Columbia Hills AVA

Columbia Hills AVA

45°44'24" N


120°47'09" W




about this subregion

The Columbia Hills AVA, a potential AVA in the Washignton state, promises to be an exciting addition to the state's viticultural landscape. This area is characterized by a unique environmental setup, comprising an arid to semi-arid continental climate that benefits significantly from the rain shadow effect of nearby mountain ranges. This geographical influence restricts rainfall to just between 98 and 131 mm annually, requiring irrigation but also allowing for more controlled grape development, reducing vintage variation and ensuring consistent high-quality yield.

The soil in Columbia Hills is predominantly loess overlying gravel and slackwater sediment with a basalt bedrock, providing excellent drainage and mineral richness that supports vine health and enhances the complexity of the grapes. These conditions are favorable for the main grape varieties cultivated in the area, which include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Riesling.

Alongside Columbia Hills, several other potential AVAs are being considered across the country, including Rancho Guejito, West Sonoma Coast, Pocket Peak, Llano Uplift, Carmel Coast, Kaw Valley, Champlain Valley, Rancho Santa Fe, Hickory Sands District, Mill Creek-Walla Walla Valley, and Highland Valley. Each of these regions holds its unique potential to contribute distinctively to America’s diverse wine country portfolio.


vinerra illustration

Vineyard Hectares





Discover Terroir

The potential Columbia Hills AVA wine subregion, nestled between the Columbia Gorge AVA to the west and the Horse Heaven Hills AVA to the east, has a landscape characterized by rolling hills and gentle slopes. These undulating terrains not only offer stunning views, but also provide an ideal environment for vine cultivation. The topography creates a variety of microclimates within the region, allowing vintners to experiment with different grape varietals and winemaking techniques.

Flowing through the heart of this region is the majestic Columbia River, who acts as a moderating force, tempering the climate and ensuring optimal growing season conditions for vines. The river's presence also contributes to the region's unique terroir, providing fertile alluvial soils and influencing the local weather patterns.

Geologically, the Columbia Hills AVA boasts a diverse array of soil types, characterized by loess over gravel and slackwater sediment. This rich soil composition imparts distinct characteristics to the wines produced here, adding layers of complexity and depth.

Overall, the potential Columbia Hills AVA represents a harmonious blend of natural elements, where the interplay of land, water, and climate fosters the cultivation of exceptional grapes.

The potential Columbia Hills AVA is characterized by climate conditions that varies between arid to semi-arid, with a predominant continental climate. This particular climatic conditions are shaped by the rain shadow effect caused by the Cascade Mountains. These mountains act as a natural barrier that significantly reduces rainfall within the valley, which results in the area receiving an average annual precipitation of between 98 and 131 mm.

Due to the limited rainfall, the use of irrigation and the Columbia River are essential to support viticulture in the region. However, this dryness also creates a stable environment that minimizes vintage variation, which  supports the consistent production of high-quality grapes, key for crafting unique wines.

The warmth of the Columbia Valley, alongside its dry conditions, is particularly conducive to growing grapes. The Columbia River, together with its tributaries and the deep aquifers present beneath the valley, supply the critically needed water, making irrigation not just a viable option but a critical practice. This irrigation is fundamental in maintaining the health of the grapevines in such a dry landscape, ensuring that the region can continue to produce premium grapes necessary for high-quality winemaking

The potential Columbia Hills AVA benefits from a unique soil composition that is perfect for viticulture. This area's soil primarily consists of loess, which is windblown silt and sand, layered over gravel and slackwater sediment. Below these layers lies basalt bedrock, which provides a great foundation for vine roots. The loess layer is light and porous, allowing for excellent drainage and aeration of the vine roots. This feature prevents water from pooling at the root level, reducing the risk of diseases and promoting healthy grapevine growth.

The presence of gravel and slackwater sediment in the soil also plays a key role in viticulture. These components help retain heat, which is beneficial during the cooler nights of the region, ensuring a more even ripening process of the grapes. Additionally, the mineral richness of these soils contributes to the nutrient availability for the vines, supporting their development and the complexity of the grapes they produce.

This well-drained, mineral-rich soil types, combined with the region's climate, makes the Columbia Hills area an excellent prospect for obtaining an AVA designation. The unique soil characteristics are conducive to grow a great variety of high-quality grapes that can produce expressive and unique wines, showcasing the terroir of the Columbia Hills area.


The potential Columbia Hills AVA is distinguished for the cultivation of five principal grape varieties, each selected for their adaptability to this particular terroir:

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon: Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in the potential Columbia Hills AVA due to the region's long growing season and marked diurnal temperature variation, key for this late-ripening grape. It prefers well-drained, gravelly soils that retain heat but limit moisture, encouraging the vines to develop deep root systems. This varietal benefits from the area's ample sunshine, which is essential for achieving optimal phenolic ripeness, that allows to obtain wines with a great structure.
  2. Merlot: Merlot is more adaptable to cooler climates compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, making it well-suited for the different microclimates of the potentiasl Columbia Hills AVA. The cooler nights of the region help in maintaining the necessary acid balance within the grapes, a key factor to ensure that Merlot grapes complete its maduration cycle. In addition, it thrives in fertile, clay-based soils that help to retain moisture throughout the warmer growing months.
  3. Syrah: Syrah requires a warm climate to fully ripen but also benefits from the sharp temperature drop in the night, typical of the potential Columbia Hills AVA. This varietal is often planted on slopes facing away from the sun to moderate daytime temperatures. The soil preference for Syrah includes rocky, well-drained soils that can reduce the vigorous growth of the vines, allowing to obtain grapes with concentrated flavors.
  4. Chardonnay: Chardonnay grapes prosper in the warm and sunny conditions of Columbia Hills AVA, with the cool, foggy evenings contributing to a slower ripening process. This balance allows for gradual sugar development in the grapes, while retaining natural acidity. Regarding the soils, Chardonnay prefers deeper, loamy soils which provide steady hydration and enough nutrients throughout the growing season, essential for yielding balanced and healthy fruit.
  5. Riesling: Riesling thrives in the cooler sites of Columbia Hills AVA, where the  temperature variations between day and night help to preserve the grape’s natural acidity. This variety thrives in well-drained, stony soils that reflect sunlight and retain heat. The cool climate is ideal for extending the growing season, allowing Riesling to develop full flavor complexity while maintaining its characteristic acidity.

Each of these grapes, coupled with less planted grapes such as Pinot Noir, benefit from the region's specific climatic and soil conditions, ensuring the production of distinctive and high-quality wines.

The potential Columbia Hills AVA, is known for producing wines that express the unique terroir of the region:

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon: The Cabernet Sauvignon wines from the potential Columbia Hills AVA are robust and have a great structure. They often show a bouquet of aromatic notes whhere notes of dark fruits like blackcurrant and plum predominated,  backed up by earthy undertones of tobacco and sometimes graphite. On the palate, these wines are known for their full body and firm tannins, which makes them great prospects for aging, developing more complex flavors over time.
  2. Merlot: Merlot from this region is appreciated for its softer, more velvety texture compared to Cabernet Sauvignon. In the palate, it usually features ripe, juicy flavors of black cherry and raspberry. On the nose, aromatic notes of cocoa, bay leaf, and vanilla are usually found, adding to its lush and approachable character. This wine is often praised for its smooth finish.
  3. Syrah: Syrah wines from this potential AVA are intense and flavorful, characterized by their deep, dark color and a flavor profile that includes blackberry, blueberry, and boysenberry. Aromatic spicy notes that may remind you to black pepper and anise add complexity in the nose. These wines have a great structure, as well as a meaty, robust mouthfeel, that makes them ideal prospects to pair with hearty dishes.
  4. Chardonnay: Chardonnay wines of Columbia Hills tends to have a bright and refreshing character. In the nose, these wines usually show aromatic notes of green apple, pear, and citrus are common,  complemented by subtler hints of almond or caramel. On the palate, they show a great balance between fruitiness and acidity, often with a silky texture that makes them very praised.
  5. Riesling: Riesling wines from this area are typically vibrant and very aromatic. They show a great range of flavors, from sweet honeysuckle and apricot to zesty lime and green apple. These wines are very praised for their pronounced acidity and minerality, making them both refreshing and capable of aging gracefully.

The wines of Columbia Hills AVA promise to offer a delightful array of taste experiences that highlight the rich potential of this Californian potential appellation.