The Red Mountain AVA (American Viticultural Area) is a small but burgeoning wine region in southeastern Washington state. However, with growth and new plantings comes the need for water. In a region that is stark in comparison with the rest of the state – whose nickname is the Evergreen State – this semi-arid area needed more water for irrigation. That has been accomplished with the Kennewick Irrigation District (KID).
As part of the larger Yakima Valley AVA, this particular appellation near Benson City, is a hot-spot for new vineyards. In-turn, this necessary water has been diverted from the Yakima River to Red Mountain and the $19.2 million project will increase the popular wine growing area by more than 1,750 acres.
With Red Mountain rising to the west, the Yakima and Snake Rivers join the mighty Columbia River in the Tri-Cities area (Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland). The region has a lot of outdoor activities and the Tri-Cities has already been noted for its solid economy and a great place to raise a family. Now this water project should make it a boom area.
If you were wondering, the name Red Mountain describes the color of the mountain in the spring and early summer when an invasive bunchgrass known as drooping brome, flowers with a rusty hue – the mountain also is pocked full of sage.
The relatively sunny weather with vast diurnals not unlike Paso Robles, offer the grapes the ability to present great and intense flavors. Most vineyards of the very young 14 year old Red Mountain AVA are south facing. Almost desert-like, the days can be hot in the summer, but the nearby Yakima River helps to moderate the temperatures plus cool air heading downward from the mountain top in the afternoons keeps the vines from wilting. This breeze or air current also keeps the grapes from frost in early spring and fall.
At the southeastern end of the Yakima Valley, Red Mountain is certainly the smallest appellation in the state, but is already the most well-known wine growing region in Washington. Acknowledged mainly for its reds, Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely grown and although less fruity than other Cabs in the state, they tend to be more structured and therefore age better – this isn’t unlike Cabs on the Central Coast.
The Kiona and Col Solare Wineries originally established vineyards here with Ciel du Cheval infamous for their grapes and Col Solare renowned for their wines. With notoriety, the wines created on Red Mountain are some of the most expensive from the state of Washington. That isn’t likely to end anytime soon with this new water project sending water costs soaring. It’s estimated that the assessment cost per acre from KID to the farmers will be roughly $50 a month.
KID was developed six years ago to improve water needs and expansion. Bringing the water to Red Mountain will produce more of the best Washington has to offer when it comes wine. Fans of vino around the world will surely look forward to and welcome such expansion.
Daryle W. Hier