I love Yakima Valley Wine! It’s the perfect Vino con Vista destination for Globe-Trotting Winos.
The Yakima Valley Wine Association invited Wine Enthusiasts to its annual
Catch the Crush event on
October 13th and 14th, 2018.
Each winery offered its own
celebratory events, including grape stomps,
harvest and crush activities, tours,
free-run juice, hors d’oeuvres, live
music, and of course wine.
A Brief History of Wine in the Yakima Valley AVA
The Yakima Valley is located in the southern center of the state, just across the spectacular Cascade Mountains from the metropolitan areas of Seattle and Portland, this magnificent Valley is home to more than 40 wineries and over one third of the state’s vineyards. The Yakima Valley AVA now cultivates more than 17,000 acres of vineyards. Yakima and Benton counties are home to more than 152 wineries, and collectively they make up more than half of the wine production in Washington State.
On March 23, 1983, the Yakima Valley appellation was officially designated by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. It was the first American Viticultural Area (AVA) in Washington State, and also the only recognized AVA north of California at that time.
Four wineries operated in the new appellation: Kiona Vineyard and Winery, Hinzerling Winery, Yakima River Winery, and Tucker Cellars. But some of our region’s finest vineyards were coming on stream in those years, including the now-famous Boushey in 1980, Klipsun in 1984, and many more opening later including Owen Roe.
Three sub-appellations have been created for areas within the Yakima Valley AVA that demonstrate unique microclimates and soil conditions: The Red Mountain AVA was created in 2001, the Rattlesnake Hills AVA was created in 2006 and the Snipes Mountain AVA created in 2009.
The Red Mountain AVA is an American Viticultural Area that includes the land surrounding Red Mountain in Benton County, Washington. It is part of the Yakima Valley AVA, which in turn is part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA. Located between Benton City and the City of West Richland, the Red Mountain AVA is the smallest in the state at only 4,040 acres.
The area is known for producing powerful tannic red wines. These wines are known for their balance in flavors, with an intense concentration of berry flavors and the Cabernets here are more structured than fruit-driven. Grapes from this area are in high demand and vineyards with notable reputations can receive as much as 30% above market price for their crops.
Many of Washington’s Cult Wines are produced from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in this AVA including: the 2002, 2003 and 2005 Quilceda Creek Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon, which scored the rare 100 point rating from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate. The Quilceda Creek wines were blends from three Red Mountain vineyards: Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, and Tapteil; and one vineyard from the nearby Horse Heaven Hills AVA.
“The primary Cabernet Sauvignon clone planted is clone #8, which in Red Mountain produces a Cabernet wine similar in profile to a California wine, while the same clone planted in nearby Horse Heaven Hills AVA produces a wine similar in profile to Bordeaux.”
Red Mountain Vineyards:
- Ciel du Cheval
- Cooper Estate Vineyard
- Kiona Vineyards
- Obelisco Estate
- Ranch at the End of the Road
- Heart of the Hill
- Tapteil vineyards
- Force Majeure Vineyards
- Col Solare Winery
- Cooper Wine Company
- Frichette Winery
- Hamilton Cellars
- Hedges Family Estate
- Hightower Cellars
- Kiona Vineyards and Winery
- Monte Scarlatto Estate Winery
- Tapteil Winery
- Terra Blanca
The first grape vines in the valley are credited to a French winemaker named Charles Schanno. In 1869, he planted cuttings taken from the famous Hudson’s Bay Company trading outpost at nearby Fort Vancouver. In the early 20th century, a Seattle attorney William B. Bridgman pioneered the modern wine industry in the Yakima Valley. Many of the vineyards established across the region during this time were planted from Bridgman’s own vine cuttings. After Prohibition, Bridgman opened Upland Winery and initiated some of the earliest varietal labeling for American wines.
The Yakima Valley AVA was the first American Viticultural Area established within Washington State, gaining the recognition in 1983. Part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA, Yakima Valley AVA is home to more than 11,000 acres of vineyards.
This area has the largest concentration of wineries and vineyards in the state of Washington. The most widely planted varietals in the area are Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot gris, and Syrah
|Type||American Viticultural Area|
|Part of||Columbia Valley AVA, Washington|
|Sub-regions||Rattlesnake Hills AVA, Red Mountain AVA|
|Growing season||190 days|
|Precipitation (annual average)||8 inches (20 cm)|
|Total area||600,000 acres (2,400 km2)|
|Size of planted vineyards||11,000 acres (45 km2)|
|Grapes produced||Aligote, Barbera, Black Muscat, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin blanc, Gamay Beaujolais, Gewurztraminer, Grenache, Lemberger, Malbec, Marsanne, Merlot, Mourvedre, Muscat Canelli, Orange Muscat, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Pinot gris, Pinot noir, Riesling, Roussanne, Sangiovese, Sauvignon blanc, Semillon, Syrah, Viognier, Zinfandel|
|Wine produced||Varietal, Dessert wine, Sparkling wine, Meritage|
The Yakima Valley cultivates as much diversity and quality as any agricultural region on Earth. Apples, cherries, peaches, nectarines, pears, and more fill a rich cornucopia. Completing this bounty is a remarkable spectrum of world-class wine grapes.
The foothills of the Cascade Mountains form the western boundary of the appellation with the area extending east to the Kiona Hills near Richland. Its northern border follows the crest of the Rattlesnake Hills and the southern edge traces the 1000-foot contour line along the Horse Heaven Hills to the Toppenish Ridge.
Interstate 82 forms a convenient route for visitors to tour the many wineries scattered throughout the Valley’s landscape, which offers a rich diversity of micro-climates, rugged hillsides, and wetlands.
“The sunny slopes of the Yakima Valley foothills provide the perfect growing conditions for producing intensely flavored, balanced and complex wines such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Syrah. Long sun-drenched days and cool evenings in this desert climate yield bold, hearty, and luscious world-class wines.”
Red Willow 1973 Cabernet vines
During the 1980s, along with the rest of the Washington State wine industry, the Yakima Valley experienced a boom in the planting of new vineyards and the opening of new wineries. These included Hogue Cellars and Covey Run, both established in 1982, and Chinook Wines in 1983.