The Geology of the Pacific Northwest Tells Its Story With Washington Wine

“Plant a flag and commit to a place,” says winemaker Co Dinn of Co Dinn Cellars in Yakima Valley, WA. “Be where the grapes are.” When I recently traveled through Washington wine country, I noticed that is precisely what has been accomplished by the state’s wine producers. With few exception, most Washington wineries are territorial, much in the same way as producers in Europe’s DOCs, preferring to showcase the characteristics of a single viticultural area or small group of adjacent AVAs as a statement of quality.

Representing a particular region gives the wines great distinction. There are 14 AVAs in Washington (with 6 more under petition), and despite being somewhat close to one another, their landscapes and growing conditions, ranging from 100 feet above sea level to over 1000 depending, could not be more diverse.

A few quick facts:

  • It’s all about the diurnal shift (two words uttered in WA wine country as often as “latte please”), which means day to night temperature fluctuations of upwards of 40 degrees thanks to the cooling effects of the Cascade, Rocky and Blue Mountain ranges,  allowing grapes to benefit from warm sunlight and cool evenings, which preserves acidity and benefits overall flavor and tannic structure.

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