Vineyards: 18,924 acres (7,658 hectares)
Top Varieties: Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Syrah
Average Annual Precipitation: 8 inches
Yakima Valley is one of Washington’s most diverse growing regions. It also is the largest sub-appellation of the Columbia Valley, both in total size and planted acreage, with the valley home to over one quarter of Washington’s total grape vine acreage.
Designated in 1983, Yakima Valley was the first federally recognized wine-growing region in the Pacific Northwest. The valley has an arid, continental climate, with annual average precipitation at just 8 inches (20 cm). Irrigation is therefore required to cultivate vinifera grapes. The Yakima River, which bisects the appellation, provides water for irrigation as do local aquifers.
Yakima Valley is one of the few appellations in the state where white varieties are more planted than red, led by Chardonnay and Riesling. The Yakima Valley is notable for having cooler areas toward the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. It also has blazingly hot areas by the center of the Columbia Basin.
Stretches of cooler terrain in Yakima Valley are home to almost half of the Chardonnay and Riesling grown in the state. Simultaneously, Yakima Valley’s many warmer sites yield significant percentages of Washington’s best Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. Mirroring the appellation’s physical diversity, Yakima Valley wines encompass a broad range of styles.
Like almost all of 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 irrigated viticulture.
The variation in climate and terrain in the valley is reflected in it having multiple sub-appellations. These are Candy Mountain, Rattlesnake Hills, Red Mountain, and Snipes Mountain. Yakima Valley itself is a sub-appellation of the larger Columbia Valley.
Yakima Valley includes some of Washington’s oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines at Harrison Hill Vineyard (1963).