Vineyards: 17,082 acres (6,912 hectares)
Top Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, Syrah
Average Annual Precipitation: 9 inches
The Horse Heaven Hills AVA is home to over one quarter of Washington’s planted acreage. The area is among Washington’s warmer growing regions, making it an ideal place for Cabernet Sauvignon which makes up a large percentage of plantings. Many vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills are planted on south-facing slopes, providing for extended sun exposure.
Like many of Washington’s growing regions, the Horse Heaven Hills is located on an anticline of the Yakima fold belt, a series of wrinkles in the earth that create slopes ideal for grape growing. The area has an arid and semi-arid, continental climate. As with almost all areas of eastern Washington, irrigation is therefore required to grow wine 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.
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.
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. The appellation is wholly contained within the Columbia Valley.