Rattlesnake Hills (AVA)
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This is the most recent region in Washington State to acquire AVA status, though not without controversy. As does Red Mountain, Rattlesnake Hills falls entirely within the Yakima Valley AVA. However, it lacks the clear-cut geographic definition of Red Mountain, and some vineyards that are actually located in the Rattlesnake Hills are not included in the AVA. As legally defined, the Rattlesnake Hills AVA encompasses a ridge top on the northern edge of the Yakima Valley, running east to west along with the Yakima River. Vineyards are set on ridges and terraces above the valley floor — generally between 850 and 2000 feet in elevation — and benefit from good air drainage, hence, protection from frost.

The overall climate of the AVA is typical of the Yakima Valley; cooler to the west and warmer as you move east. Warm summer days and cool evening temperatures help to preserve acidity in the grapes. Proponents also mention that the Rattlesnake Hills themselves provide winter protection from icy Arctic blasts. Critics, prominent vineyard owners among them, maintain that there is little to differentiate the climate of the region as a whole from the larger Yakima Valley AVA. While the distinctiveness of the new AVA will continue to be debated for some time, there is no question that it does contain some top-notch vineyards. The potential is certainly there to set itself apart, not just geographically, but in terms of actual wine flavors.

~ Paul Gregutt

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