Walla Walla Valley: Established 1984

  • Grape growing began in the Walla Walla Valley in the 1850s by Italian immigrants.
  • Over 100 wineries and more than 1,600 acres (648 hectares) of vineyards.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon is the leading varietal while Merlot, Chardonnay and Syrah are other predominant varieties. Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Grenache, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, and Viognier are also grown.
  • Loess derived soils which are essentially unconsolidated, unstratified calcareous silt.
  • Growing season of 190 to 220 days, with annual rainfall averaging 12.5 inches (32 cm) per year.

Walla Walla Valley is located in southeastern Washington by the Oregon border, with part of the appellation stretching across state lines. The growing region is wholly contained within the Columbia Valley and is named after a Native American term for “many waters.”

The Walla Walla Valley has boomed in the last fifteen years and has the highest concentration of wineries in Washington.

Grape production is dominated by red varieties. Syrahs from Walla Walla Valley, particularly the southern section of the valley, are notable for their distinctive savory profiles, full of earth, black olives, iodine, and smoked meat. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted variety. Styles vary somewhat by site from more to less tannic.

The Walla Walla Valley, which is also a major wheat and onion producer, is a climatically diverse growing region. The area is cooler and wetter than a number of Washington’s growing regions. Precipitation varies throughout the valley, with an average of 15 inches (38cm) in the western part of the appellation and 20 inches (50cm) at the eastern border, which stretches up into foothills of the Blue Mountains. This allows a limited number of vineyards in the eastern section to dry farm—an extreme rarity in Washington.

Most soils are well-drained, sandy loess over Missoula Flood slackwater deposits and fractured basalt. However, an ancient cobblestone riverbed defines the area to the south. These cobblestones absorb the sun’s heat, radiating it to the roots and grape clusters.

The landscape at the appellation’s western boundary prevents cold air-drains from higher elevations from dissipating. Early and late season frosts are therefore occasionally a problem in western areas as are deep winter freezes.

The valley is home to some of Washington’s oldest wineries. Initially, many wineries sourced grapes from other regions of the Columbia Valley due to the limited number of plantings in the area. While many continue this practice, a large increase in plantings now allows many wineries to create Walla Walla Valley designated bottles.

© 2014 Washington Wine

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