POLK COUNTY — Perrydale Hills. Ever heard of it?
A group of vineyard owners in Polk and Yamhill counties are hoping someone has documentation of the rolling hills bordering Perrydale Road being referred to as “the Perrydale Hills.”
Finding a reference or two would help the group of more than a dozen vineyards establish a new, approximately 60,000-acre sub-appellation of the Willamette Valley American Viticulture Area (AVA).
Sub-appellations are pockets of a larger AVA that have conditions — soil or weather patterns, for instance — that set them apart for the whole.
“We feel like we have a very unique area in terms of soil and climate,” said Karen Saul, co-owner of Andante Vineyard in Dallas, one of the vineyards in the proposed sub-appellation. “We think the wines we produce in this area are different.”
The area in question is shaped like a triangle bordered by highways 22 and 18 and coming to a point in the area near Dallas’ Chateau Bianca Winery.
Saul said the soil in the triangle — about 85 percent of which is in Polk County — is composed of marine sediment, unlike the mostly volcanic soils in surrounding areas.
More important is the climate, specifically what are called the “Van Duzer winds,” coastal breezes that are funneled through the Van Duzer Corridor in the evenings.
“They hit us first,” Saul said. “It really has an effect on the temperatures.”
The quick cool down — sometimes dropping temperatures up to 35 degrees — makes the grapes develop thicker skin, said Jeff Havlin, owner of Havlin Vineyards, located about three miles north of Highway 22 on Perrydale Road.
“In wine grapes, that is where the flavors are,” Havlin said. “That is a definite advantage and that is one of the reasons we want this (sub-appellation) because we need to be recognized for the quality of grapes, the flavor we produce in this area all because of those crazy winds.”
The group submitted its initial application in 2013 to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) for consideration. TTB asked the group to provide climate data, soil tests, an explanation of why the region is different enough from the surrounding area to deserve a separate distinction, and a proposed name.
Saul said, as expected, it was sent back for revision, with one of the issues being the name of the new region.
Havlin, who is leading the effort to compile the second draft, said he has the soil and weather data to prove the proposed sub-appellation is worthy of a separate designation. What he, and others who have tried, can’t do is find a written reference to “Perrydale Hills.”
“The big sticking point is the stupid name,” Havlin said.
The original idea for the name seemed natural: “Van Duzer.”
That turns out to be a problem for Van Duzer Vineyards because a winery with the same name as the sub-appellation is restricted to making wines with 85 percent of the grapes grown within the namesake appellation. Van Duzer owns vineyards outside the proposed area and couldn’t meet that standard.
The second choice, Perrydale Hills, also seemed natural, but TTB needed more evidence of the name’s historical use.
“They disallowed the name because there is no reference in writing to be found,” Havlin said.
He said the TTB may allow an exception for Van Duzer Vineyards if another name can’t be found.
“But everybody in our AVA meeting has fallen in love with ‘Perrydale Hills,’” Havlin said. “We do have a backup, but we would prefer Perrydale Hills. We need anything — an old-timers letter, a diary, somebody’s family Bible — anything with a reference to Perrydale Hills.”
Saul said the hope is to have the second draft submitted by the end of this year or early 2015. Havlin added that once a qualified name can be found, the rest should fall into place.
“I don’t see a problem with all of the rest of it,” he said.