Outdoor Seattle Activities in August and September

The transition from summer to fall is probably one of my favorite times of year.  I love the warm days and cool evenings.  I also love the extended accessibility to be outside! If you are feeling stuck in a rut with summer or are new to the area, here are some fun Seattle area explorations to attend to.

Kayaking and paddle boarding is a fun adventure that you can explore here in the city with minimal time commitment.  If you are wanting lake action, I suggest:  Agua Verde Paddle Club – and make sure to leave time for delicious beverages and food from Agua Verde; or  Lake Union NWOC.  For Ballard:  Surf Ballard and Salmon Bay Paddle – lunch or dinner in Ballard is pretty easy.  KISS Cafe is the on the way stop for deli sandwiches and killer salads.  West Seattle is all about Alki Kayak, a great lunch stop would be Pecado Bueno or the Husky Deli.  If you are not able to be that active but still enjoy the water, the folks at Argosy Lakes Cruise Lake Union are excellent hosts!


Outdoor Music and Random Events
Seattle is teaming with amazing artists. Besides the super cool Pianos in the Park, which ends on August 16th, you should make time for:

Or if you are looking for something with a bit more chaos  Ballard’s Viking Days are coming up on as well as Pyramids Tomatobattle!


Mountains and Trails
Our beautiful region wouldn’t be what it is without the mountains, trees and trails.  For out of Seattle area adventures- free park days are:

Or in Seattle, my favorites are Seward Park, Lincoln Park, Carkeek Park and Discovery Park for excellent day hiking.   But check out the Parks and Recreation page for all of the amazing spaces we share.
You can always jump on a bike and enjoy the Burke Gilman Trail–  I’ll never forget my first time biking on this trail.  Traveling from Golden Gardens all the way to Woodinville is exhilarating.    Or just take a short ride to Fremont, Ballard or the U-District.  Here are some other stories!

parks_ burke gilman

Not in the mood for a long trip to the east side?  Explore the local breweries and the food trucks these days are killer.  Beyond Woodinville we have Seattle area wineries.  The Seattle Urban Wineries links to their tasting hours.

There is still plenty more to do this summer and into the fall.  We will be here at Portalis after your adventures for tastings or your chilled bottle of wine and beer for dinner!

All the Best!

Sommelier, wine + food writer

August 13, 2015 at 7:10 pm Leave a comment

Beyond Beautiful- British Columbia

On a gorgeous afternoon, I served a couple traveling through Washington from British Columbia.  What a treat to share insights into camping and hiking with our neighbors to the north.  In turn, we waxed poetic on the growing wine regions of British Columbia. In February 2015 our wine club featured British Columbia, specifically Okangonan Valley. It is not uncommon to view BC regions similar to Washington- but closer together.  The diversity of British Columbia’s terrain and terroir, though similar to Washington, are unique and loaded with potential.


British Columbia has five VQA regions- Vancouver Island, Fraser Valley, Gulf Islands, Similkameen Valley and the Okagonan Valley.   Three of these regions have martime influences which can define them together and very similar to the Puget Sound AVA.  That would be the Islands and the Fraser Valley.  The other two regions are continental with lake mediating factors.  The Okanagan Valley is the top contender as the Similkameen Valley the second to all five regions.  These two regions have short yet hot seasons.  The vineyards need to be on the low slops of the steep valley walls to acheive enough sunlight hours to ripen. Amidst the northern hills and mountain ranges, is the northern most point of the desert network that range from BC into Mexico.  This desert range is very similar to the Columbia Valley, especially with needs for irrigation.  Lake factors assist in mitigating harsh winters and frost outbreaks in spring or fall.  The Okanagan Valley produces Merlot, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay; whereas in the Similkameen Valley (say that five times fast), we additionally find Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

blog_British Columbia_1

The three other regions are all coastal with variable weather influences which greatly impact the production.  Most of the wine is sold to local markets.  Varietals grown in these regions are obscure with some boasting of success with Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.  As our climate adjusts and change our environment, keep your eye on these vineyards.  They may be locals only now, but cult wines in the making.

blog_British Columbia_2

British Columbia is beyond beautiful.  The region is diverse- from mountains to desert to islands and vineyards.  Explore!


Jaci Kajfas
Sommelier, Food + Wine writer

Guild Somm
Wine BC

July 1, 2015 at 10:03 pm Leave a comment

Archive: Seasonal Recipes from Chef Tracey

About_Tracey_Jan 2014_v1_email


I am a big fan of the classic American hamburger, and this is a fun twist: a buffalo burger! Ground bison is a nice change of pace to the classic beef burger. Bison is less fatty and has a light gaminess to it. It’s also super juicy. Follow my instructions below for a crunchy, crusty burger outside, with a pink, juicy middle. You should be able to find ground bison at most grocery stores. Often it’s in the fresh section in the little square vac-packs. If not, check the frozen section. It will still make a tasty burger.

Chef Tracey's Recipes_Buffalo Burgers_July 2015

Please help yourself to my recipe below. Don’t miss the suggested wine pairings (which would be great with beef burgers as well!  And then there’s always beer


Ground bison is a nice change of pace to the classic beef burger. Bison is less fatty and has a light gaminess to it. It’s also super juicy. Follow my instructions below for a crunchy, crusty burger outside, with a pink, juicy middle. You should be able to find ground bison at most grocery stores. Often it’s in the fresh section in the little square vac-packs. If not, check the frozen section. It will still make a tasty burger.

  • Pat out the patties and then lay them on a piece of paper towel.
  • Cover them on top with another piece of paper towel, and let the paper towels absorb some of the moisture from the meat. (This will make the outside crunchy when you grill your burgers!)
  • Remove the paper towel and season with cracked pepper & smoked salt.
  • If you’re oriented towards a cheeseburger, try a smoked maple cheddar or a smoked cheese of your preference. An extra sharp white cheddar would also be delicious.
  • This burger is great with no bun and a little side salad, but if you’re up for complete decadence, try a brioche bun (what we affectionately termed “butter-bread” at Portalis).
  • Top it with lettuce (Romaine or iceberg for crunch) and a slice of Heirloom tomato & Walla Walla sweet onion.

Enjoy & have a great summer,
Chef Tracey


JUNE 2015: Seasonal Fruit Salad

We’ve really been missing our Chef Tracey since the close of the Wine Bar in December. We thought everyone would enjoy hearing that she’s doing well. She’s helping out her husband, Sam Crannell, Chef/Owner at LloydMartin in Queen Anne, taking classes to become a certified QB bookkeeper (a return to a previous life!) and working part-time as a bookkeeper. We met with Tracey last week with a proposition: Let us hire you to do our Food+Wine column, sharing seasonal recipes for our home cooks …and she said yes! (We’ll pair the wine, of course!)

FRUIT SALAD with nectarines, plumcots, grapes, honeydew whip & lemon thyme_May 2014_v4_email
So, here goes with our first edition: Seasonal Fruit Salad
“The fruit is looking beautiful at the markets …the time of year when I am inspired to make fruit salad. I particularly like the combination of nectarines (which have a little more acidity than peaches making them a fresher, citrusy accent) and honeydew melons (which are a cooling summer fruit).” –Chef Tracey

This fruit salad feeds 2 people for brunch or 4 people for a light dessert:

2 nectarines pitted and sliced
1 C red grapes halved
½ a honeydew melon cut in small cubes
Lemon thyme
2 T freshly grated coconut

DALLOP of lemon crème fraîche:
½ C crème fraîche
1 T honey of your choice
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Mix together fruit in a serving dish & add a dallop of crème fraîche to the top. As well you can make individual servings. Garish with a sprig of lemon thyme.

WINE PAIRINGS: This dish is amazingly flexible for wine. If serving for brunch, bubbles are great way to start and Prosecco (which is less dry than other bubbles) would be a delicious combo (try: La Farra Prosecco Superiore Brut). Riesling with its off-dry mid-palate would be great (try: Domaine Moltès Riesling Réserve) as would a well-made Californian Viognier. Another delicious option would be Ramato (orange wine) from Veneto. It’s technically 100% Pinot Grigio, but it’s a wonderful copper color from being left with the skins for a longer period. It’s fleshy and lush and crazy good! (Try: Tenuta di Corte Giacobbe 2013 Pinot Grigio Ramato). For dessert, Moscato would be a great choice – bubbles, slightly sweet, low alcohol (we’ve got a great one on sale: Vinchio-Vaglio Serra 2010 Vigne Rare Moscato).

Cheers to summer eating & drinking, and cheers to having Chef Tracey back with us for this feature!

Julie, co-owner
Portalis Wines

July 1, 2015 at 3:31 pm Leave a comment

Down the Rabbit Hole: Rosés & Copper Wines

Rosé bottles_summer 2015
So you know rosés are all the hot topic these days, but you are not quite so sure what it is or even more fearful… how to buy something on the fly for a dinner party.

What is rosé?
It is not a wine made of rose petals, but sometimes it’s aromatically similar and the color ranges can also be similar to roses- but not yellow and typically not spotted or Lincoln rose (hopefully).  In the world of creating wine, rosé is similar to producing red wine LIKE a white wine with red wine varietals.  However, rosé wines see skin contact time.  The Saignée method is bled off the must with little skin contact.  It is run off red wine, or secondary wine.  Vin gris is purposely bled off with no maceration time.  If one was to produce red wine like a white, one would find the liquid to be off pale.Glass of roses

There are other instances of rosé styles of wine that have nothing to do with red wine!  When a white varietal sees skin contact, it turns the wine orange/ peach/ pinkish.  Classically these are dubbed “orange wines” or “ramato” in Italian.  Pinot Gris is a prime culprit in creating orange wine as it is a black skinned white varietal.

Summation- rosés are wines with little to no time with the skins.  The wine is then lighter, less fruit driven (for that varietal) and much softer without the impact of tannins.  Copper or orange wines, in turn, have more texture- tannins and  more defined fruit components for the style of varietal used and depth on the palette (in comparison to rosé).  Rarely do either style see time on oak, and they are not meant to be aged.  However, I do not personally agree that rosés or copper wines must be drunk the year they are produced.  Most wine needs some time to settle into the bottle, especially if it travels great distances to be consumed.  So, don’t bank on your most current vintage of rosé as the best flavor, if you know what I mean…  Rabbit Hole

So how do you buy rosés?  Well, start with the varietal that it is made from.  Typically if you like red wines in one style, the rosé style should be just as appealing.  For example, if you are a Rhône red varietal fan- Grenach/Syrah- you will enjoy more robust rosé wines.  Spanish rosés tend to be rather fruit driven with earthy components.  Washington and California rosés tend to be more fruit forward.  If you like a bit more acid and herbaceous undertones- Provence is a great choice as is the Loire Valley.  Prefer something out of the ordinary?  German rosés or Austrian.

Not a rosé or white wine drinker in general?  Copper wines may be your alternative rosé style.  The skin contact with the tannins and texture create a depth similar to consuming red wine.  Copper wines pair amazingly with salami, poultry, aged cheeses, mushrooms and root vegetables.

With the variety of rosés in the market, there is no reason not to find one to venture to your next outing with.   When in doubt, stop in and see what we have currently or send us a shout out!


Sommelier, food + wine writer

Here are some fun links to check out:

May 27, 2015 at 1:44 am Leave a comment

Spring Weather Watch in the Vineyards 2015

Spring typically marches in funky weather (especially here in the Seattle area).  March brought us not surprising announcements that Washington and Oregon will be facing drought this year. Drought has plagued California for the last four years.  Even with current government restrictions, California is facing a losing water battle.  In the agriculture, drought can be devastating.  In wine agriculture it needs to be planned for to minimize the impact.  Why?  Vines love stress- but wine makers… not so much!

Washington’s warm winter brought us rain, and very little snow packs to feed our rivers.  Governor Jay Inslee requested emergency federal funds focused on agricultural business.  One of the most difficult patterns with drought years in the PNW is spring frost.  These frosts impact bud break and growth. Careful planning through selection of vineyard sites, delayed pruning and if lucky frost protection.  Most Washington wine makers are patiently waiting for Mothers Day, the benchmark for warmer safe weather in the vineyards.

WA frost

In Oregon, pinot noir prefers cooler climates.  Temperatures ranging in the upper 50’s or lower 60’s are ideal.  Frost and early rain are definite issues, but since Oregon is coastal the burden to splitting fruit.  With a different perspective of planning, some wineries have invested their Oregon vineyards in warmer weather varietals with the theory that wineries will continue to move north as California grows arid.

For California’s four year drought, it’s the small producers of inexpensive wine that are hit hardest.  These small producers are not necessarily the bulk producers that we associate with California’s mass wine production.  Hot weather is great for boutique wines that bring out more diverse flavors and can plan for smaller production and ask for higher prices.  The drought will run out the small family producers that are not invested into smaller production and cult pricing.  As irrigation begins to impact production, especially with a water restrictions, success will fall upon those that can wean themselves away from irrigation practices.  Solutions are found through vinification practices.  Pioneers such as Frogs Leap use old world practices.  Dry farming is the process of stressing vines so that their roots grow deep so that they can source their water rather than irrigation.
CA Drought
2015 will usher in full bodied, rich wines.  Vineyard management will be telling of the quality of wines that we see in the PNW and California.  Trends toward more extreme weathers will keep our wine makers on their toes with plenty of stories to share.

Happy Earth Day!

Sommelier, food+wine writer

Articles that inspired this conversation:
Oregon Live
Great NW Wine, Frosts
Press Democrat
Wine Maker Mag
Daily Bray
Extension (image credit)
Circle of Blue
(image credit)

April 22, 2015 at 7:43 pm Leave a comment

Pairings with Northwest Fresh & Foraged!

NW Bounty_Fiddlehead fronds_Jaci_040815

Photo credit:  Photo Guide: The ABCs of Northwest Spring Produce>

I have been blessed to work with many local chefs that utilize and live by the standards that their cuisine should reflect what is currently produced.  Right now, Chef Don Curtiss at Volterra is using fiddlehead fronds, English peas and morels served with a scallop which admittedly sparked this article.

I LOVE fiddlehead fronds.  They are the youthful beginning of ostrich ferns that curl tightly and have the same texture as slightly cooked pea vines. Some say fiddlehead fronds are similar to asparagus.  I do not find them as bitter and the flavor is richer.  At Volterra, we pair the scallop and spring vegetables with Montenidoli Vernaccia.  However if you are cooking these at home without morels, try them with a verdejo such as Chamelin (currently on close out SALE for $10.99 | Mixed Case $8.79) or a local Washington Sauvignon Blanc.   (But please not a New Zealand or Loire- too much citrus, not enough grassy undertones.)

Mmmmmm…. Morels!  A meaty mushroom treat sautéed in butter and red wine- serve this with any local Syrah, such as Darby or 5 Oros Tempranillo (Spain).

Dandelions tossed in a salad with some pansy petals or sautéed with a touch of oil and sea salt… pair this with VVS Arengo Barbera or Barbanau Rosé.  Or both. 

NW Bounty_Morels_Jaci_040815
are a bit time consuming to harvest but such a healthy and unique delicacy.  These are another bitter green yet high in iron.  Nettle gnocchi, similar to spinach gnocchi, paired with Noveau Aligoté or Tenuta Giaccobe Soave.

The beautiful white flower, Elderflower, with its delicate fragrance is a fantastic dessert as a simple syrup.  I like Dolin Blanc on the rocks with a touch of Elderflower simple syrup.  Chef Don Curtiss served his lemon mascarpone custard with Elderflower simple syrup last fall! We paired that with VVS Brachetto.

Watercress salad or garnish with Ossau-iraty and enjoy with Clos du Bosqut Pinot Noir

Rhubarb as a pie is always nice- but as chutney with your pork tenderloin…  Yes please.  Pelassa Barbaresco with its rich cherry undertones, tannins and soft leather is a great match.

Next time you are at your local farmers market, ask for something off your beaten path.  How is your local farmer cooking it?  What are your local chefs growing and bringing in?  Each season presents bounty here in the PNW.  Portalis is here from 11am-5pm on Sundays if you are at the Ballard Market and need a pairing with your freshly foraged produce and local finds.

Sommelier, wine+food writer


April 9, 2015 at 5:31 am Leave a comment

The Wine Regions of WA State

Map_WA State

Cows, wheat, orchards and wine!
Layered with apple orchards, entrenched in wheat farming, milk and cattle production, wine production in Washington began in the mid 1970’s.  Wine still relatively new in the scheme of agriculture output for Washington State and the region has a finite supply of water for irrigation.  Quality over bulk quantity is regulated by irrigation needs.  With the exception of approximately 80 acres of vineyard near Seattle in Puget Sound AVA, the state’s wine regions are all located to the east of the Cascades, where the mountains’ rain shadow effect makes irrigation commonplace—rainfall is often less than ten inches a year.

Eastern Washington experiences a true continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters; frost and winter freezes are serious concerns for growers.  Soils consist of basalt bedrock and thin alluvial topsoil, deposited by the same Missoula Floods that washed through the Willamette Valley at the end of the last ice age.  Loess is everywhere, as well as layers of sand and gravel.  Why does this make a difference?

Each appellation has its own unique characteristics that allow it to be defined separately than the Columbia Valley.   The factors that play major roles in defining each AVA (or appellation) are the soils, the climate impact of each region and the subtle nuances of land masses that create microclimates and impact the quality of the vines and grapes.  The diversity of each appellation is as follows:

  • Columbia Valley encompasses these appellations except the Puget Sound. 99% of wine grapes grown in Washington State.
  • Columbia Gorge cut back by the Columbia River Gorge which alters the climate from eastern WA dessert climate to cool maritime. This is protected by a rain shadow effect from Mount Hood and Mount Adams.  The heat allows for excellent Bordeaux and Rhone varietal ripening.
  • The soil composition of Walla Walla Valley with its continental heat allows for excellent drainage- and heating of the vines for ripening.
  • Lake Chelan has a higher elevation with lake effects that create temperate growing and ripening. The soils are also much different due to glacier aspects; we find more sand, quartz and minerals.
  • Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley are canyons that were stripped away by glaciers. This low-nutrient, fast-draining soil is perfect for growing wine grapes because the vines must struggle to survive and thus focus their energy on producing high-quality fruit.
  • Wahluke Slope is the driest appellation in the State; surrounded by the Columbia River and the Saddle Mountains.
  • Naches Heights is situated on ancient volcanic bedrock plateau with high elevations and clay for water retention.
  • Yakima Valley is Washington’s oldest wine making region and hosts 1/3 of the state’s vineyards, including Rattlesnake Hills, Red Mountain, Horse Heaven Hills and Snipes Mountain. The cool nights of this valley allow for excellent acid chemistry.  Silt-loam soils predominate allowing proper drainage.
  • Red Mountain is a steep southwest facing slope, near the Yakima River that maintains those hot days and cool nights classic of the Yakima Valley.
  • Snipes Mountain is the second smallest AVA, with elevated topography and unique soils (ardisols) not found elsewhere in the Yakima Valley AVA.
  • Rattlesnake Hills sit higher than the Yakima Valley with vineyards typically located on ridges and terraces. Good air drainage avoids late spring and the early fall frost or winter kill.
  • Horse Heaven Hills has a proximity to the Columbia River which creates 30% more wind while moderating the dessert temperature extremes. Steep south-facing slopes are optimum vineyard locations and providing well-drained, sandy-loam soils.
  • Puget Sound is located on the western side of Washington; the maritime climate is drastically different than the continental and desert like qualities of Eastern Washington which allows for different varietals such as pinot gris and pinot noir.

The nuances of soils, climate, territorial structures and elevations create Washington’s niche in supporting and creating a diverse wine region.  In forty years of production, the wine production exceeds an annual billion dollar revenue with over a billion in wine related tourism.  Over 40 different varietals are now grown with 50,000 plus acres dedicated to vineyards.  That creates over 20 million gallons of wine from over 850 wineries!  Washington may still be fields of wheat and cow farms, but vineyard production is a growing crop commodity.


For more details read below:

The Columbia Valley is the largest appellation in Washington State.  It encompasses all other AVA regions except the Puget Sound and is located in Eastern Washington.  The Columbia Valley contains 99% of wine grapes grown in Washington State – 43,000 acres (16,207 hectares).  Vineyards are planted on predominately south-facing slopes, increasing solar radiation in summer and promoting air drainage in winter.  AVA 1984  Many wineries list only Columbia Valley as they source grapes from multiple vineyards.

Columbia Gorge is the southernmost Washington appellation.  The Columbia Gorge wine region is defined by the Columbia River Gorge, a narrow passage that marks the dramatic transition from eastern desert to cool maritime climate as the Columbia River cuts through the Cascade Mountain Range on its way to the Pacific Ocean.  The region encompasses the corridor flanking the river in both Washington and Oregon and includes the Columbia Gorge and the southwestern part of the Columbia Valley American Viticulture Areas (AVAs).  As this region lies to the east of the summits of nearby Mount Hood and Mount Adams, it is in rain shadow of these Cascade volcanoes. The region is significantly drier than the Portland metropolitan area to the west. Elevation in the region varies considerably, increasing as one travels from the Columbia River into the plateaus on either side, and the strong Columbia Gorge winds also play a factor in the region’s climate. Eastern vineyards have a continental high desert climate with just 10 inches of annual rainfall but plentiful sunshine to ripen hot-weather Bordeaux, Rhone and Italian varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel and Barbera.  AVA 2004  Cascade Cliffs and Syncline Cellars are a few of our favorites.

Walla Walla Valley is primarily loess, cobblestone river gravels, dark basalt stones, and beneath the loess are coarser layers of sand and gravel.  The sand and gravel were deposited by catastrophic, glacial floods that swept through this region about 15,000 years ago.  Loess is derived soils which are essentially unconsolidated, unstratified calcareous silt.  It allows for excellent drainage. Dark basalt stones soak up the warmth of the sun before releasing it back at the vines after twilight and provide rich in iron, calcium, magnesium and other minerals that fuel remarkable flavors.  The varietals are primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.  Grape growing began in the Walla Walla Valley in the 1850s by Italian immigrants.  Walla Walla Valley is made up of over 100 wineries and more than 1,600 acres (648 hectares) of vineyards.  AVA 1984 Reininger is one of our favorites out of Walla Walla

Lake Chelan has a higher elevation and more temperate climate than the more southern AVAs also contained within the Columbia Valley.  Due to the ice age glaciers that formed Lake Chelan, the soil surrounding it has distinctive properties such as coarse, sandy sediment with notable amounts of quartz and mica.  These soil distinctions result in grapes with discernable textures, minerals, and nutrients.  The AVA is also distinguished by a significant “lake effect” that creates mild and favorable temperatures for surrounding areas, resulting in a longer growing season and a reduced risk of frost.  Primary varietals grown are Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.  AVA 2009 Nefarious Cellars is a must check out!

Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley is located with the Beezley Hills to the north; the eastern edge of the Quincy Basin defined by the manmade Winchester Wasteway canal to the east; the Frenchman Hills to the south; and the western shoreline of the Columbia River creates the border to the west. The famous Gorge Amphitheatre resides on the western edge of the AVA.  The Ancient Lakes are canyons that were outlet points in the Quincy Valley for the floodwaters, which essentially stripped away the soil to barren scabland.  In the ensuing centuries, wind has blown in sand that has created the soil in the Ancient Lakes and elsewhere in the Columbia Valley.  This low-nutrient, fast-draining soil is perfect for growing wine grapes because the vines must struggle to survive and thus focus their energy on producing high-quality fruit.  Varietals are predominately Riesling and Chardonnay. AVA 2012  Milbrant Vineyards, Jones Vineyards, and Cave B are all located in this canyon.

Wahluke Slope is naturally bounded by the Columbia River to the west and south, by the Saddle Mountains on the north, and on the east by the Hanford Reach National Monument.  It has the driest, warmest climates in the state, allowing nearly complete control of vine vigor and ripening through irrigation.  AVA 2005  Milbrant Cellars also grows here.

Map_WA State_v2
Naches Heights is the first AVA to be recognized as fully sustainable.  It is located within the Columbia Valley on an ancient volcanic bedrock plateau; Naches Heights is above the level of the Missoula Floods, at elevations ranging from 1,200 to 2,100 feet.  The boundaries of the Naches Heights are the Naches River to the north and east; Cowiche Creek to the south and west; and the lower Tieton River on the west.  The soil is comprised of windblown soil, also known as loess, which is heavy in clay and helps the soil to retain water. Around 10 to 13 inches of rain fall annually in the Naches Heights region. It is considered a cooler region for Washington State. AVA 2012. Naches Heights Vineyards as well as Harlequin are located in this area.

Yakima Valley is Washington’s oldest wine making region and hosts 1/3 of the state’s vineyards with Chardonnay varietal prominent.  Yakima Valley vineyards produce wines that are characteristically rich and well-developed, due to the long and consistent growing season. With cool nights, warm days and controlled water, Yakima Valley vineyards tend to have a longer growing days and season compared to other wine regions. These regional growing characteristics help to develop fully mature fruit whose acid chemistry maintains balance during the cool nights.  Silt-loam soils predominate allowing proper drainage necessary to keep vine’s vigor under control.  As an appellation it hosts sub-regions of Red Mountain, Snipes Mountain, Rattlesnake Hills and Horse Heaven Hills.    AVA 1983  Lobo Hills and Chinook Cellars are here in Yakima.

Red Mountain is not necessarily a mountain, more of a steep slope, which faces southwest near the Yakima River.  More than 15 wineries are located in the Red Mountain AVA, with many additional Washington wineries sourcing grapes from Red Mountain’s premiere growers.  The area has a desert climate with average yearly rainfall of five inches per year. During the growing season daytime temperatures average 90 °F (32 °C) with night time temperatures dropping below 50 °F (10 °C).  The varietals grown here are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Sangiovese, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. (Trade tasting 3/23) AVA 2001  Guardian Cellars sources his grapes here!

Snipes Mountain is the second smallest AVA in Washington, bigger only than Red Mountain, and home to six wineries. While the Snipes Mountain AVA lies entirely within the boundaries of the Yakima Valley AVA its uniqueness comes from an elevated topography and unique soils not found elsewhere in the Yakima Valley AVA.  In the 1850s a rancher named Ben Snipes built a house and settled his cattle operation on a Yakima Valley mountain north of the Yakima River, later known as Snipes Mountain.  Snipes vineyards grow more than 30 different wine grape varieties and the fruit is used in more than 25 wineries.  Vineyards have been planted on Snipes Mountain and Harrison Hill since 1914.  Washington State’s second oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines have been producing grapes on Harrison Hill for more than 40 years.  AVA 2009  Upland Estates is here and DeLille sources from Harrison Hill Vineyard located here too.

Rattlesnake Hills encompasses an expanse of hills running east to west along the northern point of the Yakima River and south of Moxee Valley; the Rattlesnake Hills AVA lies within both the established Columbia Valley and Yakima Valley appellations.  Beginning at an elevation of 850 feet and rising up to 3,085 feet, the viticultural area sits higher in elevation than the surrounding Yakima Valley region.  The first commercial vineyards in the region date back to 1968.  Vineyards are typically located on ridges and terraces and in areas with good air drainage to avoid late spring and early fall frost and winter kill.  AVA 2006.  Silver Lake and Porteus are here.

Horse Heaven Hills is located in Southeast Washington with a total area is 570,000 acres (230,679 hectares) of which about 10,130 acres (4,099 hectares) planted to grapes.  It represents 25% of Washington’s total grape production.  Proximity to the Columbia River creates 30% more wind while moderating temperature extremes, providing steep south-facing slopes for optimum vineyard locations and providing well-drained, sandy-loam soils.  Elevations range from 1,800 feet at the area’s northern boundary to 300 feet at its southern.  Outstanding sites that have been developed in this area include Alder Ridge, Andrews-Horse Heaven Vineyard, Canoe Ridge, Champoux Vineyards and The Benches at Wallula Vineyard.  Growers have raised grapes in the Horse Heaven Hills region since 1972.  AVA 2005  McKinnley Springs is located here.

Puget Sound is located on the western side of Washington, which is divided by the Cascade Mountain ranges that run North and South along the coast.  Its temperate climate rarely suffers from prolonged freezes in winter and enjoys long mild and dry summers.  However it is a maritime climate and drastically different than the continental and desert like qualities of Eastern Washington.  Semi-permeable cemented subsoil allows the deep-rooted vinifera vines to survive the late summer soil water deficit.  Madeleine Angevine, Siegerebbe and Muller-Thurgau are the predominant varietals.  Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir also show promise in this appellation.  AVA 1995  Bainbridge Island Winery, San Juan Winery and Vashon Winery are all great examples.

Jaci Kajfas,
Sommelier & Wine Writer

March 12, 2015 at 7:08 am Leave a comment

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