Red Mountain AVA: What to Know
Three and a half hours from Seattle, you will find one of Washington’s hidden treasures. Stretching out over 4040 acres, the Red Mountain AVA is the smallest wine grape-growing area in the state. Its warm climate, gentle south slope, and diverse geological profile allows it to produce some of the most exquisite red wine grapes in the region. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot grown here are renowned for their depth and concentration, winning critical acclaim - and, more importantly, wowing at tables all over the country.
Welcome to the Red Mountain Wine Region
What makes the Red Mountain AVA unique among wine-growing regions?
Geography. We can thank the Ice Age some 10,000 years ago for making the Red Mountain AVA what it is today. Repeated flooding transformed the landscape. Harsh peaks were molded into soft mountain slopes, and this enabled rich top soils to be distributed over the land. This soil features high alkalinity and calcium carbonate, which enables vines to establish strong root styles for optimal nutrient absorption.
Slope. Washington isn’t always renowned for its sunlight. However, the southwest slope here grants longer sun exposure and more warmth. The tannins that are so prized in Red Mountain grapes are a direct result of these conditions.
Ideal Rainfall. Red Mountain has a desert-like climate with rainfall averaging just 7 inches a year. During the growing season, there is almost no precipitation. This is great for grapes. Using drip irrigation, growers can properly manage their vineyards without undue worry of mold and mildew.
Microclimate. Thanks to its unique location and geological conditions, Red Mountain AVA has more growing degree days than any other region in Washington. There are also big temperature swings. It can reach 90 degrees F during the day and dip to 50 at night. The cooler nighttime temperatures help retain acidity levels, which leads to balance and structure in the grapes - and in the resulting wines.
A Newcomer - and Dominant Force In Wine Production
Compared to other wine producing regions, the Red Mountain wine region is a baby! Some forward thinking pioneers saw the potential of the sloping hillside in 1972. Jim Holmes and John Williams are often credited as being at the forefront of the Red Mountain movement, so to speak. They were engineers at GE in the 1960s. But their passion was in wine. Or at least in grapes. At that point, they were intrigued by the idea of growing fine wine grapes on Red Mountain.
They bought 80 acres of what was essentially dirt. But with a bit of hard work and ingenuity, they proved that this area was ripe with potential. The rest, as they say, is history. Today, Red Mountain is home to more than a dozen wineries and over 2300 vineyard acres, and it produces some of the finest wines not only in the region but in the world.
What Makes the Red Mountain AVA Special?
First, let’s back up: AVA refers to an “American Viticultural Area.” It refers to the origin and a region that has specific and unique characteristics (e.g. climate, geologic, geographic) that make it different from surrounding regions.
Red Mountain produces exquisite grapes, including:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Cabernet Franc
- Petit Verdot
Some adjectives commonly used to describe Red Mountain AVA wines:
- Full bodied
- Powerfully tannic
Red Mountain wines are also known for the unique minerality. They are rich, complex, dark, intense, bold, powerful… a perfect complement to any number of dishes - and occasions!
The Red Mountain AVA is a unique and wonderful growing region. Have you sampled a bottle of Washington State’s finest yet? If not, what are you waiting for!