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Lets find out what the Columbia AVA has in store for us

Lets learn about the columbia AVA and some of the wine grapes grown there. Before settlers came to plant their crops, the Columbia Basin was a barren, open area filled with sagebrush, wildlife.

This area had been scoured by the Missoula Floods 12,000 years ago when an ice dam in Montana (near Missoula, of course) broke and a huge wall of water, about 10,000 feet deep, rushed across Eastern Washington, following the course of the Columbia River.

But let’s go back a few more million years when volcanic action pushed basalt up to the surface. It is thick and saucer shaped stone lies under the soils left behind by the Missoula Floods. This geology is what makes the Columbia Valley AVA favorable for producing Vitas vinifera, the same kind of grapes as those grown in Europe. In the 1800s a few people imagined that with a little water, this area would bloom. Today, orchards and vineyards grow on many vistas. At 17,000 square miles, the largest AVA in Washington, New Hampshire and New Jersey could fit inside. It was the second AVA recognized, in 1984. (Yakima Valley was the first.)

Lets find out what the Columbia AVA has in store for us

The major geographic feature that influences growing wine grapes in this AVA: the Columbia River. The river provides air drainage, essential to good grape growing. It’s hot and dry in the summer in the Columbia Basin with cool evenings. Winters are cold. About every six years there’s a “killing winter freeze.” Sometimes there are few or no grapes for pressing after those early spring freezes and vineyards must be replanted.

Elevation makes a difference in the quality. Alluvial soils make better wine. Depending on the shape of the land, flooding deposited or washed away soils. There are some high hilltops the floods didn’t touch that are considered the most prime growing areas in the state.

In most cases, the grapes grown in the Columbia Valley offer lots of “blending grapes,” rather than outstanding varietals. Modern grape plantings include Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Sangiovese, Temperanillo, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Lemberger, Camenere, and Cabernet Franc.