluke Slope is known primarily for red grape varieties, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. Wahluke Slope wines tend to be ripe and full-bodied with pure varietal fruit flavors.
Cabernets are notable for black cherry and cassis aromas and flavors. Merlots display red fruit, such as sweet cherries, red currants, and raspberries, along with chocolate. Syrahs tend to display dark fruit, such as blackberries and blueberries, although some also display abundant savory notes.
Growers commit their best efforts to cultivate the powerful and concentrated fruit that Red Mountain gives them. They are wholly united in their belief of the superior quality of Red Mountain grapes.
It helps to be working with grapes from the Willamette Valley. And if you’re truly fortunate, you might be working with grapes from the Eola- Amity Hills AVA, where the ocean winds blow in through the Van Duzer Corridor and cause even the locals to keep their Pendleton blankets out well into July. That cold air makes the vines work harder and amplifies pinot’s already lush and aromatic qualities.
But rest assured, it’s a battle.
Do you wait longer for more ripening and flavor and risk autumn rains taking half of your crop, or do you pick early and count on a miracle in the barrels?
People who make wines here are as tough and stubborn as the vines themselves. They work hard. They take calculated risks. They suffer for their art. And they make wines that have rocked the world, quietly. Because unless you’re a critic, you want to keep something this good a secret as long as you can.
Just 28 miles south of Portland, the Dundee Hills American Viticulture Area (AVA) encompasses 6,490 acres. Some 15 million years ago, lava flowed from Northeast Oregon into the Willamette Valley, covering all but the highest peaks with up to 1000 feet of basalt.
The colossal Missoula Floods of 10,000 – 15,000 years ago deposited a blanket of rich sediment on the lowlands, sparing the original red volcanic hills above the 200 ft. elevation mark around the town of Dundee. Today, the 200 ft. contour line defines the Dundee Hills AVA.
Soils of the Chehalem Mountains
The Chehalem Mountains were formed by uplifted sedimentary seabeds, lava flows, and wind-blown silt, resulting in some of the most diverse soils in wine country. This geological miracle serves as a laboratory for winemakers and consumers to explore the interaction of soils, terrain, elevation and climate – and their contribution to outstanding wines.
The McMinnville AVA lies due west of the town of McMinnville in the Coast Range Foothills of Yamhill County. This AVA is the most westerly of all Oregon AVAs and is geologically and climatically very different from any other in the Willamette Valley. An AVA or “American Viticultural Area” is defined as a delimited, grape-growing region distinguishable by unique geographical features and recognized by the Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco as having unique characteristics.
Geologically, the soils in the McMinnville AVA are the oldest and most complex of any Oregon AVA with a combination of marine sedimentary soils and basalt. The soils in our AVA were created during the Eocene period 38-55 million years ago and were the result of a combination of Cascade Mountain lava flows and tectonic plate movements that created the Coast Range Mountains. The plate movement exposed ancient and weathered soils in the foothill regions where our AVA is located and the lava flows created ‘basal lava fingers’ which can be seen amongst marine soils in the McMinnville AVA vineyards. The soils are primarily uplifted marine sedimentary loams and silts, with alluvial overlays. Beneath is a base of the uplifting basalt. Clay and silt loams average 20-40 inches in depth before reaching harder rock and compressed sediments, shot with basalt pebbles and stone. The uniqueness of the soils for winegrowing is in the 20 to 40 inch depth.