The Columbia Gorge AVA May Be America’s Most Unique Wine Region
The Columbia River Gorge AVA is extraordinary, interesting and unique. It lies within the boundaries of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and is, therefore, federally protected. The appellation lies along a 15 mile stretch of the River which constitutes the Oregon and Washington border. At the western end the river is entering the Cascade Range; in the eastern segment the Columbia is exiting the desert. The latitude ranges between 45° and 46° north, the same as Bordeaux, the Loire Valley, Northern Rhone Valley, Piemonte and Veneto (Italy). This is a largely undiscovered tourism jewel, recently picked by National Geographic as one of the world’s top 10 destination areas. The Gorge is a mecca for outdoor sports enthusiasts — windsurfing, kite boarding, snow skiing (Mt. Hood), white water rafting, serious fishing, and mountain biking are fully engaged here.
This is an area of an incredible range of weather, with up to 60 inches of annual rainfall in the West, down to 9 inches in the East – in just 15 miles! The wind from March through September is relentless, blowing down the Gorge from the west-northwest, near Portland up to 30 miles per hour. Alsatian, Burgundian and Northern Italian grapes thrive in the West; Bordeaux, Tuscany/Piedmont, Loire and Rhone varieties flourish in the East.
A Multitude of Microclimates
It’s the range of variables that makes this place so unique. The combinations of elevation (50-2000 ft.), heat units, cloud cover, rain levels, and an array of soil types, among other factors means that virtually any wine grape variety can prosper here. Our chosen plantings include over 20 varieties of grapes from Barbera to Fiano. There are several unique sub-regions within our small AVA that include underwood Mountain, the White Salmon River Valley, the Hood River Valley, Mosier, Lyle, and the western The Dalles area.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Gorge is the influence of ice age floods, some 20,000 years ago. Layers of basalt that spread from Idaho, millions of years ago, have been carved out by roughly 20 massive flows of ice and water from the Missoula, Montana area. Ice dams periodically ruptured there, sending walls of water up to 1000 feet high racing through our basalt on the way to the sea, creating the Gorge. Many different soils were deposited along the way, while hillsides were stripped bare by the floods. This geologic history has further added to the diversity of terroirs in the AVA.
IDIOT´S GRACE – MOSIER,OR
14 acres of Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Dolcetto, Gamay, Primitivo (and 15 others) share the land with cherries, pears, and other fruits. At 300 ft. elevation and with a variety of soils, from sand to clay-loam, this 7-acre site is our largest.
HAMM´S – LYLE, WA
3 acres of Sangiovese, Grenache & Primitivo sustainably farmed in clay-loam with cobbles, at 600 foot elevation look west to the river and the setting sun.
HANNA´S BENCH – LYLE, WA
2.5 acres of South-facing Grenache perched precariously on a shallow soil basalt shelf 800 ft above the river. The vines are head-trained and sustainably farmed in clay-loam soils in a particularly warm and windy spot.
PARKER´S – LYLE, WA
Cabernets Sauvignon & Franc live in harmony with Sangiovese organically farmed on 2 acres right outside the doors of the original winery at Mistral Ranch. The clay-laden vineyard is sited at 1000 feet.