Naches Heights AVA

Naches Heights AVA

46°43'51.5'' N






about this subregion

Naches Heights AVA Overview

Naches Heights AVA is a unique viticultural area nestled within the larger Columbia Valley AVA in Washington State. This specific designation allows it to benefit from the broader recognition of Columbia Valley while showcasing its distinctive environmental characteristics.

Environmental Characteristics

Situated on an elevated plateau, Naches Heights is distinct for its cooler and wetter climate compared to the lower regions of Columbia Valley. The elevation leads to moderate temperatures and a longer growing season, which are ideal for vine development. The area receives slightly more precipitation due to its proximity to the Cascade Mountains, which enhances its suitability for viticulture without requiring extensive irrigation.

Soil Composition

The soils in Naches Heights AVA are predominantly windblown loess and clay. The loess, a fine silt-like material deposited by wind, provides excellent drainage and fertility, crucial for healthy vine growth. Meanwhile, the clay components of the soil help retain necessary moisture and nutrients, offering a balance that supports vine vigor without excessive growth.

Main Grape Varieties

Naches Heights is renowned for producing several high-quality grape varieties, notably Syrah, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer. These varieties thrive under the AVA's unique climatic and soil conditions, contributing to the region's reputation for producing distinctive and flavorful wines.

The Naches Heights AVA exemplifies the diversity and quality of Washington's wine regions, with its specific environmental attributes fostering a range of grape varieties that reflect the unique terroir of the area.


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Location and Landscape of Naches Heights AVA

General Location

Naches Heights AVA is situated in south-central Washington State, positioned above the Yakima Valley. It is uniquely located on an elevated plateau, providing it with a distinct topographical identity separate from the surrounding regions. This area is part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA but stands out due to its higher elevation and distinct geological features.

Landscape Features

The landscape of Naches Heights AVA is predominantly defined by its plateau, which rises gradually from the surrounding land, offering expansive views over the valley below. The plateau's elevation varies, providing a range of microclimates and terrain conditions beneficial for viticulture. The landscape is largely shaped by a historic volcanic event that laid down layers of andesite rock, giving it a rocky terrain interspersed with areas of loess soil.

The plateau is characterized by gentle slopes that facilitate cold air drainage, a critical feature that helps protect vineyards from frost damage during colder months. The natural slopes and elevation variations within the plateau also contribute to diverse growing conditions, which are exploited to grow different grape varieties effectively.

This area is marked by sparse vegetation on steeper, rockier outcrops, while flatter areas with deeper soil accumulations support the growth of vineyards and other agricultural activities. The overall landscape is a mix of natural rugged beauty and availability of natural resources, making Naches Heights a notable and picturesque wine-growing region in Washington State.

Climate of the Naches Heights AVA

The climate of the Naches Heights AVA, set within the broader Washington wine region, is distinguished by its elevation, leading to cooler and wetter conditions than the surrounding areas. This elevated plateau moderates summer heat and provides relief during peak temperatures, making it ideal for growing grapes that benefit from a longer ripening period. The nights in Naches Heights are notably cooler than the days, a temperature swing that is beneficial for developing a balance of sugars and acids within the grapes, enhancing their flavor and complexity.

Precipitation is slightly higher here compared to lower areas in the Yakima Valley due to its closer proximity to the Cascade Mountains, though it remains low enough to avoid excess moisture-related vine diseases. This climate characteristic reduces the reliance on irrigation, promoting a more natural growth cycle for the vines.

Additionally, the elevation plays a crucial role in minimizing frost risks during the critical spring and fall seasons. Cooler air tends to flow downward off the plateau, helping to protect the developing buds and young fruits from frost damage. This aspect of the climate, combined with a generally longer growing season, supports the cultivation of both red and white grape varieties, allowing them to develop full, robust flavors. The unique climate of Naches Heights AVA thus contributes significantly to the distinctiveness and high quality of its wines.

Most Common Soils of the Naches Heights AVA

The Naches Heights AVA, recognized for its distinctive terroir within the Washington wine region, boasts a unique soil composition that significantly influences the characteristics of the wines produced here. The most prevalent soils in this area are loess and Mollisols, each contributing differently to vine health and grape quality.

  1. Loess: Loess soil is predominantly found throughout the Naches Heights AVA. This soil type is formed from fine, wind-blown dust and silt combined with volcanic rock, which has accumulated over thousands of years. Loess is well-draining yet retains enough moisture to support vine growth without the need for excessive irrigation. Its light and porous structure allow vine roots to penetrate deeply, an advantage during dry periods that helps vines access nutrients and water lower in the soil profile. The fertility and aerated nature of loess make it ideal for cultivating the variety of grapes that thrive in Naches Heights.
  2. Mollisols: Mollisols in the Naches Heights AVA arise significantly from the decomposition of bunchgrass roots, which enrich the soil with organic matter. These soils are typically deep, dark, and fertile, known for their high base saturation and excellent water-retaining capabilities. Mollisols support vigorous vine growth and contribute to the robust development of the grapevines. The organic matter in these soils not only improves soil structure and fertility but also plays a crucial role in water retention and cation exchange capacity, which are vital for maintaining vine health during the growing season.

These soil types, loess and Mollisols, provide a stable and nurturing ground for viticulture, each adding unique characteristics to the wine grapes grown in the Naches Heights AVA. The interaction of these soils with the local climate creates a terroir that is distinctly favorable for producing premium wines with unique qualities reflective of this unique geographical area.


Most Common Grapes of the Naches Heights AVA

The Naches Heights AVA is known for its unique terroir and the diverse variety of grapes it supports. This viticultural area benefits from a distinctive volcanic soil and a climate moderated by its elevation, making it ideal for growing several key varieties of grapes. Below, we explore the agricultural and climatic requirements of the most common grapes found in this region, categorized into red and white varieties.

Most Common Red Grapes

Syrah: Syrah thrives in the cooler, well-drained volcanic soils of Naches Heights AVA. It requires a climate that can offer warm days but cooler nights, a condition perfectly met by this region's elevated terrain. This grape is particularly suited to the area's occasional temperature extremes, as the andesite bedrock underlying the vineyards helps to moderate soil temperatures. Syrah vines are robust, with a preference for drier conditions, aligning well with the area's relatively low precipitation levels.

Most Common White Grapes

  1. Pinot Gris: Pinot Gris in Naches Heights AVA enjoys the cooler climate provided by the region’s higher elevation. This variety demands well-aerated and light soils, which are characteristic of the windblown loess found here. The grape benefits from the cooler growing conditions, which extend the ripening period and allow for gradual sugar accumulation and acidity retention. Irrigation is often necessary to compensate for the lower natural rainfall.
  2. Riesling: Riesling is well-suited to the cooler, moist climate of Naches Heights AVA. It prefers the slightly acidic conditions of the volcanic loess soil, which helps in maintaining high acidity levels in the grapes, crucial for the development of Riesling’s vibrant character. The region’s elevation ensures a long growing season, providing a favorable environment for this late-ripening grape that requires extended hang time to develop its full complexity.
  3. Gewürztraminer: Gewürztraminer finds an ideal setting in Naches Heights due to the cool climate and high elevation. This grape needs a cooler growing season to maintain its characteristic high acidity and to develop its complex profile. The soils of Naches Heights, rich in volcanic minerals, provide excellent drainage, a critical factor for this variety which is prone to root diseases in wetter conditions. The natural breezes help mitigate the risks of fungal diseases, common in cooler, humid climates.

Besides this grapes, producers of the Naches Heghts AVA grow other grape varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and White Muscat.

Most Common Wines of the Naches Heights AVA

The Naches Heights AVA is celebrated for producing distinctive wines that reflect its unique volcanic terroir and the cool, elevated climate conditions. This region is particularly known for a select group of wines made from both red and white grape varieties, each with a unique aromatic and flavor profile that captures the essence of this unique viticultural area. Below, we delve into the profiles of the most popular wines produced in Naches Heights AVA, categorized under red and white wines.

Most Common Red Wines

Syrah: Syrah from Naches Heights AVA is renowned for its rich and aromatic profile, often characterized by vibrant notes of dark berries, black pepper, and sometimes a hint of smoky, meaty undertones. The cooler climate of the AVA allows the Syrah grapes to mature slowly, resulting in wines that balance ripe fruit flavors with a refreshing acidity and robust tannins, making them both complex and highly enjoyable.

Most Common White Wines

Pinot Gris: The Pinot Gris wines from this region are typically crisp and refreshing, featuring a delightful array of floral and fruity aromas, such as pear, apple, and hints of citrus. On the palate, these wines offer a vibrant acidity that is balanced by a medium body and a smooth texture, making them very approachable and versatile for pairing with a variety of dishes.

Riesling: Riesling from Naches Heights is well-appreciated for its aromatic complexity, displaying a beautiful bouquet of sweet citrus, peach, and floral notes, complemented by a striking minerality. The cool growing conditions contribute to the wine's pronounced acidity and sweetness, creating a well-balanced Riesling that can range from dry to sweet, catering to a wide range of palates.

Gewürztraminer: Gewürztraminer from this AVA is distinctively aromatic, offering an enticing perfume of rose petals, lychee, and spices. These wines are full-bodied with a lush texture and a palate that echoes the nose with additional hints of tropical fruits. The interplay of sweetness and acidity in Gewürztraminer from Naches Heights makes it a memorable wine, often favored for its bold and exotic flavor profile.

These wines, coupled with other like Cabernet Sauvignon, reflect the unique terroir of Naches Heights AVA, which contribute to their distinctive characteristics and quality.