• Molly Jean

Washington AVA Guide

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a federally recognized region, that indicates the geographic, geological, and climatic features of an area. These features influence the grapes and the flavors/aromas of wines they produce - distinguishing them from surrounding grape growing regions. In Washington State, we currently have 19 AVAs.

Ancient Lakes Candy Mountain Columbia Gorge Columbia Valley Goose Gap Horse Heaven Hills Lake Chelan Lewis-Clark Valley Naches Heights Puget Sound

Rattlesnake Hills Red Mountain Royal Slope Snipes Mountain The Burn of Columbia Valley Yakima Valley Wahluke Slope Walla Walla Valley White Bluffs

Knowing a little bit about each region will make you a more informed wine buyer. It will assist you in picking out wines that align more closely with your palate; providing you with a notion of how a wine is likely to taste from a given area. It will also help with narrowing down your choices of the ubiquitous wines of Washington.

Ancient Lakes (2012)

1,603 Acres


Primary White Grape Varieties: Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris/Grigio


Primary Red Grape Varieties: Syrah, Merlot


Climate: cool-moderate, arid, continental, heat accumulation begins, cooler/wider temperature diurnals, the Columbia River protects the area from early/late season frost


Annual Average Precipitation: Less than 8" – irrigation needed.


Elevation: 570 to 1,912 ft


Soil Types: 65 soil types including: basalt, caliche sand, silt, sandy loam, loess


Notable Aromas/Flavors of White Wine Varieties: citrus fruits, lime, lemon, green fruits, green apple, bright acidity and minerality.


Notable Aromas/Flavors of Red Wine Varieties: black fruits, balanced acidity, gentle tannin

 

Candy Mountain (2020)

815 Acres


Primary White Grape Varieties: Primarily Red Varieties


Primary Red Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Sangiovese


Climate: warm climate, dry, high winds, southwestern facing


Annual Average Precipitation: 6–8" - irrigation needed.


Elevation: 640 to 1,360 ft


Soil Types: loess, silt, basalt bedrock, minerals, ice age floor deposits, calcium caked gravel

Notable Aromas/Flavors of White Wine Varieties: Primarily Red Varieties


Notable Aromas/Flavors of Red Wine Varieties: big, structured, fruit-forward, balance and aging capacity, high quality, fruit forward, minerality and tannins


Oenophile Fact: Smallest AVA in WA

 

Columbia Gorge (2004)

186,610 Acres


Primary White Grape Varieties: Allbarino, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Viognier


Primary Red Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, Barbera, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Merlot, Lemberger


Climate: warm continental climate / cool maritime climate, south-facing slopes, multiple microclimates, hot / cool temperatures, sunshine / rain, Columbia River protects against early/late season frost, constant winds due to pressure differentials from cool Pacific ocean air and warm air from the desert


Annual Average Precipitation: 10 to 36" - dry farm and some irrigation needed.


Elevation: sea level to 2,000 ft


Soil Types: volcanic mudstone, basalt rock, loess, silt, sand, lahar


Notable Aromas/Flavors of White Wine Varieties: crisp, prominent acidity, fresh green apple, white flowers, spice, grapefruit


Notable Aromas/Flavors of Red Wine Varieties: red fruits, black fruits, rich complexity, tannic

 

Columbia Valley (1984)

8,748,949 Acres


Primary White Grape Varieties: Riesling, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Marsanne, Pinot Gris, Morio Muskat, Muscadelle, Muscat Canelli, Orange Muscat


Primary Red Grape Varieties: Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Black Muscat, Cabernet Franc, Carménère, Counoise, Gamay, Grenache, Lemberger, Malbec, Mouvedre Nebbiolo, Petit Verdot, Petit Sirah, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir


Climate: contains several meso- and micro-climates, dry, arid/semi-arid, continental climate, in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountain Range south-facing slopes, early/late season frost and winter freezes are environmental threats


Annual Average Precipitation: 6–8" - irrigation needed.


Elevation: 1,200 to 2,100 ft


Soil Types: sandy, loess, silt, gravel, slackwater sediment, basalt bedrock


Notable Aromas/Flavors of White Wine Varieties: aromatic, green fruits, fresh green apple, stone fruit, peach tropical fruit, lime, lemon


Notable Aromas/Flavors of Red Wine Varieties: black fruits, red fruits, black cherry, cassis, sweet cherries, red currants, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, herbal notes chocolate, mint, less fruit forward, savory


Oenophile Fact: Red Mountain, Yakima, Walla Walla Valleys, Wahluke Slope, Rattlesnake Hills, Horse Heaven Hills, Snipes Mountain, Lake Chelan, Naches Heights and Ancient Lakes AVAs are all within the Columbia Valley AVA.

 

Goose Gap (2021)

1,800 Acres


Primary White Grape Varieties: Chardonnay


Primary Red Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah


Climate: south-southwest facing slopes delay fruit ripening, micro-climate protected from rain and fog,


Annual Average Precipitation: 6" - irrigation needed.


Elevation: 577-1,339 ft


Soil Types: windblown silt, light sand, Missoula Flood sediment


Notable Aromas/Flavors of White Wine Varieties: citrus, greet fruit


Notable Aromas/Flavors of Red Wine Varieties: red fruits, black fruits


Oenophile Fact: sub-appellation of Yakima Valley that gets its name from a path of migration for waterfoul.

 

Horse Heaven Hills (2005)

576,603 Acres

Primary White Grape Varieties: Chardonnay, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier


Primary Red Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Mourvedre, Petit Verdot, Zinfandel



Climate: warm, steep south-facing slopes, pressure differentials causing significant winds - resulting in smaller canopy size and tougher grape skins, temperature diurnals caused by Columbia river reduces risk of early/late season frost


Annual Average Precipitation: 9" - irrigation needed.


Elevation: 200 to 1,800 ft


Soil Types: sandy, loam, loess, Missoula Flood sediment, basalt bedrock,


Notable Aromas/Flavors of White Wine Varieties: stone fruit, peach tropical fruit, aromatic


Notable Aromas/Flavors of Red Wine Varieties: black fruits, red fruits, black cherry, cassis, sweet cherries, red currants, raspberries, along with chocolate


Oenophile Fact: Champoux Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon are some of Washington’s most expensive wines.

 

Lake Chelan (2009)

24,114 Acre


Primary White Grape Varieties: Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Semillon, Muscat Blanc, Orange Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Viognier


Primary Red Grape Varieties: Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Syrah, Carmenere, Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Petit Verdot, Tannat, Dolcetto, Pinot Meunier, Barbera


Climate: southern and eastern portions of the lake, the Lake Effect moderates temperatures (cool summer days/warm summer nights), protected against frost


Annual Average Precipitation: 11" - irrigation needed.


Elevation: 2,000 ft


Soil Types: sandy sediment, quartz, mica, minerals, glacial sediment, ash, pumice


Notable Aromas/Flavors of White Wine Varieties: stone fruit, citrus fruits, minerality, floral


Notable Aromas/Flavors of Red Wine Varieties: well balanced sugar and acid, complex, black fruits, red fruits

 

Lewis-Clark Valley (2016)

85,238 Acres


Primary White Grape Varieties: Chardonnay, Viogner


Primary Red Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc


Climate: cold, temperate, good drainage, risk of winter frost, significant temperature diurnals


Annual Average Precipitation: 11 to 22" - minimal irrigation needed.


Elevation: 600 to 1,960 ft


Soil Types: decomposing perennial grasses, grass roots, loess, silt, stony, humus-rich mollisol


Notable Aromas/Flavors of White Wine Varieties: good acid, floral


Notable Aromas/Flavors of Red Wine Varieties: good acid, black fruits, red fruits, herb flavors, texture, low-med alcohol

 

Naches Heights (2011)

13,165 Acres


Primary White Grape Varieties: Pinot Gris/Grigio, Riesling, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, White Muscat,


Primary Red Grape Varieties: Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Saugignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Mourvedre, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Souzau, Tinta Cao, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz


Climate: cool, flat plateau, gently in elevation from southeast to northwest, good air drain to reduce frost damage risks


Annual Average Precipitation: 10 to 13" - irrigation needed.


Elevation: 1,200 to 2,100 ft


Soil Types: ancient volcanic bedrock, loess, clay, basalt


Notable Aromas/Flavors of White Wine Varieties: stone fruits, citrus fruits, good acidity, balanced ripeness


Notable Aromas/Flavors of Red Wine Varieties: red fruits, black fruits, blackberry, cherry, voilet, smooth tannins, leather, anise, minerals, aromatic


Oenophile Fact: First AVA in WA to be fully sustainable - all vineyards farmed are either organically, biodynamically, or salmon-safe.

 

Puget Sound (1995)

2,918,765 Acres

Primary White Grape Varieties: Riesling, Madeleine Angevine, Müller-Thurgau


Primary Red Grape Varieties: Pinot Noir, Regent, Siegerrebe, Vitis Labrusca "Island Belle."


Climate: cool, maritime climate, wet winters, warm dry summers rarely encounters prolonged freezes in winter, mild summers


Annual Average Precipitation: 15 to 60" - dry farmed.


Elevation: 3 to 108 ft


Soil Types: Semi-permeable cemented subsoil, glacial till


Notable Aromas/Flavors of White Wine Varieties: juicy, sweet, fruity, floral


Notable Aromas/Flavors of Red Wine Varieties: red fruits, juicy, sweet, fruity


Oenophile Fact: Spans from the Canadian border through to Olympia - includes numerous islands. Only region to the west of the Cascade Mountains.

 

Rattlesnake Hills (2006)

74,380 Acres


Primary White Grape Varieties: Chardonnay, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Muscat Canelli, Semillon, Viogner


Primary Red Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Petit Syrah


Climate: arid, continental climate, good air drainage, low risk of spring/fall frosts due to high elevation, limited risk of hard freezes due to warmer winter temps


Annual Average Precipitation: 6 to 12" - irrigation needed.


Elevation: 850 to 3,085 ft


Soil Types: silt, loam


Notable Aromas/Flavors of White Wine Varieties: lime, lemon, green apple, stone fruit, peach


Notable Aromas/Flavors of Red Wine Varieties: red fruits, black fruits, sweet cherries, red currants, and raspberries, black cherry, cassis, herbal, chocolate, mint

 

Red Mountain (2001)

4,538 Acres


Primary White Grape Varieties: Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon


Primary Red Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Counoise, Lemberger, Malbec, Merlot, Mourvedre, Nebbiolo, Petit Verdot, Syrah,


Climate: warm, dry, continental climate, ample sunlight, Yakima river moderates temperature, adequate air movement, gentle south-facing slope


Annual Average Precipitation: 6 to 8" - irrigation needed.


Elevation: 500 to 1500 ft


Soil Types: wind-blown loess, sandy loam, gravel, silt


Notable Aromas/Flavors of White Wine Varieties: mineral notes, stone fruits, citrus fruits


Notable Aromas/Flavors of Red Wine Varieties: well balance, intense berry flavors, structured, red fruits, black fruits, full-bodied, dark, dense, tannic, mineral notes


Oenophile Fact: Highest priced grapes per ton - 3x the Washington average.

 

Royal Slope (2020)

156,389 Acres


Primary White Grape Varieties: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Viogner


Primary Red Grape Varieties: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Syrah,


Climate: warm, south-facing slope, high elevation, extended growing season, delayed ripening


Annual Average Precipitation: 6 to 8" - irrigation needed.


Elevation: 610 to 1,756 ft


Soil Types: windblown silt, loess


Notable Aromas/Flavors of White Wine Varieties: natural acidity, bright, fresh, floral, citrus fruits, stone fruits


Notable Aromas/Flavors of Red Wine Varieties: natural acidity, intense color, black fruis, red fruits, high quality grapes

 

Snipes Mountain (2009)

4,005 Acres


Primary White Grape Varieties: Chardonnay, Semillon, Gewürztraminer, Viogner, Muscat


Primary Red Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and more


Climate: arid, continental climate, south-facing slopes, cold air to flow downhill, preventing frost damage that occasionally affects nearby regions.


Annual Average Precipitation: 7" - irrigation needed.


Elevation: 1,290 ft


Soil Types: rocky, loess, wind blown deposits of sand, clay, silt, large gravel deposits, arid soils,


Notable Aromas/Flavors of White Wine Varieties: concentrated fruit, stone fruits, floral, acidic


Notable Aromas/Flavors of Red Wine Varieties: concentrated fruit, red fruits, black fruits intense, structured fruit, rich, textured, acidic


Oenophile Fact: Home to some of Washington's oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines.

 

The Burn of Columbia Valley (2021)

1,500 Acres


Primary White Grape Varieties: Chardonnay


Primary Red Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon


Climate: warm, wetter than other areas of the Columbia Valley, moderated by substantial winds, warm climate that behaves like a cool climate


Annual Average Precipitation: 8-9" - irrigation needed.


Elevation: 270 to 1,780 ft


Soil Types: Walla Walla silt loam, heavy soils


Notable Aromas/Flavors of White Wine Varieties: citrus fruit, green fruit, pear, herbaceous, tarragon


Notable Aromas/Flavors of Red Wine Varieties: red fruits, black fruits intense, cherry, spice, currant, herbaceous


Oenophile Fact: the name comes from old farming practices of burning the hillside to propagate well-nourished grasses for animals to graze in the spring.

 

Yakima Valley (1983)

708,710 Acres


Primary White Grape Varieties: Aligote, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Marsanne, Orange Muscat, Muscat Canelli, Rousanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Viogner


Primary Red Grape Varieties: Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Barbera, Black Muscat, Gamay, Grenahce, Lemberger, Malbec, Mourvedre, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Zinfandel


Climate: warm, dry, continental climate, shadow from Cascade Mountains


Annual Average Precipitation: 8" - irrigation needed


Elevation: 300 to 1,800 ft


Soil Types: silt, loam, gravel, basalt bedrock


Notable Aromas/Flavors of White Wine Varieties: fresh green apple aromas, stone fruit and tropical fruit characters


Notable Aromas/Flavors of Red Wine Varieties: red fruit, black fruit, sweet cherries, red currants, raspberries, chocolate, mint, blackberries, blueberries and cranberries, savory, mineral


Oenophile Fact: : Yakima Valley AVA encompasses three distinctive sub-appellations: Red Mountain, Snipes Mountain, and Rattlesnake Hills.

 

Wahluke Slope (2006)

80,490 Acre


Primary White Grape Varieties: Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Viogner


Primary Red Grape Varieties: Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Mourvedre, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Zinfandel


Climate: warm, dry, south-facing slopes, proximity to Columbia river minimizes risk of frost, south-facing slope, significant wind (smaller leaf size / smaller grape clusters) compared to other regions


Annual Average Precipitation: 6" - irrigation needed


Elevation: 425 to 1,480 ft


Soil Types: deep topsoil, wind-blown sand


Notable Aromas/Flavors of White Wine Varieties: concentrated flavors, floral, citrus fruits, stone fruits


Notable Aromas/Flavors of Red Wine Varieties: red fruits, black fruits, black cherry, cassis, blackberries, blueberries, sweet cherries, red currant, raspberries, chocolate, full-bodied, concentrated flavors

 

Walla Walla Valley (1984)

220,799 Acres

Primary White Grape Varieties: Chardonnay, Viogner, Semillon, Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, Alvarinho, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Picpoul Blanc, Aligoté


Primary Red Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Grenache, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, Carmenere, Mourvèdre, Barbera, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Aglianico, Primitivo, Counoise, Cinsaut, Charbono Ruby Cabernet, Carignan, Counoise


Climate: warm, sudden temperature changes, susceptible to early and late season frosts and deep winter freezes - cold air does not dissipate due to appellation landscape


Annual Average Precipitation: 12.5" - irrigation needed.


Elevation: 400 to 2,000 ft


Soil Types: loess, silt, Missoula flood slackwater deposits, fractured basalt, cobblestone riverbed


Notable Aromas/Flavors of White Wine Varieties: stone fruits, citrus fruits, floral


Notable Aromas/Flavors of Red Wine Varieties: red fruits, black fruits, savory profiles, earth, black olives, iodine, smoked meat, tannic, pepper, wet stone, river rock

 

White Bluffs (2021)

1,127 Acres


Primary White Grape Varieties: Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc


Primary Red Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah


Climate: moderate, the elevation/separation from the valley floor protects the grapes from cold air and freezing, slightly warmer and longer growing season


Annual Average Precipitation: 6" - irrigation needed.


Elevation: 800-1,000 ft


Soil Types: ancient lakebed sediment, windblown silt, Missoula Flood deposits, clay, iron rich, volcanic ash, caliche deposits


Notable Aromas/Flavors of White Wine Varieties: aromatic, citrus fruit, green fruit


Notable Aromas/Flavors of Red Wine Varieties: red fruits, black fruit, powerful tannin


Oenophile Fact: some of the oldest vineyards in the state are from this region.

 

For a fun date night-in or for bestie bonding, do an at home wine tasting experiment, with the same varietal from several different Washington AVAs. See if you can taste or smell the differences between the wines. It is important to get wines all within the same price point, this way you can assume they have similar production practices.


As always, if you have questions, comments or feedback - please post a note below, on The Wine Tails Facebook page, or message me on Instagram.


Cheers and happy sipping!

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