Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley AVA

Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley AVA







about this subregion

The Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley AVA, located within the larger Columbia Valley AVA in central Washington, is a distinctive viticultural area known for its unique environment. This region, situated north of the Royal Slope AVA, is marked by a climate characterized for its very little rainfall, averaging only 6 to 8 inches annually, due to the rain shadow effect of the Cascade Mountains. This dry climate reduces the risk of vine diseases and promotes the cultivation of high-quality grapes. In addition, the presence of the Columbia River to the west of the region helps to moderate the temperatures.

Soil composition in the Ancient Lakes AVA mainly consists of fine sand, silt, and sandy loam. These soils are very conducive for viticulture due to their excellent drainage properties and moderate fertility levels, which encourage vines to develop deep root systems and concentrate flavors in the grapes. In addition, in some areas there is a high content of calcium carbonate.

The predominant grape varieties grown in this AVA are Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc. The cooler climate of the region, along with the unique soil composition, supports the cultivation of these varieties, allowing them to thrive and produce wines of high quality. The Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley AVA is an integral part of Washington’s wine country, contributing significantly to the state's reputation for diverse and premium wines.


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Vineyard Hectares





Discover Terroir

The landscape of the Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley AVA is marked by dramatic geological features that are integral to its character. This area is part of the larger Columbia Valley in Central Washington and is distinguished by a series of 35 lakes, which have given the AVA its name. The region showcases a variety of stunning landforms, many of which were shaped by cataclysmic floods at the end of the last Ice Age. These features include river gorges and undulating hills, which contribute to the picturesque vistas of the area​​​​.

This landscape is not only visually striking but also plays a crucial role in the viticulture of the region. The presence of the Columbia River along the western boundary of the AVA provides a natural barrier and influences the microclimate of the vineyards. The topography, characterized by gentle slopes and higher elevations ranging from approximately 1,200 to 1,500 feet, supports the cultivation of premium vineyards that are predominantly planted with white grape varieties​​​​.

The climate of the Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley AVA is acharacterized as arid and continental, with a notable influence of its location within the Columbia Valley region. This area is defined by a distinctive rain shadow effect due to the Cascade Mountains, which significantly reduces precipitation levels, resulting in an arid climate with annual rainfall averaging only about 6 to 8 inches. This dry climate is beneficial for grape growing as it reduces the risk of vine diseases typically associated with wetter conditions.

Temperature-wise, the region experiences a cooler climate relative to other parts of the Columbia Valley, primarily due to its more northerly location and the influence of the Columbia River, that helps to cool down the temperatures. This leads to a later onset of heat accumulation in the growing season and an earlier tapering off, which is advantageous for maintaining the acidity levels in the grapes, crucial for producing the high-quality white wines that the area is known for.

Additionally, the AVA is characterized by large diurnal temperature variations, which are significant swings between day and night temperatures. This variation helps to enhance the flavor complexity and preservation of natural grape acids during the ripening process. These climatic characteristics are essential for supporting the growth of the primarily white grape varieties planted in the area, such as Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris​​​​​​.

Most Common Soils of the Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley AVA

The Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley AVA is characterized by its unique soil composition, which plays a crucial role in defining the terroir of the region. The soils here are predominantly a mixture of fine sand, silt, and sandy loam.

  1. Fine Sand: Fine sand is a predominant soil type in the Ancient Lakes AVA. This soil is well-drained, preventing water from accumulating around the roots, which can be detrimental to the vines. The excellent drainage also encourages the roots to grow deeper in search of moisture and nutrients, which can help improve the vine's resilience and the concentration of flavors in the grapes. Sand's low fertility typically reduces vigor, leading to lower grape yields but potentially higher quality, as the vines focus more on grape production than on canopy growth.
  2. Silt: Silt soils are found alongside the fine sands within the AVA and contribute to the vineyard's water retention capabilities. While still providing adequate drainage, silt has a finer texture than sand, which helps retain enough moisture to sustain the vines during dry periods without waterlogging them. This balance ensures that the vines receive sufficient hydration to develop fully without becoming overstressed by excessive dryness.
  3. Sandy Loam: Sandy loam is another crucial soil type within the Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley AVA. This soil, that usually has low amounts of organic matter, is a balanced mix of sand, silt, and a small amount of clay, making it one of the most ideal soil types for viticulture. It combines the drainage properties of sand with the nutrient retention abilities of loam, creating an environment that supports consistent vine growth and fruit development. The presence of loam helps improve the structure and fertility of the soil, facilitating better root penetration and efficient nutrient uptake.

In addition, some vineyards have a high content of caliche, that is rich in calcium carbonate.

These soil types are integral to the wine-growing capabilities of the Ancient Lakes AVA, supporting the area's ability to produce distinct and high-quality wines.


Most Common Grapes of the Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley AVA

The Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley AVA, nestled in Washington state, is renowned for its unique terroir that supports the cultivation of different white wine grapes. This region's distinct climatic and geographical attributes foster the growth of grapes like Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc, each benefiting from the cooler climate and the soil composition of this AVA:

  1. Riesling: Riesling thrives in the cooler climate of the Ancient Lakes AVA, where the delayed heat accumulation allows for a longer ripening period. This grape variety is well-suited to the region's well-drained sandy loam soils, which are a result of sediment deposits from the Missoula Floods. The low annual rainfall of about 6 inches necessitates irrigation, yet it also minimizes the risk of vine diseases, which these white grapes can be prone to in wetter conditions.
  2. Chardonnay: Chardonnay in the Ancient Lakes AVA benefits from the moderate temperatures that prevent the grapes from over-ripening while maintaining the necessary acidity for structure. The calcareous and loamy sand soils in parts of the AVA provide a good base for Chardonnay, facilitating strong root growth and mineral uptake which are vital for the health of the vine. Chardonnay's adaptability to different training systems also makes it a favored choice among growers in this region.
  3. Pinot Gris: Pinot Gris requires a balance of cool conditions and sufficient sunlight to develop its full potential, which is provided by the Ancient Lakes AVA's climate, characterized by significant diurnal temperature variations. This grape variety prefers the lighter, stony soils found in the region, which help in maintaining the necessary acidity levels in the grapes. The soil's reflective properties also contribute to better sunlight exposure for the vines.
  4. Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon Blanc is cultivated successfully in the Ancient Lakes AVA due to its ability to adapt to cooler growing conditions, which enhance the preservation of its natural acidity. The grape's preference for well-drained soils aligns well with the sandy and loamy soils prevalent in the area. Effective canopy management is crucial in this region to protect the grapes from excessive sun exposure while ensuring enough light penetration for optimal fruit development.

These grape varieties are an example of the capability of the Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley AVA winegrowers to produce high-quality wines.

Most Common Wines from the Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley AVA

The Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley AVA is celebrated for its unique white wines, that capture the essence of the terroir of the region. Some of the wines that you must try in the Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley are Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc.

  1. Riesling: Riesling from the Ancient Lakes AVA is highly regarded for its vibrant and aromatic profile. Typically, these wines exhibit fresh notes of lime, green apple, and apricot, accompanied by a distinctive mineral streak that hints at the region's rocky soils. The high acidity in Riesling contributes to its crispness, making it a refreshing choice with a lingering finish. This wine is composed entirely of Riesling grapes, which are adept at expressing the cool climate nuances of the Ancient Lakes region.
  2. Chardonnay: Chardonnay from this AVA often presents a less oaked style, allowing the varietal characteristics to shine through. Flavors of lemon, pear, and melon are common, coupled with subtle hints of vanilla and coconut when oak is used. These wines are well-balanced, with a creamy texture that complements their bright acidity. Made from Chardonnay grapes, these wines reflect the careful vineyard management practices that emphasize quality and character.
  3. Pinot Gris: Pinot Gris in the Ancient Lakes AVA is appreciated for its zesty and fruity qualities. These wines typically offer flavors of ripe pear, peach, and citrus, with undertones of floral and spice notes, making them quite aromatic and inviting. The texture can range from light to medium-bodied, with a round mouthfeel that finishes with crisp acidity. This wine is produced from Pinot Gris grapes, capturing the essence of the variety while highlighting the region's climatic influences.
  4. Sauvignon BlancSauvignon Blanc from the Ancient Lakes AVA is known for its sharp and vibrant profile. These wines often feature a mix of tropical fruit flavors like passion fruit and mango, along with classic green aromas of grass and bell pepper. The lively acidity and fresh finish make this wine a favorite among those who appreciate a more intense flavor experience. Composed solely of Sauvignon Blanc grapes, these wines embody the fresh, dynamic spirit of the Ancient Lakes terroir.

These white wines are only an exemple of the high-quality winemaking that the region is known for.