Washington’s diverse, delicious Yakima Valley

By on February 28, 2016
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Red Willow Vineyard is in Washington's Yakima Valley.

Red Willow is one of the oldest vineyards in the Yakima Valley and among the most prestigious in Washington. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

The Yakima Valley is Washington’s oldest, most diverse and most history-laden region, and the wines that come from here are among the state’s most delicious.

The federal government approved the Yakima Valley as the Pacific Northwest’s first American Viticultural Area in 1983, but its viticultural history stretches decades earlier. Indeed, it’s easy to see why the Yakima Valley is considered the cradle of the Washington wine industry.

William Bridgman planted some of the state’s first European wine grapes in the Yakima Valley in 1914 and 1917 – some of which remain today and continue to produce commercial wines. Through the decades, wine grapes have been planted in the valley, and today it is home to more than 17,000 acres of wine grapes, making it the most-planted viticultural area in Washington.

While the Yakima Valley is within the larger Columbia Valley appellation, three smaller AVAs are contained within the Yakima Valley, including:

  • Red Mountain. In the eastern edge of the Yakima Valley, Red Mountain is a small, densely planted area that is among the warmest in the state. It focuses heavily on red wine grapes and produces much of the state’s most famous and most expensive fruit.
  • Snipes Mountain. This geological upthrust in the middle of the valley near the city of Sunnyside is where Bridgman planted grapes in 1914 and 1917 then launched his Upland Winery in 1934 – after Prohibition was repealed. It is a high-elevation area that tends to be warmer than the surrounding valley floor.
  • Rattlesnake Hills. In the northwestern portion of the Yakima Valley, the Rattlesnake Hills surrounds such communities as Wapato, Zillah and Outlook. It is known as a warm, high-elevation area with an agricultural history stretching back more than a century.

On the following pages is a selection of wines made from wineries in the Yakima Valley. While not all of the wines use grapes marked as Yakima Valley, these wineries are in the region and well worth seeking out.

About Great Northwest Wine

Articles authored by Great Northwest Wine are co-authored by Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue. In most cases, these are wine reviews that are judged blind by the Great Northwest Wine tasting panel.

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