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Yakima Valley AVA

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Title: Yakima Valley AVA  
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Subject: Yakima River, Benton County, Washington, List of American Viticultural Areas, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mexican American
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Yakima Valley AVA

The Yakima Valley AVA was the first American Viticultural Area established within Washington State, gaining the recognition in 1983. Part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA, Yakima Valley AVA is home to more than of vineyards, giving the area the largest concentration of wineries and vineyards in the state of Washington. The most widely planted varietals in the area are Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot gris, and Syrah.[1] Nearly 40% of Washington state yearly wine production is made from Yakima Valley grapes.[2] In addition to grapes, the Yakima Valley is also home to several fruit orchards growing apples, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears and plums. Around the town of Zillah, there is the Zillah Fruit Loop driving tour through the area's orchards and vineyards. The area is also home to nearly 80% of the US hop production.[3]

Geography and climate

The Yakima Valley's borders include the sub-AVA of the Rattlesnake Hills to the north, the Horse Heaven Hills to the south and Red Mountain forming parts of its eastern boundaries. The Snipes Mountain AVA also lies within its boundaries. To the west, the Cascade Range forms a natural border and creates a rain shadow over the area which requires the use of irrigation in viticulture.[1] The appellation covers of land that is mostly contained within Yakima County, Washington with the eastern edge extending into Benton County. The cities of Yakima and Prosser are the main commercial centers with many wineries located in or around them. To the west, Mount Adams dominates the landscape along with the Yakima River on its eastward flow to the Columbia River.[4]

Overall, the temperature of the Yakima Valley is more temperate than the rest of the greater Columbia Valley AVA,[1] with average temperatures being 5°F (3°C) to 10°F (6°C) cooler.[5]


Rattlesnake Mountain beyond the Yakima River in Washington state. In the foreground are the Chandler Reach Vineyards in the Yakima Valley AVA.

A varietal labelling for wines made in the Yakima Valley, including the state's first dry Riesling.[8]

In 1917, the Washington State Legislature passed an act setting aside of sagebrush desert near Prosser to become an agriculture research center known as the Irrigation Branch Experiment Station (today known as the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center, and operated jointly by Washington State University and the USDA). The first crop was of apples used in an irrigation study . In 1937, the research center hired Walter Clore as an assistant horticulturist. Under Clore's guidance, the center expanded into grape growing with Vitis labrusca, Vitis vinifera and American hybrid grape plantings. Research from the center would become vital to the growing Washington wine industry.[9]

In the 1980s, along with the rest of the Washington wine industry, the Yakima Valley saw a boom in the plantings of new vineyards and the openings of new wineries such as Hogue Cellars and Covey Run both opening in 1982,[10] followed by Chinook Wines in 1983.[11]


Cabernet Franc from Sheridan Vineyards in the Yakima Valley
Syrah from Boushey Vineyards in the Yakima Valley

The Yakima Valley AVA is home to some of the state's oldest vineyards with nearly every major Washington wine maker securing at least some of their grapes from this appellation.[12] Red Willow Vineyard near Wapato stands at the highest point in the Yakima Valley AVA at above sea level. The vineyard is known as the primary grape supplier to Columbia Winery. It was from this vineyard that winemaker David Lake produced the first Syrah in Washington state.[3] Chardonnay is a popular planting in this cool climate appellation with most wine growers preferring a single clonal variety.[4] Nearly any grape can ripen at some location within this diverse AVA. The most sought after sites are located on the eastern edge of the AVA near Red Mountain, Prosser and Benton City.[5] The AVA also includes Boushey Vineyard, ranked by as one of the top vineyards in Washington State.[13]


As the Washington wine industry began to focus more on terroir, three sub-appellations have been created for areas within the Yakima Valley AVA that demonstrate unique microclimates and soil conditions which crafted different wines from their neighboring areas. The Red Mountain AVA was created in 2001, the Rattlesnake Hills AVA was created in 2006 and the Snipes Mountain AVA created in 2009.


  1. ^ a b c d T. Parker Discovering Washington Wines pg 36 Raconteurs Press 2002 ISBN 0-9719258-5-2
  2. ^ C. Fallis, editor The Encyclopedic Atlas of Wine pg 51 Global Book Publishing 2006 ISBN 1-74048-050-3
  3. ^ a b T. Parker Discovering Washington Wines pg 37 Raconteurs Press 2002 ISBN 0-9719258-5-2
  4. ^ a b H. Johnson & J. Robinson The World Atlas of Wine pg 290 Mitchell Beazley Publishing 2005 ISBN 1-84000-332-4
  5. ^ a b P. Gregutt Yakima Valley AVA Appellation America
  6. ^ R. Irvine & W. Clore The Wine Project pg 79 Sketch Publications 1997 ISBN 0-9650834-9-7
  7. ^ T. Parker Discovering Washington Wines pg 8 Raconteurs Press 2002 ISBN 0-9719258-5-2
  8. ^ T. Parker Discovering Washington Wines pg 10 Raconteurs Press 2002 ISBN 0-9719258-5-2
  9. ^ R. Irvine & W. Clore The Wine Project pg 21-22 Sketch Publications 1997 ISBN 0-9650834-9-7
  10. ^ R. Irvine & W. Clore The Wine Project pg 269 Sketch Publications 1997 ISBN 0-9650834-9-7
  11. ^ Cole Danehower "Essential Wines and Wineries of the Pacific Northwest" pgs 46, 80-81 Timber Press, London (2010) ISBN 9780881929669
  12. ^ P. Gregutt "Casing Out The Good Stuff" Seattle Times November 12, 2006
  13. ^ P. Gregutt "Washington Wines and Wineries: The Essential Guide" pg 85-86 University of California Press 2007 ISBN 0-520-24869-4

External links

  • Yakima Valley Wine Region

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