Located on approximately the same latitude (46ºN) as some of the great French wine regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy, Washington State wine “Touring” country includes 9 federally recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s), commonly known as appellations; three of them share territory with Oregon State. Climates of individual Washington wine regions differ dramatically, being cross cut north to south by the Cascade Mountains.
A variety of climates and soils combine with the long summer sunlight hours of northern latitudes to create prime growing regions, predominantly in the valleys and on the hillsides of areas east of the Cascade Mountain range. Washington wineries benefit from grapes ripening in these areas which experience about two more hours of summer sunlight each day than in California wine regions. Gradually cooling autumn temperatures in Washington also help wine grapes reach full maturity, while maintaining desirable acid levels.
Vineyards on the east side of the Cascades grow 99% of Washington’s wine grapes. Seven of the state’s eight official AVA/appellations are located here — the macro appellation of the Columbia Valley encompasses the smaller Yakima Valley AVA, Red Mountain AVA, Walla Walla Valley AVA, Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope and Rattlesnake Hills (Washington State’s newest appellation). The Columbia Gorge AVA begins at the western edge of the Columbia Valley AVA and continues west and south to areas along the Columbia River in both Oregon and Washington. Two other emerging regions benefit from the huge rain shadow created by the Cascade Mountains, the North-Central Washington region (often referred to as the Columbia Cascade region) and the Lake Chelan area (AVA application in process).
All totaled, Washington wine regions produce more wine grapes than any other state in the U.S., except California. Wine grapes are now the fourth most important fruit crop in Washington State behind apples, cherries and pears. The following wines are in limited distribution. Look for them when in Washington state.
Spring Barrel tasting is your chance to get a jump on tasting and purchasing some of the best wines in wine country. A visit to the Valley on this weekend will allow you to sample yet-unfinished wines from the barrel.
Barrel tasting allows tasters a sneak preview of upcoming vintages from their favorite wineries. This special weekend in the Yakima Valley features winemakers and cellar staff who are on hand to share insights and answer questions on the winemaking process. Many of the 50 participating wineries make special efforts to enhance the wine tasting experience by adding delicious cheeses, sauces, salsas, and even desserts to the mix along with special tastings and education.
As the oldest wine region, or appellation, in Washington State, Yakima Valley has many small wine towns whose residents enjoy sharing a rural lifestyle with visitors. The region produces a wide array of wine varietals grown in vineyards that range from the Yakima Valley to hillside plantings. The three-day barrel tasting allows visitors and locals to leisurely visit the numerous wineries that have made the Yakima Valley region one of the most interesting and prestigious viticultural regions in the country