American Winos Explore The Columbia Valley Wine Appellation.
In terms of what may be considered as west coast wines at least as far as the US wine industry is concerned, Washington State should not be forgotten. Not at all. There are really great wines coming from this region not the least of which is the Columbia Valley.
About the Columbia Valley Appellation Wine Region.
The Columbia Valley lies in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountain range. The region has an arid and semi-arid, continental climate, receiving an average of 6–8 inches (15–20 cm) of precipitation annually. This low level of rainfall requires that vineyards use Irrigation to growthese fantastic tasting grapes.
Largest Appellation in Washington State.
Encompassing more than a third of the state, the Columbia Valley is by far Washington’s largest growing region at over 11 million acres. The appellation is located in central, south-central, and south-eastern Washington with part of the appellation spilling across the border into Oregon.
The Columbia Valley is home to over 99% of all of Washington’s vinifera acreage. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted grape followed by Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Syrah. In fact there are over 30 vinifera varieties are currently planted in this region.
What Tastes Can You Expect From Columbia Valley Appellation Wines?
Variety typicity and pure fruit aromas and flavors are the hallmarks of wine from the from this region.
- For Cabernet Sauvignon, black cherry, cassis, and light, high-toned herbal notes are often the hallmarks.
- Merlots are redolent with red fruit aromas and flavors, such as sweet cherries, red currants, and raspberries, along with chocolate and, occasionally, mint.
- Chardonnays are mildly aromatic with aromas and flavors ranging from fresh green apple to stone fruit and tropical fruit depending on the warmth of the site.
- In terms of Riesling, cooler sites tend to produce aromas and flavors of lime, lemon, and green apple. In warmer regions this turns to stone fruit, particularly peach. Aromas and flavors for Syrah range from dark fruit, such as blackberries, to blueberries and cranberries. However, many are notable for being less fruit forward and more dominated by savory notes.
The relationship to the Missoula Floods, a series of cataclysmic events, defines the soil types of the vineyards in Washington. Most vineyards lie below the floodwaters with soils of loess ( wind blown deposits of sand and silt) overlying gravel and slackwater sediment with basalt forming the bedrock. This provides a diversity of soil types that are well drained and ideal for grapes.