Columbia Valley, Washington (Eastern Washington)
Total Grape Acreage (and Riesling):
40,000 acres, 5,370 Riesling acres
Number of Wine Producers (and making Riesling):
700+ (50+ producing Riesling)
Average Annual Riesling Production:
1.5 million cases
Medium Dry, Dry, Sweet (and some late harvest wines)
Average Retail Price per Bottle:
50 states and internationally
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Pacific Rim, Hogue Cellars, Columbia Winery, Woodward Canyon, K Vintners, Poets Leap
Riesling was one of the founding grape varieties in Washington state with plantings dating back to 1967 in the Yakima Valley. Today, Washington has emerged as a world class Riesling growing region with 5,307 acres of Riesling grapes planted, making it the largest Riesling producing region in America. Columbia Valley’s high summer temperatures, combined with mean temperatures only slightly higher than Alsace or Germany, provide the opportunity for full-flavored yet elegant wines. Cool evenings preserve the crisp acids essential to quality Riesling, resulting in the incredible balance celebrated in Washington Riesling. Harvest period temperatures are significantly lower than in other New World growing areas. The diversity of Riesling sites in the Columbia Valley coupled with the climate, allows for a full range of styles, from bone dry to botrytis-affected dessert wines. Washington Riesling was catapulted into the national spotlight when Ste. Michelle’s 1972 Johannisberg Riesling won the now-famous blind tasting of nineteen White Rieslings sponsored by the Los Angeles Times in 1974.
The soils of Washington’s Columbia Valley were born from some of the most catastrophic geological events in our planet’s history. More than 12 million years ago, a powerful river of lava carved up what today is known as the Columbia Valley. The ancient lava followed the Columbia River and left behind enormous deposits of basalt. 15,000 years ago, the Missoula floods ripped across the Pacific Northwest. A series of colossal floods sliced through the landscape (each flood equaling the volume of ALL the world’s rivers combined). Classic soils of Washington’s Columbia Valley are wind-blown loess on the top of granitic deposits from the Missoula floods, sitting above the basalt bedrock. Young vines in search of water and nutrients easily establish deep root systems here. As the second most widely planted white grape in the state, Riesling has found an idyllic home throughout the Columbia Valley, from the cooler sites of the Yakima Valley to higher elevations sites closer to the cascades to warmer regions of the Wahluke Slope.
Riesling is an extremely popular wine in the Northwest not only because of its fresh, floral, flavorful style and high quality fruit, but also because of how well it pairs with Northwest cuisine. The Pacific Northwest enjoys access to an array of fresh seafood, including Dungeness Crab and oysters, which are magical pairings with Riesling. Also popular in the Pacific Northwest is Asian fusion cuisine. Riesling’s slight sweetness and crisp acidity stands up beautifully to the spice in Thai food or curry.