A short breakdown of the Washington State AVA's
It's Washington Wine Month!
Did you know that there are two Washington Wine Months? Yep, March and August are the two months when we celebrate what makes Washington wines so special. In honor of Washington Wine Month, here is a little history lesson on the different growing regions of our beautiful state.
One of the main reasons Washington has seen rapid growth of the wine industry is the geographical location. The state is located on roughly the same latitude as some of the top French wine-growing regions of Burgundy and Bordeaux.
Let’s break it down by Washington’s AVAs (American Viticultural Areas).
Puget Sound AVA
It is the only growing region west of the Cascades. There are only about 100 acres of vines in the entire area. Because the climate is cool and maritime, hybrid varieties do well there.
Columbia Gorge AVA
This AVA has a transitional climate, straddling the Columbia River where it cuts through the Cascades. It is very small with only 1,300 planted acres on the Washington side and just 3 wineries.
Columbia Valley AVA
This is by far Washington’s largest AVA. Every AVA in the state except Puget Sound and Columbia Gorge lives within it. It also overlaps into northeastern Oregon. It has 11 million total acres, larger than the country of Denmark. 99% of all Washington wine comes from the Columbia Valley AVA. Because Columbia Valley is so large, it has many mesoclimates. However the overall climate is very dry and warm during the growing season and cold during the winter. The total annual precipitation averages eight inches most coming during the winter and early spring. The growing season runs between 180-200 days depending on the grape variety, specific location and year.
Walla Walla Valley AVA
It sits within the southeastern portion of the Columbia Valley AVA. The Walla Walla Valley AVA includes all of the Columbia Valley’s key soil types: volcanic, loess and both Slackwater and Fastwater Missoula Flood deposits. The combination of soils and climate make the area desirable for Syrah.
Horse Heaven Hills AVA
This AVA is due west of the Walla Walla Valley AVA. It has more than 17,000 planted acres and produces 25% of Washington’s wines. The soils receive very little rain, making irrigation necessary. 66% of its vines are red varieties but among the white wines, Riesling is the best. The first, second and third Washington wines to receive 100-point scores come from this AVA.
Yakima Valley AVA
Established in 1983, Yakima Valley AVA was the first AVA in the Pacific Northwest. The nearly 19,000 planted acres include more than one-third of the states vineyards. Like its neighboring AVAs, the climate is warm with little rainfall, so again irrigation is essential. There is a pretty even balance of red and white varieties. More than 50% of Washington’s Chardonnay and Riesling come from Yakima Valley.
Rattlesnake Hills AVA
This AVA is nested within the north-central portion of the Yakima Valley AVA and is the highest zone within the Yakima Valley. Most of the 1,800 + planted acres are in the low altitudes. The red-white mix is about 50-50 and the primary grapes grown are Riesling, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Snipes Mountain AVA
This AVA is the second smallest in the state with only 4,005 acres of land between southeastern Rattlesnake Hills to the north and the Yakima River to the south. It has 820 planted acres and the main grapes grown are Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Red Mountain AVA
It is positioned in the far eastern corner of the Yakima Valley AVA and runs steeply from 500 feet to 1,500 feet. It is the most densely planted of all of Washington’s AVAs with half of its 4,538 total acres being planted. Red Mountain is one of the driest Washington AVAs and also the hottest.
Wahluke Slope AVA
This AVA is a shallow and south facing slope from 1,480 feet down to 425 feet. Most of the 9,000 acres are planted in the lower half on an alluvial fan. As one of the warmest AVAs, most of the varieties are red, though there is Riesling and Chardonnay. Syrah is the bed red variety followed by Cabernet Sauvignon.
Naches Heights AVA
There are only 35 acres of vines in this high altitude AVA. This region sits northwest from the town of Yakima. The climate is relatively coo and the water-retaining soil means irrigation isn’t always necessary, so white wine grapes do well.
Lake Chelan AVA
This is by far the northernmost AVA within Columbia Valley. There are only 250 planted acres near the lake. Twenty grape varieties grow in this region.
In conclusion, Washington State is the United States’ second largest wine producer and now has over 1,000 wineries. We have visitors from all over the world that love our wines.
Watch out California, Washington wines are gaining ground in popularity and for good reason, they are delicious.