Washington state is the second largest producer of commercial wine after California. The history of grape growing and winemaking has been long and extends back to 1825. Currently there are over 650 wineries in the state, and grapes being grown in 11 recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVA). The largest of these is the Columbia Valley AVA which spans the central and eastern parts of the state. There are also many wineries west of the Cascade Mountains, however most of these source fruit from eastern Washington.
Maps provided courtesy of the Washington State Wine Commission.
Columbia Valley AVA
Washington’s largest AVA, the Columbia Valley covers nearly a third of the state’s land area, and extends into northern Oregon as well. Of the states remaining 10 AVAs, 9 of them are completely contained within this massive region. While red varieties dominate the region overall—cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah—there are also significant plantings of chardonnay to be found as well as increasing acres of riesling and other white varieties.
Columbia Valley Wineries Association
Horse Heaven Hills AVA: This region in southeastern Washington has been producing grapes since the 1970s. Based on the acreage planted, just over a quarter of the state’s grape production occurs in Horse Heaven Hills. The region is also home to one of Washington’s most prestigious sites, Champoux Vineyard. While this vineyard is dominated by plantings of cabernet sauvignon—some of the state’s oldest—there is also an amount of riesling, chardonnay, and muscat being grown.
Horse Heaven Hills Wine Growers
Wahluke Slope AVA: A consistent wine producing region, the area within this appellation has one of the warmest and driest climates in the state. Viticulture is managed almost exclusively by irrigation. White varieties being showcased here include riesling, chardonnay, and chenin blanc.
Lake Cheland AVA: The newest appellation to be recognized in Washington, centered around the relatively narrow yet long lake of the same name. The first winery was started in 2000, and there are currently 15 wineries producing a number of varieties. The white grapes found here include riesling, pinot gris, chardonnay, and gewürztraminer.
Lake Chelan Wine Valley
Yakima Valley AVA
This AVA has a lot of credentials: it is the oldest agricultural region in the state, was the first established AVA, is responsible for more than 40 percent of production, and has the highest concentration of wineries. The most widely planted variety is chardonnay with riesling behing another up and coming white variety. Entirely contained within the Columbia Valley, it is subdivided into three additional AVAs.
Wine Yakima Valley
Red Mountain AVA: The state’s smallest AVA, this region’s climate is desert-like making it suitable for many red varieties, most notably cabernet sauvignon. Other warm-weather reds like syrah, sangiovese, malbec, and petit verdot are also found growing here. Recently released water rights are expected to help this tiny region, already in high demand, to grow.
Red Mountain AVA Alliance
Rattlesnake Hills AVA: Spanning the northern area of the Yakima Valley AVA, this region’s recognition as an AVA was disputed given lack of definition from it’s surrounding appellation. Vineyards are planted in ridges and terraces of the hills which helps to avoid frost in the spring and fall.
Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail
Snipes Mountain AVA: Following Red Mountain, this is the second smallest AVA. Elevation and a unique rocky soil type—aridisols—not found anywhere else in the Yakima Valley distinguish the region as an appellation.
Snipes Mountain AVA
Walla Walla AVA
Plantings in this region were originated by Italian immigrants in the 1850s, and the AVA was officially recognized in 1984. Cabernet sauvignon is the primary grape variety grown here—found in ubiquitous meritage blends—on the patchwork of soil types, however many white varieties are being raised, including: chardonnay, gewürztraminer, pinot gris, riesling, sauvignon blanc, sémillon, and viognier. Part of this region extends south into the state of Oregon.
Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance
Columbia Gorge AVA
Bordering the Columbia River Gorge, this AVA shares land with Oregon. The part of the AVA on the Washington side includes Skamania and Klickitat counties. Sitting in the rain shadow of Mount Adams—the highest peak in the state of Washington—this region tends to be much drier those in the Willamette Valley to the west. The AVA is marketed as being a “world of wine in 40 miles” and producing everything from “Albariño to Zinfandel.” In addition to some of the white varieties in Walla Walla, there are also plantings of grüner veltliner, marsanne, and roussanne.
Columbia Gorge Winegrowers
Puget Sound AVA
Stretching from the Canadian border all the way to south of Olympia, this is the only AVA in Washington west of the Cascades. Having a cool climate, similar to that of the Willamette Valley or parts of Europe, the grapes grown in this region are not those found in the rest of the state. White varieties include madeleine angevine, madeline sylvaner, müller thurgau, and siegerrebe. First recorded plantings were indigenous varieties propagated by a Civil War veteran in 1872.
Puget Sound Wine Grower’s Association