First Advisor

Scott Burns

Date of Publication

Spring 6-30-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Geology






Terroir -- Columbia River Gorge (Or. and Wash.), Wine and wine making -- Climatic factors -- Columbia River Gorge (Or. and Wash.), Viticulture -- Climatic factors -- Columbia River Gorge (Or. and Wash.), Geology -- Columbia River Gorge (Or. and Wash.), Soils -- Columbia River Gorge (Or. and Wash.)



Physical Description

1 online resource (xvi, 150 pages)


The Columbia Gorge Wine Region (CGWR) is an emerging wine producing area that extends for about 100km along the Columbia River in Oregon and Washington State in which the number of vineyards, wineries and physical terroir conditions have yet to be defined. To better understand the physical factors affecting Oregon and Washington wine, this project analyzes climate, topography, geology and soil at vineyards in the CGWR. This was accomplished using Geographic Information Systems, existing earth science databases and field work. The region, which includes the Columbia Gorge American Viticulture Area (AVA) and the southwest portion of the Columbia Valley AVA, is home to 82 vineyards, 513 hectares (1268 acres), 37 wineries and 41 different varieties of Vitus Vinifera. Vineyards range in elevation from 29 to 548 meters (95 to 1799 feet). Vintner responses to a grower's survey suggest that twenty-eight grape varieties account for 98% of the estimated grape variety acreage, with Pinot Noir being the most widely planted grape variety in both AVAs.

The boundaries of each climatic regime were mapped based on 1981-2010 PRISM data, the Winkler Index (Amerine and Winkler, 1944) updated by Jones et al. (2010) and climatic maturity groupings designed for Oregon (Jones et al., 2002; Jones et al., 2010). Three Winkler climate regimes are represented within the CGWR, including regions Ia, Ib, and II from the Winkler Index (Jones et al., 2010). The diversity in regimes allows for a diversity of grape varieties to be planted within the regime. The average growing season temperatures and growing degree days, respectively, from 1981-2010 calculated for vineyards ranges from 13.7°C (55.7°F) to 17.7°C (63.9°F) and 871 for °C (1567 for °F) to 1664 for °C (2994 for °F) respectively. 58% of the vineyards are characterized in an intermediate climatic regime, 29% are within a cool climatic regime, 9% are within a warm climatic regime and 4% are on the boundaries between a cool, intermediate or warm regime. 80% of the vineyards are within Regions Ia and Ib characterized by the Winkler Index, and 20% are within Region II. The growing degrees days calculated for the CGWR are similar those measured in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, Burgundy, France, Umpqua Valley AVA in Oregon and Bordeaux wine region in France.

All of the soils currently being used to grow grapes are well-drained and within a xeric moisture regime, which are favorable conditions for viticulture. 30 soil series are represented among the vineyard sites, with the Chemawa Series (Underwood Mountain) and Walla Walla Series (eastern portions) being the dominant soil series used to grow grapes. Majority of the soils contain a silt loam texture. Soil Survey data for Oregon and Washington suggest that loess is extensive in the CGWR, with 46.5% of the total vineyard acreage planted on soils formed in loess. The Missoula Floods also greatly influenced the texture and age of the soil in this region, with skeletal textures being close to the Columbia River. Other common geological deposits at vineyards in the CGWR include, Quaternary Basalt (19.6%), Missoula Flood deposits (9.1%), The Dalles Formation (8.0%), Columbia River Basalt Group (7.5%), Pliocene Basalt (3.0%), Quaternary Surficial deposits (3.0%), lahars (2.3%) and Quaternary Basaltic Andesite and Andesite (0.9%). Common geological deposits, soil series, and climate conditions at vineyard sites vary spatially in the region, and therefore it is suggested that future work focus on separating the region into separate climatic sub-AVA regimes to better reflect the diversity in terroir conditions.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Persistent Identifier