Red Mountain is arguably Washington’s most well-defined and distinctive viticultural area. In large part this is due to its geography. It is a moderately steep slope (not much of a mountain, really) facing southwest as it rises above a sharp bend in the Yakima River, at the eastern edge of the Yakima Valley. The AVA totals 4,040 acres, with just 700 under vine. It is home to two of Washington’s most prestigious vineyards — Ciel du Cheval and Klipsun — which provide grapes for dozens of the state’s most sought-after boutique wines. In addition, wineries such as Quilceda Creek, DeLille Cellars and Cadence have recently planted their own estate vineyards on the mountain.
Red Mountain is one of the hottest sites in the state, and ripens Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a wide variety of Rhone grapes such as Syrah exceptionally well. The sandy loam soil is high in calcium and alkaline, which is reflected in the quality of the grapes that grow here. Until recently, growth was impossible due to a moratorium on well-drilling, but the state, which controls water rights and large blocks of raw land, has seen fit to offer long term leases to interested parties, and new wineries and vineyards should double the overall acreage within a few years.
Another high profile project, the Col Solare winery and estate vineyard, will bring the prestigious Antinori family of Tuscany to Red Mountain, in a collaboration with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. A dozen other wineries are located there currently, chief among them Hedges, Kiona, Hightower, Tapteil, Sandhill and Terra Blanca.
~ Paul Gregutt