Red Mountain AVA

Red Mountain AVA

46° 16' 52" N


119° 25' 28" W




about this subregion

Overview of the Red Mountain AVA

The Red Mountain AVA is contained in the Yakima Valley AVA,  within the broader Columbia Valley AVA in Washington, United States. This small but prestigious wine-growing region is renowned for its unique environment that contributes to the production of high-quality wines. The first vines of this region were planted by John Williams and Jim Holmes in 1975, three years after that they saw a great potential for viticulture in the area.


The climate of Red Mountain AVA is characterized by its warm, arid conditions with daytime temperatures averaging around 90°F (32°C) and nighttime temperatures dropping below 50°F (10°C). This significant diurnal temperature variation helps maintain the acidity in the grapes, crucial for balanced wines. The region receives an average annual rainfall of just 7 inches, mostly occurring outside the growing season, which minimizes the risk of mold and mildew. The consistent winds from the southwest also help to keep grape clusters small and concentrated, enhancing the intensity of the fruit​​​​​​.


The predominant soils in the Red Mountain AVA are sandy loam and gravel. These soils provide excellent drainage, preventing waterlogging and promoting healthy vine growth. Sandy loam is rich in minerals, while gravelly soils facilitate deep root development and heat retention, both contributing to the production of grapes with concentrated flavors and balanced acidity​​​​.

Main Grape Varieties

The primary grape varieties grown in the Red Mountain AVA include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. These grapes thrive in the region’s unique climate and soil conditions, allowing the production of wines with remarkable concentration, structure, and complexity​​.


The Red Mountain AVA’s distinct environment and soil composition make it a standout region within Washington's wine industry, particularly for its exceptional red wines.


vinerra illustration

Vineyard Hectares





Discover Terroir

Characteristics of the Landscape in the Red Mountain AVA

The Red Mountain AVA, located in south-central Washington, is known for its distinctive landscape features that contribute to its reputation as a premier wine-growing region.

Geography and Formation

The landscape of Red Mountain was shaped by repeated ice-age flooding from Glacial Lake Missoula over 10,000 years ago. These floods deposited nutrient-rich topsoils over the area's sand, silt, and gravel, creating a unique terroir ideal for viticulture. This process configured the region into gentle, soft mountain slopes, providing an excellent foundation for vineyard development.

Slope and Sun Exposure

Red Mountain features a classic southwest slope, which is highly desirable for viticulture. This slope orientation allows vineyards to receive prolonged sunlight exposure and warmth throughout the day. This aspect is crucial for the ripening of grapes, leading to the development of ripe tannins and concentrated flavors, characteristic of Red Mountain wines.


The elevation of Red Mountain ranges from 500 to 1,500 feet above sea level. This variation in altitude contributes to the diversity of microclimates within the AVA. Higher elevations experience cooler temperatures, which can extend the growing season and enhance the complexity and minerality of the wines. The lower elevations benefit from the ample heat needed for optimal grape ripening.

Wind and Air Drainage

The region experiences frequent and strong winds from the southwest, which play a significant role in the viticulture of Red Mountain. These winds help to keep grape clusters small and concentrate their flavors, adding to the intensity of the wines. Additionally, the natural air drainage down the slopes helps prevent frost from settling in the vineyards during autumn, protecting the grapes from damage.

Vegetation and Appearance

Despite its name, Red Mountain is not particularly red or mountainous. The area takes on a reddish hue in the springtime due to the presence of cheatgrass among the sagebrush. The landscape is predominantly covered with vineyards, interspersed with areas of natural vegetation, contributing to its unique visual appeal.

Proximity to the Yakima River

The proximity of the Yakima River provides a moderating effect on temperatures and continuous airflow through the vineyards. This natural feature helps maintain the balance of acidity in the grapes by cooling the vineyards during the night, which is essential for producing high-quality wines with exceptional structure and balance.

The combination of these landscape characteristics makes Red Mountain AVA a unique and highly regarded wine-growing region, known for producing wines with remarkable color, strength, and richness​​​​​​​​​​.

Climate of the Red Mountain AVA

The Red Mountain AVA, located in south-central Washington, is renowned for its unique climate that significantly contributes to the quality of its wines. Here are the key characteristics of the climate in this region:


Red Mountain is one of Washington’s warmest wine-growing areas, with daytime temperatures averaging around 90°F (32°C) during the growing season. Nighttime temperatures often drop below 50°F (10°C), creating significant diurnal temperature variations. These temperature swings are crucial for maintaining the acidity and balance in the grapes, leading to wines with excellent structure and complexity​​​​.

Sun Exposure

The region benefits from a southwest-facing slope, providing prolonged sun exposure throughout the day. This aspect ensures that the vineyards receive ample warmth, which is essential for the ripening of the grapes. The extended sunlight exposure is particularly beneficial for developing the tannins and flavors in red grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah​​​​.


Red Mountain has a desert-like climate with very low annual rainfall, averaging just 7 inches per year. Most of this precipitation occurs outside the growing season, reducing the risk of mold and mildew on the vines. The dry conditions necessitate the use of drip irrigation, allowing growers to manage water precisely and ensure optimal growth and fruit quality​​​​.


The area experiences frequent and strong winds from the southwest. These winds help to keep grape clusters small and concentrated, enhancing the richness and intensity of the fruit. The winds also provide a natural air drainage system that prevents frost from settling in the vineyards during the cooler months, protecting the grapes from damage​​​​.


Red Mountain's unique microclimate results from its geographical and topographical features. The combination of high latitude, diverse topography, and proximity to the Yakima River creates an environment with more growing degree days (GDD) than any other region in Washington. This microclimate supports the development of full-bodied, powerfully tannic wines with distinct minerality​​​​.

Most Common Soils in Red Mountain AVA

The soils of the Red Mountain AVA play a crucial role in the quality and characteristics of its wines. The region's unique soil composition, formed by ancient geological events, provides an ideal environment for grape growing. The most common soils in Red Mountain are sandy loam and gravel, both characterized for its richness in calcium carbonate.

  1. Sandy Loam: Sandy loam soils are prevalent in the Red Mountain AVA. These soils are well-drained and have a granular texture that allows for good root penetration. The sandy component ensures that the soil does not retain excess moisture, reducing the risk of fungal diseases and promoting healthy vine growth. Sandy loam is rich in minerals, providing essential nutrients to the vines and supporting the development of strong root systems. This type of soil helps in producing grapes with concentrated flavors and balanced acidity, crucial for high-quality wine production​​​​.
  2. Gravel: Gravelly soils are another significant component of the Red Mountain AVA's terroir. These soils are characterized by their coarse texture and excellent drainage properties. Gravel allows for quick water runoff, preventing waterlogging and ensuring that the vines are not exposed to excessive moisture. This soil type encourages deep root growth, which helps vines access nutrients from deeper layers and increases their resilience to drought conditions. Gravel soils also contribute to the retention of heat, which is beneficial for ripening grapes and enhancing the phenolic content, leading to wines with greater depth and complexity​​​​.


Most Common Grapes from the Red Mountain AVA

The Red Mountain AVA is renowned for its exceptional red grape varieties. This region's unique combination of soil, climate, and topography makes it an ideal location for growing high-quality grapes.

Most Common Red Grapes

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon: Cabernet Sauvignon is a hardy grape that thrives in the warm climate of Red Mountain. It requires a long growing season with plenty of sunlight to ripen fully. The grape benefits from the region's hot days and cool nights, which help to maintain acidity while allowing the grapes to develop rich tannins and deep color. Cabernet Sauvignon vines are known for their resistance to disease and adaptability to various soil types, making them well-suited to the well-drained, gravelly loam soils of Red Mountain.
  2. Merlot: Merlot is another popular grape in Red Mountain, appreciated for its ability to ripen earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. It prefers slightly cooler temperatures and can tolerate a variety of soil conditions, although it thrives best in clay-rich soils that retain moisture. The grape requires sufficient heat to develop its characteristic softness and rich flavors. The diurnal temperature variation in Red Mountain, with hot days and cool nights, is ideal for preserving the grape's natural acidity and achieving balanced ripeness.
  3. Syrah: Syrah is well-suited to the warm and dry climate of Red Mountain. This grape variety requires a lot of sunlight and heat to reach its full potential, making the region's high growing degree days (GDD) ideal. Syrah vines prefer well-drained soils, such as the sandy loam and gravelly soils found in Red Mountain. The minimal rainfall in the area reduces the risk of fungal diseases, while the controlled irrigation helps maintain optimal moisture levels for the vines.
  4. Cabernet Franc: Cabernet Franc is a versatile grape that can adapt to various soil types but prefers well-drained, sandy, or gravelly soils. It thrives in the moderate to warm climate of Red Mountain, where the hot days and cool nights help maintain its natural acidity. This grape requires a longer growing season to develop its complex characteristics fully. The region's low rainfall and high sunlight exposure provide ideal conditions for Cabernet Franc to ripen slowly and evenly.
  5. Petit Verdot: Petit Verdot is a late-ripening grape that benefits from the long growing season and abundant sunshine of Red Mountain. It thrives in well-drained soils, particularly those with high gravel content. The grape requires a lot of heat to reach full maturity, making the warm climate of Red Mountain ideal. Petit Verdot vines are relatively resistant to disease and can handle the dry conditions of the region, thanks to controlled irrigation practices.
  6. Malbec: Malbec is a grape that thrives in the sunny, dry conditions of Red Mountain. It requires a lot of heat and sunlight to develop its characteristic dark color and intense flavors. The grape prefers well-drained soils, such as those found in Red Mountain, which help prevent waterlogging and reduce disease risk. The region's significant temperature variations between day and night are beneficial for maintaining acidity and achieving balanced ripeness in Malbec grapes.

The Red Mountain AVA provides an exceptional environment for growing a wide range of red grapes. The combination of warm days, cool nights, and well-drained soils creates ideal conditions for these grape varieties to thrive.

The Red Mountain AVA, nestled in the heart of Washington State, is renowned for its world-class wines. This region, with its unique combination of soil, climate, and topography, produces some of the most intense and concentrated wines in the state. Red Mountain's wines are characterized by their depth, complexity, and robust flavors, making them highly sought after by wine enthusiasts.

Most Common Red Varietals

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon: Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Mountain is celebrated for its deep, black fruit concentration, featuring aromas of black cherry and cassis. The wine often has a lower juice-to-skin ratio, resulting in smaller berries and thicker skins. This contributes to a wine with intense flavors, robust tannins, and the ability to integrate beautifully with oak, adding layers of vanilla and spice to the dark fruit profile​​​​.
  2. Syrah: Red Mountain Syrah is known for its full-bodied and pronounced flavors. The aromatic profile includes notes of dark berries, spice, earth, and occasionally a hint of meatiness. On the palate, the wine is rich and smooth, with flavors of blackberries, plums, and a subtle smokiness that adds to its complexity​​​​.
  3. Merlot: Merlot from this region is rich and velvety, offering a smooth texture with robust flavors. Aromas of ripe red fruits like cherries and raspberries are complemented by hints of chocolate and herbs. The palate is typically well-rounded, with a balanced acidity that enhances the fruitiness and adds to the wine's overall structure​​​​.
  4. Cabernet Franc: This varietal presents a complex aromatic profile of red berries, herbs, and a touch of spice. On the palate, it is elegant and structured, with flavors of raspberries, bell pepper, and a hint of graphite. The wine is known for its refined tannins and bright acidity, making it a versatile and enjoyable wine​​​​.

Most Common Red Blends

  1. Bordeaux-style Blends: These blends typically include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. The aromatic profile is complex, with layers of blackberries, cassis, plums, and cherries, complemented by notes of cedar, tobacco, and dark chocolate. The flavor profile is equally rich, with a full-bodied texture, firm tannins, and a long, elegant finish​​​​​​.
  2. Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot Blend: This blend is characterized by the robust structure of Cabernet Sauvignon and the smooth, velvety texture of Merlot. Aromas of black cherry, cassis, and dark chocolate are prominent, with flavors of ripe black fruits, spice, and oak. The tannins are firm yet well-integrated, leading to a balanced and lingering finish​​​​.
  3. Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah-Merlot Blend: A unique blend that combines the strengths of each varietal: the intense fruit and tannic structure of Cabernet Sauvignon, the spiciness and body of Syrah, and the smoothness of Merlot. Aromas of blackberry, plum, and pepper are followed by flavors of dark fruits, spices, and a touch of oak, resulting in a well-rounded and complex wine​​​​.

But not everything is about red wines in the Red Mountain AVA. Although less common, there is a growing popularity of white wines from this region. Some of the white wines that deserve more attention are the Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blends, a Bourdeaux-style blend, and the Arneis wines, that are very aromatic.