Tucked away on a hillside about 15 miles west of the Tri-Cities, the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area (AVA) is one of Washington’s most prominent wine grape growing regions.
At just a shade over 4,000 acres, Red Mountain is small in size but big on producing some of the best red wines in the country. Top red grape varieties grown here include cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, malbec, cabernet franc, and petit verdot.
The agricultural success of the region lies in a number of important climatic and geographic features including a sun-drenched southwest-facing slope, soils rich in alkaline and calcium carbonate, and a warm, almost desert-like environment tempered by cool evenings and the influence of the nearby Yakima River.
For winemakers, that’s a recipe for potentially picture-perfect wines with intense and focused fruit flavors, a streak of minerality, and seamlessly balanced acidity levels.
But the impact of the Red Mountain AVA isn’t limited to just vineyards and wineries located within the region. The area’s influence extends statewide through a cooperative known as the Red Mountain Alliance. The alliance includes wineries in the Tri-Cities, Walla Walla, and western Washington that utilize the area’s grapes in many of the wines they produce.
Alliance members Tim and Kelly Hightower of Hightower Cellars moved from the Seattle area to Red Mountain in 2002 and planted their first vineyards in 2005.
“We fell in love with the AVA after tasting wines from there in the 1990s,” recalls Tim, noting that “it was the concentration of fruit and balance of the wines that was captivating.”
“Even though it’s a warm area, it’s also windy, which thickens the skins of the grapes and results in smaller berries,” he says. This contributes to the concentrated flavors in the finished product that are a hallmark of the region’s wines.
“The ‘neighborhood’ on Red Mountain is also fantastic,” adds Kelly. “The quality of the people it’s attracted has really resulted in quality wines.”
For those considering a visit to the area, there are plenty of options for accommodations in the nearby town of Prosser, to the west, and the Tri-Cities, to the east, including The Lodge at Columbia Point, a highly recommended riverside hotel located in Richland.
Select Red Mountain wines can also be ordered and purchased through Seifert & Jones Wine Merchants in Bellingham and from participating wineries through the Alliance website at redmountainava.com/buying-guide.
Here are a couple of recommendations to get you started, with more available at danthewineguy.com:
Ambassador Wines of Washington 2017 Syrah (About $42) – From the Woodinville-based winery comes this Red Mountain-sourced Syrah, blended with 12% Malbec. The core of black cherry and berry fruit is accented with nuances of roasted coffee, lardo, maple nut, and dark chocolate, making it an excellent accompaniment to pan-seared duck or pork tenderloin.
Canvasback Wine 2017 Red Mountain Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon (about $42) – This fruit-forward cabernet delivers juicy marionberry and black plum flavors while the finish is big, yet plush, with a touch of brambly berry, baking spice, and green tea. Sexy and super-delicious, enjoy it with prime rib or on its own as a perfect wintertime red wine sipper. The winery tasting room is located in Walla Walla.
For more like this, check out our Taste section.