Red Mountain is the smallest AVA in the state of Washington, hovering around 1600 hectares (~4,000 acres), with around 240 hectares cultivated for winemaking purposes. A sub-appellation of the Yakima Valley AVA (which in turn resides within the greater Columbia Valley AVA), Red Mountain’s unique geographical location allows it to clock-in more sunlight hours than any other area of the Columbia Valley. The mountain’s name doesn’t come from the color of its soil content, but rather from a springtime grass known as “cheatgrass” that changes the color of the mountain to an almost red wine-like color.
All the facts aside, what makes Red Mountain so special? Geography.
Red Mountain wines and fruit are so highly sought after because of the unique sense of terroir that cannot be found in neighboring regions. Bordeaux lovers in particular appreciate the wines from this region – unlike the more common New World approach to winemaking (ultra-ripe fruit), Red Mountain wines tend to focus on terroir and structure/intensity of juice, resulting in rich, big, meaty wines that almost exhibit an iodine-like quality.
This unique terroir in the wines is a direct result of the soil composition that no neighboring areas share. The most famous vineyards are actually on the back side of the mountain, where eddies pooled to drop layer upon layer of gravel, then eventually highly alkaline (high PH) loess soils. These are well draining soils that make for tight grape clusters and small berries, which in turn make for powerfully structured and intense red wines. This has influenced the primary growths in the region to be Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese – all grapes that love showing power and structure in their boldest expressions.
The winds in the area seem to never stop. While having hot, almost desert-like days, cool air comes down in the evenings, which allow the grapes to lock in a brilliant acidity prior to harvest. The ever-moving airs also keep the fruit from being damaged by frost in the cooler temperature ranges. With annual rainfall in the Red Mountain AVA clocking in at around 5″, it is imperative for the winemakers to irrigate their vineyards. The usage of irrigation allows the fruit to receive the optimal amount of water to optimize their growth cycles.
The scores from the Red Mountain AVA tell the story: Quilceda Creek Winery joined a very exclusive list of peers when it was honored with a 100 point score by Parker, then joined an even smaller club when it received another 100 point score in the following vintage. Our own Lot 575 Cabernet-based Red Blend took home 98 points and a Double Gold Medal in the SF International Wine Competition, as well as 94 points and a Platinum Medal in the 2017 Sommelier Challenge.