Walla Walla Valley AVA
Location: Located about 250 miles east of Portland, the Walla Walla Valley straddles southeast Washington State and northeast Oregon. More than 2,000 acres of vineyards are hemmed in by the Blue Mountains to the southeast, the Palouse to the north and the Columbia River westward.
Wine history: It’s believed that winegrowing in the Walla Walla Valley dates back to the 1920s, although the modern day wine industry began in the 1970s when childhood friends Gary Figgins of Leonetti Cellar and Rick Small of Woodward Canyon began conducting enological experiments in Rick’s garage. They soon began growing grapes in the Valley, and subsequently founded their wineries in 1977 (Leonetti Cellar) and 1981 (Woodward Canyon). L’Ecole No 41 was established soon after, in 1983. The Walla Walla Valley was officially designated as an AVA in 1984, but it took another decade for the growth spurt to begin. At the turn of the millennium more than 50 wineries called the Valley home, and today that number has grown to more than 100. Additionally, the Walla Walla Valley has one child AVA, The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater.
Climate: The Walla Walla Valley is ideal for grape growing, as the dry July and August heat provides a vibrant core of ripeness in the berries, while the chill of September nights assures the acidic backbone necessary for creating top flight wines. Annual rainfall figures triple from a sparse seven inches at the western end of the valley to a lush 22 inches along the foothills of the Blue Mountains to the east.
Soils: There are four distinct soil terroirs in the Walla Walla Valley: loess (wind-deposited silt) overlying Missoula flood sediments, thick loess overlying basalt bedrock, basalt cobblestone gravels and very thin loess on basalt bedrock.
Topography: The Walla Walla Valley is hemmed in by the Blue Mountains to the southeast, the Palouse to the north, and the Columbia River westward. Elevations across the valley soar between 400 feet and 2,000 feet above sea level.