While the skies shift slyly above us, the times shift slowly with us. The world always seems to slow itself down after the heat and hustle of the Summer, flowing into Fall relaxed and renewed, finding resolve in Winter and then new growth come Spring. Autumn in Washington means that Fall greets us with her cacophony of vibrant colors, and mercurial bouts of weather – instantly grabbing our attention; instantly reminding us that the long days and blue skies are, in all respects, officially said and done. Dualistically, it also means it’s time for adventures far and wide: chasing waterfalls, hopping amongst the San Juan islands and my personal favorite, strolling through Wine Country.
Looking back, I didn’t celebrate the transitions between the seasons with quite the same vigor and veracity growing up in California – but let’s get real: California simply doesn’t have dynamic, drastic shifts in weather that we see in the Pacific North West…or anywhere in the greater United States, for that matter. Though COVID had me a bit wary of travel these past few years – after landing a promotion and a raise, it felt right to celebrate with a weekend away in Eastern Washington’s AVA; wine not, right?!
For all the rain and grey skies in Western Washington, it’s a bit funny that the Eastern region of the state is more or less a vast desert on the border of the Columbia River, hiding in the rain shadow of the Cascades. Though not a traditional location for wineries, as climates shift and migrate the Pacific Northwest, and specifically Eastern Washington, has become a mecca for all things red wine and boasts a similar microclimate to both Chile and New Zealand, two other fantastic regions for reds if I do say so myself.
Known for being the smallest and warmest viticultural area in the Pacific North West biome, the Red Mountain AVA has proven itself to be an internationally renowned region for Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots and my personal favorite – the Syrah. Sprawling over 4,000 acres of countryside in Eastern Washington’s Yakima Valley area, sprawling Red Mountain landscape gains its name from the local ‘drooping borme’, commonly known as cheatgrass; it matures to a vibrant shade of – you guessed it – red. Don’t fret – you can still find some incredibly crisp white wines, but when in Rome, right?
Starting in 1970 with Kiona Vineyards, the Red Mountain AVA is now 22 wineries strong and still blossoming. Most recently, in 2007 – Washington’s own and oldest winery Chateau Ste. Michelle (which has a fantastic tasting room at their estate in Woodinville) partnered with Marchesi Antinori, an Italian winery with roots back to 1385, on a $6.5 Million investment to co-produce a red varietal in the region. Personal favorite vinters in the area include the aforementioned Kiona Vineyards, and the fantastic Hedges Family Estates.
From Seattle proper, the Red Mountain AVA is just a hop, a skip, and a wonderful road trip away – taking about four hours to travel to the South Eastern part of the state. If you’re a oenophile in the region, and have any sort of affinity towards varietals of reds – this area is simply not to be missed!
For more on the Red Mountain AVA – head to their website or social media channels, or if you’re really feeling the itch – plan a visit and just get out there. You’ll be glad you did!