Washington Wine Region: Red Mountain AVA

Following the Washington Wine Month theme, we're going to look at the state's best growing region: Red Mountain AVA.  This appellation grows fruit that is used to create world-class wines.  Some very special conditions offer one of the best spots in the world to grow grapes.

Let's start off by saying that Red Mountain is not actually a "mountain" but more of a slope.  The slope faces south, toward the sunlight, giving it more warmth and light than any part of the state.  It's located in the eastern portion of the Yakima Valley AVA.  The temperature drops sharply in the evening, great for keeping the acidity of grapes.  The Yakima River runs next to it, keeping cool air flowing.  Floods over 10,000 years ago left a rich gravelly topsoil full of nutrients, calcium carbonate and a high pH, all great to feed the vines.  The mountain gets its name from a grass called drooping brome, or cheatgrass, which turns red in the spring.

Its vineyards are some of the most renowned in the world.  They are Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, Kiona, Taptiel and Grand Rêve Vineyards.  Though they were also allowed to use both Columbia Valley AVA and Yakima Valley AVA, farmers of these vineyards drove the region to its prominance and eventual AVA status in 2001.  Varietals grown here are Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese and its superstar: Cabernet Sauvignon.  Cabernet Sauvignon from this region was noticed to be more structured than fruity compared to other examples from the state and closely resembles Napa examples. 

Some of my favorite wineries are located or use fruit grown out of this region.  Excellent wineries include: Barnard Griffin, Hedges Family Estate, Blackwood Canyon Vintners, Terra Blanca Vinters, Cañon de Sol Winery, Columbia Crest and Col Solare, which is a joint venture between Chateau Ste. Michelle and Marchesi Antinori.  Some awesome producers who purchase fruit from Red Mountain vineyards include: Cadence, Betz Family Winery, Andrew Will, O S Winery, Seven Hills, L'Ecole No. 41 and Quilceda Creek, which made one of only 16 US wines to receive a perfect 100 score from Robert Parker.  You can only get their wines by gaining membership through a wait list, and I just put my name up for it- excited!

So next time you're thinking of purchasing some great wine, look for the Red Mountain AVA on the label!