The Columbia Valley AVA is a wine region located across over 11 million acres across Washington, Oregon, and Idaho; however, the majority of the region's vineyards are in the south-eastern corner of Washington State. Some criticism exists that the Columbia Valley AVA is so large that it is almost meaningless in terms of expressing a terroir. It covers vast area with a wide range of climates, soils, and topography.
The sheer size of the Columbia Valley AVA may make it difficult to establish a consistent sense of terroir across the region. Some say the AVA designation is more of a marketing tool than an accurate expression of a specific terroir, as it allows winemakers to label their wines with a recognizable appellation.
Proponents of the Columbia Valley AVA, however, argue that despite its size, the region shares common characteristics that can be expressed in the wines produced there, which say “Washington Wine”. These include the arid, continental climate, well-drained soils, and the influence of the Columbia River, which can all contribute to the distinctiveness of the wines.
Additionally, when you check out wines from the best wine store USA, you’ll notice the nested AVAs within the Columbia Valley AVA, such as the Yakima Valley AVA and the Walla Walla Valley AVA, can provide a more specific sense of terroir within the larger region. By designating smaller, more defined areas within the Columbia Valley AVA, winemakers can highlight the unique characteristics of the grapes grown and the wines produced in those areas.
Characteristics of the Columbia Valley AVA
- Climate: The Columbia Valley AVA is known for its arid, continental climate, with hot summer days and cool nights. The region receives only about 6-8 inches of rainfall annually, and irrigation is necessary to sustain the vines. The growing season is long, with an average of 17 hours of sunlight per day during the peak of the growing season.
Soils: The region's soils are varied, with a mix of glacial sediment, windblown loess, and volcanic deposits. The soils tend to be well-drained, which is beneficial for grape growing.
Grape Varieties: The AVA is known for producing high-quality wines from a variety of grape varieties. The most widely planted grape varieties in the region include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Syrah. However, the region is also home to many lesser-known grape varieties that are gaining popularity, such as Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Tempranillo.
Wine Styles: The region produces a diverse range of wine styles, from crisp, aromatic white wines to full-bodied, tannic red wines. For that white wine bottle, such as Riesling and Chardonnay, they are known for their vibrant acidity and intense fruit flavors. The region's red wines, particularly those made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, are known for their full-bodied, complex flavors and firm tannins.
Wineries and Vineyards: The Columbia Valley AVA is home to over 800 vineyards and more than 200 wineries. Some of the region's most well-known wineries include Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest, and Hogue Cellars. The region is also home to smaller, boutique wineries that specialize in handcrafted wines. The best red wine bottle to look for? Probably Merlot.
In sum, the Columbia Valley AVA is a diverse and dynamic wine region that is known for producing high-quality wines from a wide range of grape varieties. Whether you are a fan of white or red wines, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this vibrant and exciting wine region.
Nested AVAs in Columbia Valley
Several nested AVAs lie within the Columbia Valley AVA. These include:
- Walla Walla Valley AVA: The Walla Walla Valley AVA is located entirely within the southeastern corner of the Columbia Valley AVA
- Yakima Valley AVA: This AVA is in the western part of the Columbia Valley AVA and is the oldest AVA within the larger region.
- Red Mountain AVA: This AVA is in the eastern part of the Columbia Valley AVA, near the town of Benton City.
- Horse Heaven Hills AVA: This AVA is in the southern part of the Columbia Valley AVA, near the town of Prosser.
- Lake Chelan AVA: This AVA is located in the north-central part of the Columbia Valley AVA, near the town of Chelan. It is a relatively new AVA, with its designation approved in 2009.
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