Yakima Valley (AVA)
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Yakima Valley was the first officially-designated appellation in Washington State, gaining AVA status on May 4, 1983. The valley follows the Yakima river from Union Gap, at its western edge, to the flanks of Red Mountain, its prestigious eastern sub-AVA. On average, the Yakima Valley is 5 to 10 degrees cooler than most other grape-growing regions in the state. Its cool-climate wines show lively natural acidity. The Bordeaux and Rhone grapes are more French in structure and flavor than those from other parts of the western U.S.; the Syrah is especially good, again with plenty of acidity and a peppery lift.

The appellation is geologically defined by a series of east-west ridges and hills that provide wineries with a wide range of elevations and exposures. Virtually any grape can be ripened well somewhere within its borders, but the best sites seem to be clustered at the eastern end, around Prosser, Benton City and Red Mountain. There are more than 50 wineries and 11,000 acres of vineyard currently; and some of the oldest vines in the state are grown at sites such as Harrison Hill, Otis and Kestrel estate. Yakima valley wines have historically fallen short of their potential, but that is rapidly changing as new winemaking talent pours into the valley, and as established growers begin to make their own wines rather than just selling grapes.

~ Paul Gregutt

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