With 43,000 planted acres, Washington State has ideal geography and conditions for growing complex, flavorful wine grapes. Washington’s unique climate and soil conditions allow vines to be grown on their own rootstocks—a rarity in any of the world’s other winegrowing regions. With their own roots allowing grapes to show their full breadth of varietal character, Washington is home to a hugely diverse range of grape varieties known for their exceptional quality.
Most vineyards in Washington are planted in the eastern part of the state. There, in the shadow of the majestic Cascade Mountains, low rainfall and long days of intense sunlight and cold nights translate to mature, concentrated grapes with generous fruit notes, soft tannins and crisp acidity. Our winemaker Sean Hails crafts our portfolio of rich and deliciously drinkable wines through thoughtful site selection within top quality AVAs, including Columbia Valley, Red Mountain, Horse Heaven Hills, Ancient Lakes, Yakima Valley and Wahluke Slope.
We believe the sum of Washington is greater than its parts, leading to our blending philosophy of discovering and refining our vineyard site selection each vintage. The result can be tasted in our four wines available nationwide — Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Red Blend — as well as our collection of Washington wines available exclusively in the tasting room.
Washington’s largest appellation, the Columbia Valley comprises more than 90 percent (50,300 acres) of the state's total grape plantings and provides all of the grapes for our blends. This high-desert region encompasses parts of three rivers — the Columbia, Snake and Yakima — as well as the Yakima Valley, Red Mountain, Wahluke Slope and Horse Heaven Hills appellations, among others. Its volcanic, well-drained, sandy loam soils are low in nutrients, which stresses the vines and yields intensely concentrated flavors.
Established in 1983, Yakima Valley is Washington’s oldest appellation. Home to our Sunnyside winery, the Yakima Valley lies within the larger Columbia Valley and includes more than 13,200 acres of wine grapes, roughly one-third the state’s total. Due to its cooler climate in some areas, we look to this region for a majority of our Chardonnay grapes. We also select several of our red grapes from this sub-AVA’s warmer mesoclimates for added layers of complexity.
Horse Heaven Hills
Located in southeastern Washington, this Columbia Valley sub-region was named by an early pioneer. Admiring the wind-swept vistas and rugged, rolling terrain enjoyed by bands of wild mustangs, the pioneer exclaimed, “Surely this must be horse heaven!” Today, Horse Heaven Hills is planted to nearly 13,000 acres of wine grapes, many on steep, south-facing slopes rising up to 1,800 feet in elevation. A favorite of winemaker Sean Hails, this region provides us with ripe, rich grapes for our Columbia Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec.
Established in 2006, the geographically isolated, south-facing region of Wahluke Slope has some of the warmest temperatures and lowest annual precipitation levels in the state, an average of just six inches. The region is also distinguished by its uniformity in soils, aspect and climate. This combination of factors creates vibrant color and intense flavors in our wines, especially our Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Located at the easternmost tip of the Yakima Valley at a sharp bend of the Yakima River, Red Mountain encompasses approximately 4,000 acres, with about 1,650 planted to grapevines. Soils here are comprised of sandy loam and gravel with high alkaline, reducing vine vigor and berry sizes. Also one of the warmest regions in Washington, Red Mountain offers exceptionally bold, concentrated red grapes for our Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as many of our limited production wines.