This huge region contains most of Washington’s wine sub-regions. The valley is in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains, and irrigation is essential to viticulture here. A rich mixture of distinct soil types, slopes and aspects allows for a range of wine styles and varieties to prosper and has given rise to 12 official AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). The Valley is known for its red blends, which are highly regarded.
This is red wine country, best known for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. One of Washington’s warmest and driest growing areas, it produces wines with impressive ripeness, depth, and purity of fruit flavour. The grape clusters here are among the smallest in Washington, resulting in wines that are concentrated and intense.
Columbia Valley’s largest sub-region and oldest AVA, the Yakima Valley is home to a great diversity of soil types and mesoclimates, allowing more than 30 grape varieties to be planted here. Yakima produces many of the best Merlots, Cabs and Syrahs in Washington and nearly 50% of the state’s Chardonnay and Riesling.
Walla Walla Valley
Mostly contained within southeastern Washington, some of this appellation crosses into Oregon. It has the highest concentration of wineries in Washington State, including some of the oldest vineyards. Cooler and wetter than other regions, red grapes, inluding Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, dominate here.
The vineyards of the Rattlesnake Hills are the highest in Washington, mostly planted along ridges and terraces ranging from 259 to 487 metres. Elevation is key to the style of wines made, and winemakers are looking at even higher elevations in a bid to produce more nuanced expressions. Riesling is the most planted grape, and Merlot, Cabernet and Chardonnay also thrive here.
Horse Heaven Hills
This hot, dry region above the Columbia River is known for Cabernet, Merlot, Riesling and Chardonnay. Most vines in this region are planted on southwest-facing slopes in well-drained sandy soils. Temperatures are moderated by the Columbia River and strong winds, which protect the vines from rot and insects and reduce the size of the grapes, resulting in more concentrated, flavourful wines.
There are 70 grape varieties grown in Washington State.
More than 1000 wineries are sprinkled across 15 growing regions.
With annual wine production of about 19.4 million cases, Washington State is the second-largest wine producer in the US, behind California.
This grape thrives in Washington, creating a complex character that's more subtle than Merlot from the region. It's fruity with blackcurrant, berry and cherry notes that may be combined with chocolate, leather or mint flavours. Many winemakers here blend it with Merlot or Cabernet Franc.
TRY IT WITH: Ribeye steak, roast lamb or grilled Portobello mushrooms
The Washington style of Merlot is full-bodied and brimming with sweet cherry and berry flavours and complex aromas, such as mint and cardamom. This grape is often used in blends.
TRY IT WITH: Pizza, tomato-based pasta dishes or grilled chicken
This Rhône grape variety has been growing in popularity in Washington State. It's a big, rich red with intensely concentrated flavours of blackberry, coffee and spice.
TRY IT WITH: Hard cheeses, like Gouda, burgers or braised beef
One of the first wines in Washington to garner attention, Chardonnay produced here is delicate with crisp acidity. Some winemakers use oak ageing and other techniques to emphasize Chardonnay's rich vanilla and buttery notes.
TRY IT WITH: Halibut, roast chicken, creamy pasta or Caesar salad
Floral with vibrant apricot, apple and peach flavours, Riesling was one of the first grape varieties grown in the state. Most are made in a dry to off-dry style, which makes them wonderful food partners.
TRY IT WITH: Shrimp cocktail, oysters or goat cheese
This wine is gaining popularity for its fruity, crisp character and hint of herbaceousness. Styles here range from mildly tart to grassy to tangy with a hint of oak.
TRY IT WITH: Pea soup, pan-fried salmon, Thai fish cakes