Napa Valley is probably the most likely to spring to mind first when we’re prompted by others to name American wine regions. While Napa is certainly known to produce quintessential American wine and it is the most well-known sub-American Viticultural Area (AVA) in the United States, it is by no means the only one. In California alone, there are six major AVAs – Central Coast and Santa Cruz Mountains, Central Valley, Klamath Mountains, North Coast, Sierra Foothills and South Coast – of which Napa is part of the six county North Coast AVA. The rest of the country is divided into the Pacific Northwest, East Coast and Central U.S. AVAs. This covers an immense geographic area with climates as variable as can be, making for ideal conditions for a number of grape varietals.
A cursory scan of the sub-AVAs listed under these areas points up some interesting results – to pick out a few, the East Coast’s Linganore AVA in Maryland is ideal for the production of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin, Chardonel and Traminette grapes in particular, while the Central U.S.’s Old Mission Peninsula AVA in Michigan is known for Chardonnay and Riesling and some Pinot Noir.
Today we’ll be fixing our sights AVA-wise on the Pacific Northwest. In particular, we’ll be focusing on the Yakima Valley. Yakima Valley is in south central Washington State. Cordoned off by the foothills of the amazing Cascade Mountains to the west and Kiona Hills to the east, this appellation takes the crest of the Rattlesnake Hills as its northern border and the 1000-foot contour line along the Horse Heaven Hills to the Toppendish Ridge as its southern border. This Washington wine region is home to more than 40 wineries and lays claim to over one third of the state’s vineyards.
The unique topographic convergence of the surrounding hills and ridge lines makes for microclimates that are perfect for Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Syrah grapes to thrive. The sun-soaked hills of this WA wine AVA are reminiscent of the great wine-producing regions of France; in fact, it shares the same latitude with the Loire Valley and some of the Bordeaux region. At the height of the growing season, its rolling hills feature magnificent vineyards with trellises heavily laden with rich grape varietals. Next installment: Tips for having an unforgettable wine tasting experience in Yakima Valley – where to go, where to stay, and what to see and sample.