Pacific Rim
April 6, 2023 | wine | Pacific Rim

What Makes the Red Mountain AVA So Special?

In just over two decades, the Red Mountain AVA has become one of the top wine-growing areas in Washington. Despite being one of the smallest appellations with only 4,040 acres, the Red Mountain area produces some great quality wines, including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. 

red mountain ava

Red Mountain is located near Benton City, but the name is a misnomer since the mountain is not red, and there are no tall mountains in the area, except for some peaks that vary in height from 500 feet to 1,500 feet. The reason it is called Red Mountain is that the landscape takes on a reddish tinge during spring as the cheatgrass changes color.


The Red Mountain AVA is located in South Central Washington, about a three-hour and 30-minute drive from Seattle. Other than being located on a southwest-facing slope, this region has a unique combination of consistent winds, diverse geology, long, warm summers, and a gentle south slope, all of which contribute to good grape growth.

Unlike other parts of the state, Red Mountain is in an area of the state where it is quite warm throughout the year, and the presence of the wide southwest-facing slopes allows the capture of a great deal of the sun. This is a highly desirable feature as it allows the grapes to have a higher concentration of tannins than grapes grown elsewhere in the state.

The Soil

The other unique feature of the area is the soil, which is high in alkalinity and contains a high concentration of calcium carbonate. It is the lack of other minerals and nutrients, combined with the high pH, that results in smaller berries compared to other varietals. In addition, the soil is finely granular, which allows the vine to develop a firm root architecture, allowing them to obtain the necessary moisture and nutrients.

Rainfall and Drip Irrigation

Despite having an annual rainfall of only five inches, the reason the vines thrive here is because of the rain clouds generated by the nearby Cascade Mountains. In addition, the use of drip irrigation allows for ideal grape growing conditions, resulting in low mildew and mold pressure compared to other vineyards in the state.

The Red Mountain AVA and The Yakima River

The nearby fast-flowing Yakima River not only provides continual airflow but moderates the nightly temperatures, which helps prevent frost, which is a common problem in many parts of Washington. Plus, the prevailing winds also lead to high tannin levels compared to wines from other parts of the state.

Favorable Environmental Conditions

It is these favorable environmental conditions that permit several red grape varieties to thrive here. The persistent warm temperatures and constant wind allow for small-sized berries with thick skins. This is one reason why the acclaimed red wines produced here are dark, full-bodied, and heavy with tannins that provide intense flavors.

Red Mountain AVA, in general, produces more red wines than white wines. The wines from this area are rich and aromatic, demonstrating a nice balance of acidity, fruits, and tannins.

Today, there are at least 15 top-quality wineries operating in Red Mountain AVA. Consistently, the acclaimed red wines from Red Mountain have been rated as some of the best. If you want to try some great quality wines from this area, check out our Thick Skinned Red Mountain!


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