A town so nice, they named it twice!
Well, not so much the town in this scenario as the entire appellation. This seems only fair as the this AVA is located in two separate states – Oregon and Washington. The justifications for the establishment of the viticultural area are historic, geologic, geographic and climatic.
Walla Walla translates at “rapid stream” or “many waters” in the Sahaptin language that is shared by the Walla Walla, Umatilla, Yakama, Nez Perce and Tenino peoples. Western settlers moved into the area beginning in the 1830s when Marcus and Narcissa Whitman came as missionaries to the Walla Walla people but were murdered by the Cayuse following outbreaks of measles that the indians believed were caused by the whites (they were, but they didn’t do it on purpose as no one was aware of germ theory quite yet). Viticulture began informally with French fur trappers in the 1840s in an area previously known as Frenchtown, now called Lowden.
The geologic basis of the creation of the appellation is based in part on the similarity of the river plain of assorted wind blown loess soils well drained by smaller streams that cut through the area. Being located between the Cascades and the Blue Mountains along the Washington, Oregon and Idaho border means that the area is blocked from the moderating temperatures nearer the Pacific but also in a rain shadow as well. This means that the climate is more intense with warmer days with cool evenings and semi-arid which requires irrigation for cultivation.
Modern viticulture (i.e. post-(the dreaded) Prohibition) began with Leonetti Cellars in the 1970s with Woodward Canyon Cellars and L’Ecole 41 coming along in the 1980s . The Walla Walla AVA was established in 1984 and amended to extend the territory in 2001. Varietals produced in the area include:
- Cabernet Franc
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Petit Verdot
- Pinot Gris
- Pinot Noir
- Sauvignon Blanc