Pronounced WAH-luke, the Wahluke Slope is an isolated, south-facing plateau bordered in the west and south by the winding Columbia River, to the north by the Saddle Mountains and the east by the Hanford Reach, a vast area of scrub-land surrounding the nuclear facility.
Despite its middle-of-nowhere location, there is a long grape-growing history here, centered around the tiny town of Mattawa. A German company, Langguth, planted hundreds of acres of Riesling in the early 1980s and made some very fine wines for a few years before abandoning the project. But others persisted, and today there are more than 5200 vineyard acres, many of which provide grapes to wineries across the state.
The Wahluke Slope, along with Red Mountain, is Washington’s warmest site, with heat units exceeding 3,000 year in and year out. The desert heat and abundance of water create the right conditions for large-scale production of fine wine grapes. Though well off the beaten tourist path (only one winery and two production facilities call the Wahluke Slope home), the AVA has more than 20 vineyards accounting for more than a fifth of Washington State’s wine grape production. It does especially well with Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
~ Paul Gregutt
In the southern Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Georgia vineyards are small and few, yet the establishment of the Upper Hiwassee Highlands could bring much more.
Alive & Well here
Madame Merlot, you’re a big gal, soft and smoky; how we love your full, curvaceous figure. But you are