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Scientist to discuss mystery of wine terroir in Oregon

Geologist Scott Burns will present “The Mystery of Terroir in Oregon: The Relationship of Geology, Soil and Climate to Wine” on Tuesday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m. in T.J. Day Hall at Linfield College. A reception will follow.

Burns is a professor of geology at Portland State University whose research has focused on a wide variety of topics, including terroir ― the relationship of climate, geology, soils and wine grapes. He is lecturing across the country this year after being named the 2012 Jahns Distinguished Lecturer by the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists (AEG) and the Geological Society of America (GSA), his two sponsoring associations.

Wines differ from each other based on the type of grape, climate, soil hydrology, the physiography of the site, and bedrock geology and the resulting soils, Burns says. Differences are also based on the winemaker and the vineyard management techniques.

The first five factors make up what the French call terroir, meaning “the taste of the place.” Across the world, the terroir of wine is strongly influenced by the bedrock geology and soils. Burns will discuss the terroir of the Willamette Valley, whose soils come from the Columbia River Basalts, which originated in eastern Oregon, and the marine sedimentary rocks found in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range. The wines made from the grapes of these two soils are very dissimilar.

Burns has won numerous awards for outstanding teaching, and has authored and co-authored two books and more than 80 articles and 200 published abstracts. He formerly served as president of the AEG, vice president of the North American branch of the International Association for Engineering Geology and the Environment, and chair of the Engineering Geology Division of the GSA. He was honored with the 2011 Public Service Award and a 2006 Meritorious Service Award from GSA.

In addition to research focused on terroir, Burns has also researched environmental geology, soils, landslides, engineering geology, quaternary geology and the Missoula Floods. He has been instrumental in bringing important geological issues to public attention in the regional media. Burns holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Stanford University and a doctorate from the University of Colorado.

In 2011, Linfield College established the Oregon Wine History Archive, which will house irreplaceable historical documents and memorabilia from early growers in the Willamette Valley. The college is located near the birthplace of some of the earliest vineyards in Oregon.

For more information about the lecture, call (503) 883-2409.

Linfield Center for Northwest Studies