Horse Heaven Hills: Established in 2005
- Naturally bounded on the north by the Yakima Valley AVA and on the south by the Columbia River.
- Located in Southeast Washington - total area is 570,000 acres of which about 10,584 acres are planted to grapes, representing 25% of Washington's total grape production.
- Primary grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Syrah with 37 total varieties planted.
- Proximity to the Columbia River creates 30% more wind while moderating temperature extremes, providing steep south-facing slopes for optimum vineyard locations and providing well-drained, sandy-loam soils.
- Elevations range from 1,800 feet at the area's northern boundary to 300 feet at its southern.
- Outstanding sites that have been developed in this area include Alder Ridge, Andrews-Horse Heaven Vineyard, Canoe Ridge, Champoux Vineyards and The Benches at Wallula Vineyard.
- Growers have raised grapes in the Horse Heaven Hills region since 1972.
- There are at least 25 vineyards and 6 commercial wineries with 1 tasting room within the region.
- Proud source of the 1st, 2nd & 3rd "100 point" wines in the State of Washington.
The Horse Heaven Hills appellation is located in south-central Washington along the Washington-Oregon border. The area takes its name from an early pioneer who said, upon seeing the region and its wide prairies and expanses, ‘‘Surely this is Horse Heaven!”
Two-thirds of the acreage is planted to red wine grapes and one-third to white wine grapes. For reds, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot dominate. Whites are almost evenly split between Chardonnay and Riesling.
Cabernets are notable for black cherry and cassis aromas and flavors. Merlots display red fruit, such as sweet cherries, red currants, and raspberries, along with chocolate. Chardonnays are mildly aromatic with aromas and flavors ranging from stone fruit to tropical fruit. In terms of Riesling, aromas and flavors tend toward stone fruits, particularly peach.
The area is among Washington’s warmer growing regions, allowing a wide variety of grapes to ripen successfully. Many vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills are planted on south-facing slopes, providing for extended sun exposure.
The Horse Heaven Hills is 570,000 acres (230,671 ha) in size, with elevations ranging from 200 feet (61 m) above sea level along the Columbia River to 1,800 feet (549 m) at the northern boundary.
There are three main soil types in the area—wind-blown sand and loess, Missoula Flood sediment, and hill slope rubble from the Columbia River basalt bedrock. Each of these provides well-drained soils suitable for vinifera.
Like many of eastern Washington’s growing regions, the Horse Heaven Hills are an anticline of the Yakima fold belt. The area has an arid and semi-arid, continental climate, receiving an average of 9 inches of precipitation annually. Irrigation is therefore required to grow vinifera grapes.
Pressure differentials cause significant winds in the Horse Heaven Hills. These winds reduce canopy size and toughen grape skins, as well as protect against mold and rot. The nearby Columbia River also has a moderating effect on temperatures, reducing the risk of early and late season frosts, which can be a problem in nearby areas.
The Horse Heaven Hills had its first vinifera plantings in 1972 at what is now Champoux Vineyard, and vineyard designated bottles—particularly cabernet sauvignon—from this site are some of Washington’s most coveted and expensive wines.