Red Mountain rises for world-class grapes, wines

By on August 7, 2016
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Estate vines bask under the warm Washington country sun at Fidelitas Wines on Red Mountain. (Photo by Richard Duval)

Estate vines bask under the warm Washington country sun at Fidelitas Wines on Red Mountain. (Photo by Richard Duval)

It’s rarely red, and it’s not a mountain. But Brown Ridge sounds way less sexy than Red Mountain.

The 4,040-acre bench in the eastern Yakima Valley near Richland, Wash., is considered the prime region for growing red wine grapes in Washington wine country. The first grapes were planted here in 1975, when Kiona Vineyards arrived. Federal recognition came in 2001 when the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area was approved.

Today, Red Mountain is covered with vines, thanks to the arrival of much-needed water in the past decade. Some of the best wineries in Washington use Red Mountain grapes, and the wines from this fruit often reveal power and grace on the palate.

At 2,110 acres planted (and rising), more than 50 percent of Red Mountain is covered in vines. This makes it the most densely planted AVA in the Pacific Northwest.

And Cabernet Sauvignon is king. With 1,246 acres of the Bordeaux red variety in Red Mountain’s sandy soils, more than half the vines here are dedicated to Cab.

So what’s with the name? Each spring for a brief couple of weeks, cheatgrass that grows prolifically on Red Mountain turns a reddish color. Of course, this also happens on nearby Candy Mountain, Badger Mountain, Goose Ridge and Rattlesnake Mountain.

Ultimately, it should be called Green Mountain because not only is it covered in beautiful green vineyards, but it also brings in cash. The land here is the most expensive in Washington wine country, and grapes from Red Mountain vineyards tend to bring a premium that is 30 percent or more than other regions of the Columbia Valley.

Here are a dozen delicious wines using Red Mountain grapes that we’ve tasted recently. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.

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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