Seattle Photographer

Red Mountain Vineyards | Washington State Appellation


I had an editorial assignment over in the Yakima Valley last summer so while I was close by, I decided to stop off to make some panoramas of one of my favorite sources of red wine, the Red Mountain Appellation. It is early in the growing season but the vines look very promising this first half of June. Today we have tied the record for the longest stretch without rainfall in Seattle: 29 days. It was also pretty dry over in central Washington. I saw the fire danger signs indicating high.

It’s funny that looking at the mountain in this photograph, you can not see anything red about Red Mountain. Here is some more information on Red Mountain:
The Red Mountain AVA is Washington’s smallest. The region is approximately 4,040 acres with approximately 800 acres currently planted. The name Red Mountain can be misleading for two reasons. First, it does not refer to the color of the mountain’s soil, but rather, some say, to a native grass with a red hue. Secondly, Red Mountain, for those with other mountains in mind, might be a disappointment, since its elevation ranges from only 500 to 1,500 feet. Even so, among the rolling hills of eastern Washington’s desert, Red Mountain’s sloping hillside is a prominent landmark, storing radiant heat for the growing vines of the valley floor. The Yakima River flows nearby, helping moderate climate extremes, as do so many major rivers in wine country regions throughout the world.

In the 1970s, John Williams of Kiona Vineyards and Jim Holmes, originally of Kiona then Ciel du Cheval vineyards, with advice from Walter Clore, (officially recognized by the Washington State Legislature in 2003 as the father of the Washington State wine industry) pioneered grape growing in the area. In the 1980s, wines made from grapes in the Red Mountain area began receiving recognition for their distinct flavor profiles though federal laws permitted only to carry the designation as being from the Columbia Valley AVA or Yakima Valley AVA. In the late 1990s, Lorne Jacobson from Hedges Family Estates started a drive to achieve federal recognition of the area as its own AVA, which was granted in April, 2001. The Hedges Family Estates’ appellation petition was joined by Kiona Vineyards, Blackwood Canyon Vintners, Sandhill Winery, Seth Ryan Winery and Terra Blanca Winery.

In 2007, Chateau Ste Michelle and Marchesi Antinori invested 6.5 million dollars in the appellation to purchase vineyards and establish a winery to produce their joint venture wine, Col Solare.

Some say Red Mountain Appellation has it all: slope, exposure, weather conditions, good air drainage, large swings between day and night temperatures, six wineries within a few miles, plenty of undeveloped land, gravelly soil with high calcium carbonate content and high pH (high alkalinity), both contributing flavor to grapes grown here. Sloping lands beneath the broad Red Mountain lie at the southeast end of the Yakima Valley, overlooking Benton City, where annual rainfall is only about six inches, and supplemental irrigation is usually provided a few months into the growing season. Wines made from Red Mountain fruit express the terroir with great strength and richness, while demonstrating exceptional balance of fruit, acidity, and tannin.

The Vineyards:Red Mountain is home to many of the state’s most prestigious grape growers such as Klipsun Vineyards, Ciel de Cheval Vineyards, Hedges Vineyards, Red Mountain Vineyards (RMV), Kiona Vineyards, Artz Vineyards, and Tapteil Vineyards. These vineyards sell their fruit to some of the state’s most celebrated wineries such as Bookwalter, Barnard Griffin, Soos Creek Cellars, Quilceda Creek, Andrew Will, Woodward Canyon, L’Ecole No41, DeLille Cellars, Nota Bene, Matthews Cellars, McCrea Cellars, Washington Hills (Apex, Bridgman), Waterbrook, Seven Hills Winery, and Canoe Ridge.

The area is known for producing powerful, tannic red wines. The wines are known for their balance in flavors, with an intense concentration of berry flavors.Compared to the Cabernet Sauvignon produced in other areas of the states, the Cabernets here are more structured than fruit-driven. Grapes from this area are in high demand and vineyards with notable reputations can receive as much as 30% above market price for their crops. The primary Cabernet Sauvignon clone planted is clone #8, which in Red Mountain produces a Cabernet wine similar in profile to a California wine, while the same clone planted in nearby Horse Heaven Hills AVA produces a wine similar in profile to Bordeaux.

100 point wines

Many of Washington “Cult wines” are produced from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in this AVA including the 2002, 2003 and 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, which scored the rare 100 point rating from Robert Parker “The Wine Advocate” Only 15 other wines in the US have received this designation, all made from California grapes. Only five other previous vintages have received consecutive perfect scores in The Wine Advocate’ publishing history. The Quilceda Creek wines were a blends with grapes from three Red Mountain vineyards-Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, and Taptiel-and one vineyard from the nearby Horse Heaven Hills AVA.

source: Wines Northwest, Wikipedia

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