Yakima Valley: Established 1983

  • Washington State's first federally-recognized AVA; includes more than 60 wineries.
  • Contains 16,042 vineyard acres (6,492 hectares), over one third of Washington's vineyards.
  • Most widely planted grape is Chardonnay, followed by Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Riesling and Syrah represent significant acreage, with Syrah in particular on the rise.
  • Silt-loam soils predominate allowing proper drainage necessary to keep vine's vigor under control.
  • 190 day growing season with annual precipitation of approximately 8 inches (20 cm).

Yakima Valley is located in south-central Washington State.  Designated in 1983, it was the first federally recognized wine-growing region in the Pacific Northwest.  It also is the largest sub-appellation of the Columbia Valley, both in total size and wine-grape acreage.  Within its complex terrain, the Yakima Valley AVA encompasses three distinctive sub-appellations: Red Mountain, Snipes Mountain, and Rattlesnake Hills.

Yakima Valley is one of Washington’s most diverse growing region.  Its vineyards flourish across nearly a hundred miles, and they yield more than 40 different white and red grape varieties.  For example, stretches of cooler terrain in the Yakima Valley are home to almost half of the Chardonnay and Riesling grown in the state.  Simultaneously, the Yakima Valley’s many warmer sites yield significant percentages of Washington’s best Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah.  In fact, the appellation includes Washington’s oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines at Otis (1957) and Harrison Hill (1963) vineyards.

Mirroring the appellation’s physical diversity, Yakima Valley wines encompass a broad range of styles.  Chardonnays from cooler sites are notable for fresh green apple aromas, while warmer site wines display stone fruit and tropical fruit characters.  Yakima Valley Merlots are full of red fruit aromas and flavors, such as sweet cherries, red currants, and raspberries, along with chocolate and, occasionally, mint.  Aromas and flavors for Syrah range from dark fruit, such as blackberries, to blueberries and cranberries.  However, many are notable for complementing fruity flavors with more savory accents.  Certain sites even display distinct mineral notes.

Other grape varieties with significant plantings here include Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, and Cabernet Franc.  Taken as a whole, the Yakima Valley AVA grows more than one-third of all the vinifera wine grapes in Washington State.

Yakima Valley has an arid continental climate, with annual average precipitation at just 8 inches (20 cm).  Irrigation is therefore required to cultivate vinifera grapes, as is true of all growing regions in eastern Washington.  Also like eastern Washington’s other growing regions, Yakima Valley soils are strongly influenced by the Missoula Floods, which were a series of dramatic cataclysms in prehistoric times.  Moderate to deep silt-loam is layered over gravel or directly onto basalt bedrock. This foundation creates well-drained soils that are ideal for viticulture.

Images of the Yakima Valley AVA

© 2014 Washington Wine

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