Columbia Gorge AVA

ava_columbia-gorgeLocation: Just 60 miles east of Portland, the Columbia Gorge wine region lies in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, a dramatic river corridor that straddles the Columbia River for 15 miles into both Oregon and Washington. This region, which encompasses 40 miles, includes both the Columbia Gorge AVA and part of the Columbia Valley AVA. Lewis and Clark first made the Columbia Gorge famous when they passed through on their way to the Pacific Ocean in 1805.

Wine history: Grape growing in the Columbia Gorge area dates back to the 1880s when the Jewitt family, who founded the town of White Salmon, WA, planted American vines they had brought with them from Illinois. Other pioneer families followed suit and today some of their original vines are still alive and have withstood sub-zero temperatures. It wasn’t until the 1970s that post-Prohibition pioneers started experimenting with wine grape vineyards on the south-facing slopes of the Underwood Mountain in Washington. Over the next two decades, well-known winemakers started to discover the incredible grapes of this region. The Columbia Gorge appellation became official in 2004.

Climate: Within the winegrowing region, the climate in the Columbia Gorge appellation changes drastically. To the west is a cooler, marine-influenced climate where it rains 36 inches per year; to the east is a continental high desert climate with just 10 inches of annual rainfall. This extreme variance of climate means this area can successfully grow a wide range of classical varieties.

Soils: The Columbia Gorge wine region’s soils are generally silty loams collected over time from floods, volcanic activity and landslides.

Topography: The Columbia River Gorge is a narrow, winding river valley whose walls range from steep volcanic rock faces to more gentle-sloped, terraced benchlands that are typically well suited for grape growing. The Gorge is the only sea-level passage through the Cascade Mountain Range. From north to south there are two iconic geographical features: Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood, both part of the central Cascade Mountain range.