Terroir 2004 banner
IVES 9 IVES Conference Series 9 Using GIS to assess the terroir potential of an Oregon viticultural region

Using GIS to assess the terroir potential of an Oregon viticultural region


Deciding to grow grapes in Oregon is complex issue due to our diverse geography, climate, and relatively short history of grape growing. For any potential grape grower, vineyard site selection is the single most important decision they will face. Combined with matching the site to a grape variety, this decision will ultimately affect the vineyard’s yield, the quality of the wine produced, and the vineyard’s long-term profitability. This research facilitates the process by modeling the climate and landscape in a relatively young grape growing region in Oregon, the Umpqua Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA). The result is an inventory of land suitability that provides both existing and new growers greater insight into the best terroir of the region.
A field survey using a Global Positioning System (GPS) and a varietal survey were conducted covering all of the vineyards in the Umpqua Valley AVA. The results have described the locational factors important for vineyard layout, training methods, soil types, irrigation and frost uses, and phenological variability across the region. Using the locational information from the surveys of existing vineyards as the baseline, a digital elevation model (10m resolution) was analyzed for topographical components of elevation, slope, and aspect, ultimately identifying those sites that have ideal conditions for growing grapes in the region. The topographical classifications are then combined with soil characteristics of drainage, depth to bedrock, water holding capacity, and pH to produce a composite landscape model of suitability which is then masked by zoning requirements to identify the best available sites. In addition, a composite climate model, derived from the PRISM gridded data, develops cool, intermediate, warm, and hot climate-maturity groupings based on ripening potential and multiple climate parameters important for winegrape production. Finally, the composite landscape and climate models are then combined to detail the best terroir for specific varietal groupings in the Umpqua Valley AVA.
Combining topography, soil, and land use finds over 3000 acres of nearly ideal landscapes that are suitable for vineyard development. The results indicate that very good landscapes exist across all climate maturity types with strong potential for future development and production of quality fruit and wines. Through the use of GPS and GIS technologies, this research has helped to further define the terroir potential of grape growing in the Umpqua Valley AVA. The results provide existing and future growers with baseline knowledge of the region’s grape growing potential relative to its topography, soil, land use, and climate. While not specifically addressing the cultural aspects of terroir (e.g., style-directed viticultural and enological practices), which typically take many years to become dominant, the results presented here should serve to initiate better decisions in the site selection process, thus leading to fewer and/or more efficient trial and error procedures. In addition, for most potential growers, site selection will involve compromises, in that few sites will possess ideal characteristics in every respect. While compromise in many cases has been the rule, this body of research presents one of the best tools yet to enhance the site selection process for future growers in the Umpqua Valley AVA. Finally, the process developed here theoretically can be applied to any area where adequate spatial data resources are available.


Publication date: January 12, 2022

Issue: Terroir 2004

Type: Article


Gregory V. Jones (1), Peder Nelson (2), and Nicholas Snead (3)

(1) Department of Geography, Southern Oregon University, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd, Ashland, OR 97520, USA
(2) Environmental Education Program, Southern Oregon University, Ashland, OR, USA
(3) Department of Planning Public Policy & Management, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA

Contact the author


IVES Conference Series | Terroir 2004


Related articles…

Spatial determination of areas in the Western Balkans region favorable for organic production

In problematic conditions for production of grapes and wine caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting occurrence of wine surpluses, producers are increasingly turning to the innovative viticulture and winemaking of products that are more appealing to the market and the consumers. On the other hand, consumption of the food safety or organic products, and therefore of organic grapes and wine, is increasingly common in the world, in particular in Europe. The Regional Rural Development Standing Working Group (SWG RRD), as a regional intergovernmental organization gathers actors in the viticulture and winemaking sector from states and territories of the Western Balkans (South-East Europe) in the Expert Working Group for Wine, with the aim of improving viticulture and winemaking in this region through joint activities. In accordance with the aforementioned, the SWG RRD is working on advancing organic production of grapes and wine, and on recognition of specificities of the terroir of wine-growing areas in Western Balkans. In addition, as part of the project “Facilitation of Exchange and Advice on Wine Regulations in Western Balkan Countries” helmed by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, in addition to harmonization of relevant legislation with EU regulations, efforts are being invested towards recognition of organic wines. Within activities and project implemented by this organization, expert analyses and scientific research of the terroir of Western Balkans were carried out, and some of the results are presented in this paper.

Insights into the stable isotope ratio variability of hybrid grape varieties

The wine industry faces the consumer’s increasing demand for a sustainable and environmentally-friendly production [1]. This demand has been shared and boosted by the European Union within the European Green Deal in the Farm to Fork strategy that aims to reduce a 50% the pesticide utilisation in farming systems. Among the agronomical approaches so far proposed, the use of mould resitant hybrid varieties -based on crossings of Vitis vinifera with other Vitis spp [2]- with a high tolerance to the attack of vine patogens is gaining the vinegrowers attention and the production area is continuously increasing

Climatic zoning of viticultural production periods over the year in the tropical zone: application of the methodology of the Géoviticulture MCC system

L’objectif de cette recherche est le zonage climatique des périodes viticoles de l’année dans la Vallée du São Francisco, région brésilienne productrice de vins située en climat tropical semi-aride. Dans cette région, la production peut être échelonnée sur tous les mois de l’année.

La caracterización de los moscateles

Ya en 1964 GIOVANNI DALMASSO et alii describiendo el Moscato bianco (12) ponían de manifiesto la dificultad realmente ardua en descubrir “si no todas, por lo menos las más importantes variedades que llevan el nombre de Moscateles

Effect of rising atmospheric CO2 levels on grapevine yield and composition by the middle of the 21st century: what can we learn from the VineyardFACE?

Atmospheric CO2 levels have been rising continuously since the industrial revolution, affecting crop physiology, yield and quality of harvest products, and grapevine is no exception [1]. Most of previously reported studies used potted plants in controlled environments, and explored grapevine response to relatively high CO2 levels, 700 ppm or more. The vineyardFACE, established in Geisenheim in 2012, uses a free air carbon dioxide enrichment (FACE) system to simulate a moderate (ambient +20%) increase in atmospheric CO2 in a vineyard planted with cvs. Cabernet-Sauvignon and Riesling grafted on rootstock 161-49 Couderc and SO4, respectively.