Rattlesnake Hills: Established in 2006
- Located approximately four miles southeast of Yakima, the 68,500 acre (27,721 hectares) AVA has 1,566 acres (634 hectares) under vines.
- With 17 wineries and 29 vineyards, it provides many Washington producers with Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Riesling.
- Encompassing an expanse of hills running east to west along the northern point of the Yakima River and south of Moxee Valley, the Rattlesnake Hills AVA lies within both the established Columbia Valley and Yakima Valley appellations.
- Beginning at an elevation of 850 feet and rising up to 3,085 feet, the viticultural area sits higher in elevation than the surrounding Yakima Valley region.
- The first commercial vineyards in the region date back to 1968.
- Vineyards are typically located on ridges and terraces and in areas with good air drainage to avoid late spring and early fall frost and winter kill.
Rattlesnake Hills is located in south-central Washington. The appellation is centered around the town of Zillah with the hills named after the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, which inhabits the area.
As a growing region, Rattlesnake Hills is almost evenly split between red and white wine grapes with reds having a slight edge. Riesling is the most planted grape followed by Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
In terms of Riesling, cooler sites tend to produce aromas and flavors of lime, lemon, and green apple. In warmer sites this turns to stone fruit, particularly peach. Merlots are notable for red fruit aromas and flavors, such as sweet cherries, red currants, and raspberries, along with chocolate and mint. For Cabernets, black cherry, cassis, and light, high-toned herbal notes are often the hallmarks.
The east-west trending Rattlesnake Hills are an anticline of the Yakima fold belt, a series of geologic folds that define a number of viticultural regions in the area. The appellation itself lies on the south slope of the Rattlesnake Hills and includes the highest point in the Yakima Valley AVA.
The Rattlesnake Hills’ distinguishing feature is its elevation relative to the surrounding area. Elevations range from 850 feet (259 m) to 3,085 feet (940 m), although vineyard plantings are limited to the lower-lying areas. The appellation’s heightened elevation lessens the risk of spring and fall frosts. Additionally, winter temperatures are warmer than the surrounding area, limiting the danger of hard freezes.
The predominant soil types are silt-loam and loam. Notably, vineyards at higher elevations are above the levels of the Missoula Flood, a series of cataclysmic events that define much of the Columbia Valley growing region.
A sub-appellation of the Yakima Valley (itself a sub-appellation of the Columbia Valley), the Rattlesnake Hills has an arid, continental climate and receives an average of 6 to 12 inches of rainfall annually. Irrigation is therefore required to grow vinifera grapes.
The earliest vines at Rattlesnake Hills were planted in 1968.