Two Columbia Valley wine regions officially titled ‘American Viticultural Areas’

COLUMBIA VALLEY, Wash. — Two areas located within the Columbia Valley are officially being recognized as American Viticultural Areas (AVAs); bringing even more credibility to wine grape-growing in Southeastern Washington.

According to a release issued by the Washington State Wine Commission, White Bluffs and The Burn of Columbia Valley will officially be deemed AVAs on Thursday, June 17, 2021.  Steve Warner, President of the Washington State Wine Commission, is excited to see expansions to the Columbia Valley’s extensive wine repertoire.

“We have been anxiously awaiting these new AVAs, and are looking forward to seeing their names on wine labels moving forward,” Warner said. “For Washington to be home to 18 AVAs, with more coming soon, is a tremendous sign of growth. It’s a very exciting time for the wine grape growers and winemakers who work with these acclaimed regions.”

To qualify as an AVA, The Burn of Columbia Valley and White Bluffs had to meet certain distinguishable features including climate, soil, and elevation necessary to grow top-grade grapes for wine.

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The White Bluffs AVA is north of the Tri-Cities and spans 93,738 acres of land. It’s located on two plateaus around the plains of the Pasco Basin, which protects vineyards from cold air on the valley floor. This allows for an extended growing season compared with other plots of land.

Currently, there are 1,127 acres of wine grapes planted across nine commercial vineyards in the region that specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc. Kent Waliser, Director of Wine and Grape Sales for Sagemoor Vineyards, has watched the region grow into a hub for great grapes and wine.

“Ninety-two wineries currently purchase fruit from our vineyards alone,” Waliser said.  “A number of the vineyards have been around for over 40 years, so they’ve really stood the test of time. This is a place that’s been known forever, but not named until now. It’s about time that we can identify it as a place.”

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Entirely located within 16,870 acres of the Columbia Valley, The Burn of Columbia Valley AVA is in a triangular shape located west of the Horse Heaven Hills. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Mercer Ranches manage roughly 1,500 acres of wine grapes currently planted in the region.

“The Burn is a spectacular and beautiful hidden gem,” said Rob Mercer, President of Mercer Ranches. “Almost no one has seen this incredibly productive plateau that rises above the Columbia River on the very eastern edge of the Columbia Gorge. The Burn has soils similar to the Walla Walla Valley but temperatures that are much warmer and milder. Time and experience will tell, but I believe it will become one of the most sought-after locations for wine grape production in Washington State. It has been a privilege to be a pioneer of vinifera here.”

The Burn of Columbia Valley is known specifically for producing world-class grapes used in Cabernet Sauvignons.

To learn more about AVAs of Washington State, click here.


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