Columbia Valley AVA

The Columbia Valley is another border hopping appellation in the Pacific Northwest, the majority of which is in the State of Washington and includes eleven millions acres of land that include multiple micro-climates in appellations.  The area encompasses the river valleys of the Columbia and Yakima rivers and is bordered to the west by the Cascades Range.  Despite the varieties of growing environments the appellation is mostly known for its high desert climate and well drained soils formed from ice age floods known as the Missoula Floods.

Viticulture on the Oregon side has existed for over 100 years and began with Zinfandel in an area referred to as the Pines near the Dalles (which sounds like how old ladies in my home town describe locations) about a century ago.  Because of the even climate and temperatures and increased sunlight (an average of 2 hours longer than in California) the are is able to support a wide variety of varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewurtztraminer Merlot, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Syrah.

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Balboa Winery, Walla Walla, Washington

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Thanks to everyone for bearing with me as the day job continues to overwhelm me….

I am still working on producing my videos that I took at the Wine Bloggers’ Conference.

This video is of Thomas Glase of Balboa Winery as we tasted his spectacular wine, Mith. Cheers!

Washington Wine Revisited

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

You must have thought that I forgot all about the series I was writing about Washington State wine AVAs. But you would be wrong. Like an elephant, I never forget. Busy, distracted, confused, possibly, but forgetful? Not so much.

We have looked at nine of the eleven appellations in the state and with time ticking down until I leave for my trip to the 2010 Wine Blogger’s Conference, I thought it would behoove me to get cracking on the last couple.  Today, I am going to look at the biggest of the AVAs.  The Columbia Valley.

The Columbia Valley is like the big daddy of Washington wine regions, though less a Titan like Cronus who swallowed his children whole and had to be cut open to set them free, but more like Zeus from whose forehead Athena sprang fully formed, in that it is home to six of the smaller, sub-AVAs.  Specifically, those AVAs include Horse Heaven Hills, Lake Chelan, Rattlesnake Hills, Red Mountain, Snipes Mountain, Wahluke Slope, WallaWalla and Yakima Valley (additionally two new AVAs named Ancient Lakes and Mid Columbia River have been applied for… we will let you know when we hear about it in the future).

The region is huge at 11 million acres of which 17,000 are under cultivation and includes 99% of all the wine grapes grown in the State of Washington.  The soils are generally volcanic and loamy which allows for excellent drainage but also nutrient depleted which makes the vine work harder to produce fruit.  The valley is located in the rainshadow of the Cascade Mountains (think Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens) which means that the area is dry and drip irrigation is used in vineyards  Oh, yes.  These grapes suffer to produce their beautiful fruit!  Additionally, due to its more northern location, the Columbia Valley receives two more hours of daylight then more southern wine producing regions (i.e. California).

I am looking forward to my Washington adventure and have started to compile of list of things to do with if I arrive early (something about a leadened foot of mine that causes that to happen).  For instance:

  • I would like to see hops growing.  75% of the hops grown in the U.S. are grown near Yakima and apparently there is a Hops Museum in Toppenish.
  • I have been to Mt. Rainier but I would LOVE to see Mt. St. Helens. (I know WAY too many geologists to not get a little nerdy when it comes to rocks)
  • I would love to see the petroglyphs at Buffalo Eddy
  • or the first Catholic church in Washington
  • or the Ahtanum Mission
  • and I am certain that there will be a ton of Lewis and Clark stuff.

If you know about something that a nerdy girl like me would like please let me know.  I am planning to take much more audio visual stuff this year, so I am hoping to have some really cool things to show.  You can contact me here.

I Hope There Are No Rattlesnakes In Those Hills

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Located completely within the Columbia Valley AVA and within Benton and Yakima Counties, Rattlesnake Hills is a 16 mile long stretch of territory of basalt mountains. The AVA was created in 2006 but has been under cultivation since 1968 when the Morrison Vineyard was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling for Chateau St. Michelle. Currently there are nearly 30 vineyards in the area some of which can be found here

Grape varietals grown in the hills include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewürtztraminer, Malbec, Merlot, Muscat Canelli, Petite Sirah, Riesling, Semillion and Viognier.

The AVA is centered around Zillah, Washington. I am hoping given that I will be in Walla Walla which is relatively close by, that I will get to experience the hills for myself. I was especially relieved to learn that the name “rattlesnake” comes from the shape of the hills… and not for any reptilian invaders in the area. I am like Indiana Jones that way. I hate snakes.

Rattlesnake Hills AVA