Bryn Mawr is a Welsh name that roughly translates to “High Hill.” Ranging from 650-890 feet on the Western crest of the Eola-Amity Hills, elevation is the distinctive characteristic of our site. As one of the steepest, rockiest, and windiest sites in the Willamette Valley, just a hundred yards can have a massive impact on sun and wind exposure, soil type and depth. We have multiple volcanic soil series striated throughout the property and quite the range of aspects, from true East to true West. Even though our vineyard is small, our block-to-block variation can be as great as entire regions!
One thing that has become clear to us is just how different our site is than others in the Willamette Valley. Directly to our West lies the Van Duzer corridor, a mountain pass in the Coast Range that acts as a massive wind tunnel for the rest of the state to receive cool ocean winds on hot summer days. We regularly see temperatures 5-7 degrees lower and winds much stronger than areas just 500 feet below us. As a result, our vines are a bit more stressed and slow-growing than those of our neighbors. Cool vintages bring us white knuckles in the fall, as our grapes often need an extra few weeks to achieve full ripeness and winter rains loom on the forecast. The payoff comes in warm vintages, when we are able to maintain acidity and verve with above-average hang time.
The early days of Bryn Mawr Vineyards were slow-going and exceedingly hands-on. Rachel lived onsite in the restored trailer with her now-husband Liam and put her training on site selection to work as she chose what to plant and where. With 4 acres of mostly Pinot Noir to build from, she formed a plan to maximize the potential of our vineyard. Not only did she need to learn how to deal with the extremities of our intense site, but three of her first four vintages also proved very tough years for Oregon wine. The home on the property had to be gutted to its frame while its basement was an active winery. The little wine she and Jon were able to make in those first vintages was stunning, but with only 500 cases produced per year, survival was far from guaranteed. Rachel admits she had her doubts, but Temperance Hill just across the street was her favorite vineyard in Oregon, and being able to see it every day assured her that great wine was just waiting to be made here.