Columbia Valley

In an effort to shed some light on how I study for WSET Diploma Course’s D3 exam, Le Club des Vins is running a series of posts covering wine regions. Today’s topic: Columbia Valley

📍 Location

Columbia Valley is large wine growing region on the eastern side of Washington State (USA) and a tiny part in Oregon. It covers one third of Washington State: 3.5 million hectares (not all covered with vineyards though).⠀⠀⠀⠀

In a nutshell

  • USA
  • Continental climate
  • Very litte rainfall > irrigation
  • Basalt bedrock with sandy, silty loess and alluvial topsoils
  • Cab is king

☁️ Climate

In general, the climate is continental with hot summers and cold winters. The daylight hours are long, because of the 45-50° latitude. During the hot summers, the grapes ripen and accumulate sugar (quickly), the temperatures decrease in autumn, meaning sugar accumulation slows down as well, but flavour and tannin development continues 🙂 Frost is the biggest risk. Funnily enough – as Seattle is most known for its rain – there’s little rainfall in Columbia Valley: the Cascade Mountains provide shelter (like Vosges in Alsace), so irrigation is necessary. Average rainfall is 150-200 mm (compared to 900mm in The Netherlands). Desert-like⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

🌋 Soils

Complex soils as a result of Missoula flood events, volcanic activity and glacial movements. In general, it’s a basalt bedrock with sandy, silty loess and alluvial topsoils.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀


🍇 Grapes & styles

Cab sauv is the king. Merlot, chardonnay, riesling and syrah are also on the rise. Fun fact: @dr.loosen , the king of the Mosel, has a collaboration with Chateau Ste Michelle from Colombia Valley and produce Eroica Wine, an exceptional riesling.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

🍕 Subzones

Colombia Valley contains 12 sub-AVA’s. The oldest and largest sub-AVA within Colombia Valley is Yakima Valley. Other well-known subs are: Walla Walla Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, Red Mountain.⠀⠀

💡 Something you didn’t know (did you?)

Oh, there’s so much I didn’t know. The first vine was planted in 1850 in Walla Walla Valley – it was Cinsault! Snipes Mountain, another sub, is known for awesome Grenache and has very old Muscat d’Alexandrie that have been producing grapes since 1917 (tnx to @winefolly)!

Your turn now 

I always put a new region on instagram first. If you have any additions or comments on a region, please do share. You can drop a comment on instagram or on the website – see below. Your help is much appreciated!


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