Rocky Reach AVA

Rocky Reach AVA

47° 40' 00'' N


120° 20' 00'' W




about this subregion

Overview of the Rocky Beach AVA

The Rocky Reach AVA is a distinct subregion within the broader Columbia Valley AVA in Washington state. Straddling the Columbia River, this AVA is known for its unique environment that significantly influences its viticulture.


The Rocky Reach AVA is characterized by a warm climate, thanks to its lower elevation within a deep canyon formed by the Columbia River. This location results in higher temperatures and a longer growing season compared to surrounding areas, which are essential for ripening various grape varieties. The average annual precipitation is around 11 inches, necessitating efficient water management practices to support the vineyards. The Columbia River plays a crucial role in moderating the climate, providing a stable environment for grape growing​​​​​​.


The soils in the Rocky Reach AVA are diverse and contribute to the unique terroir of the region. The most common soils are loess, cobblestones, and gravel. Loess, composed of windblown silt and sand, offers excellent drainage and nutrient retention. Cobblestone soils warm quickly and radiate heat, creating a stable microclimate around the vines. Gravel soils, known for their coarse texture, provide superb drainage and support deep root growth, essential for vine health and resilience​​​​​​.

Main Grape Varieties

The primary grape varieties grown in the Rocky Reach AVA include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Malbec, and Carmenere. These grapes, coupled with other less planted grapes like Pinot Noir, thrive in the region’s warm climate and well-drained soils, contributing to the production of high-quality wines that showcase the distinctive characteristics of this unique AVA.


vinerra illustration

Vineyard Hectares



3200-3500 GDD


Discover Terroir

The Rocky Reach AVA of Washington state, established in 2022, is characterized by its unique landscape, which influences the characteristics of the grapes and wines from the region.


The landscape of the Rocky Reach AVA is marked by a deep canyon carved by the Columbia River. This canyon creates dramatic scenery with steep walls and flat-topped terraces along the riverbanks, which are ideal for viticulture. The terraces, located near the valley floor, provide a stable foundation for vineyards, ensuring good drainage and protection from extreme weather conditions. These terraces are a defining feature of the region, offering unique microclimates that benefit grape growing.

The Columbia River and Reservoir

A significant portion of the Rocky Reach AVA, approximately 24%, is covered by the Columbia River and the Rocky Reach Reservoir. This water body not only shapes the physical landscape but also plays a crucial role in moderating the climate. The river's presence adds to the scenic beauty of the AVA and creates a natural barrier that helps protect the vineyards from pests and diseases commonly found in more inland areas.

Geological Features

The geological composition of the Rocky Reach AVA includes crystalline basement bedrock, which is rare in the Columbia Valley, where basalt bedrock is more common. This bedrock, combined with cobblestones and gravel deposits from ancient glacial outwash, creates a unique soil structure that supports deep-rooting vines. The presence of these materials contributes to the region's distinctive terroir, influencing the mineral content and drainage capacity of the soils.

Natural Beauty and Viticulture

The Rocky Reach AVA's landscape is not only functional for viticulture but also visually stunning. The juxtaposition of steep canyon walls, the flowing river, and meticulously maintained vineyards creates a picturesque environment. This natural beauty attracts both viticulturists and tourists, enhancing the region's appeal as a destination for wine enthusiasts.

The distinctive topography, significant water features, and unique geological composition of the Rocky Reach AVA make it a remarkable area for viticulture.

Climate of the Rocky Reach AVA

The Rocky Reach AVA has a distinct climate that significantly influences its viticulture. The AVA is characterized by its lower elevation, warmer temperatures, and unique microclimate created by the Columbia River.


The Rocky Reach AVA experiences considerably warmer temperatures compared to surrounding regions. This is due to its lower elevation within a deep canyon formed by the Columbia River. The warmer climate allows for a longer growing season, which is essential for ripening various grape varieties, particularly those that thrive in heat, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Malbec, and Syrah​​​​.

Growing Season

The extended growing season in the Rocky Reach AVA is a result of its warmer temperatures. This longer period allows grapes to fully mature, enhancing the quality and complexity of the wines produced. The growing season's length is crucial for developing the flavors and characteristics that are unique to the wines of this AVA​​​​.


The Rocky Reach AVA receives an average annual precipitation of around 11 inches. This relatively low amount of rainfall necessitates efficient water management and irrigation practices to support the vineyards. The Columbia River and the Rocky Reach Reservoir provide essential water resources, ensuring that the vines receive adequate moisture despite the limited rainfall​​​​.

Moderating Influence of the Columbia River

The Columbia River plays a significant role in moderating the climate of the Rocky Reach AVA. It helps to temper temperature extremes, providing a more stable environment for grape cultivation. The river's presence contributes to creating a unique microclimate that benefits viticulture in this region​​​​.

Most Common Soils in the Rocky Reach AVA

The Rocky Reach AVA, part of the Columbia Valley in Washington State, is known for its unique and varied soils that contribute significantly to the quality and characteristics of its wines. The most common soils in this AVA are loess, cobblestones, and gravel.

  1. Loess: Loess is a type of soil composed of windblown silt and sand. It is highly prevalent in the Rocky Reach AVA and throughout the Columbia Valley. Loess soils are known for their excellent drainage and ability to retain nutrients, making them ideal for viticulture. These soils provide a stable environment for vine roots, helping them to grow deeply and access essential minerals. The fine-grained texture of loess also allows for good air circulation around the roots, promoting healthy vine growth​​​​.
  2. Cobblestones: Cobblestone soils are another common feature in the Rocky Reach AVA. These soils consist of rounded stones that were deposited by ancient glacial floods. The cobblestones warm up quickly during the day and retain heat, radiating it back to the vines during cooler periods. This helps to create a more stable microclimate around the vines, protecting them from temperature extremes. Additionally, the spaces between the stones facilitate excellent drainage, preventing waterlogging and reducing the risk of root diseases​​​​.
  3. Gravel: Gravel soils in the Rocky Reach AVA are composed of small, coarse rock fragments. Like cobblestones, gravel soils provide excellent drainage and help to regulate the temperature around the vine roots. Gravelly soils are often mixed with loess, enhancing their ability to retain nutrients while still offering good drainage. The structure of gravel soils encourages deep root growth, which is essential for accessing water and nutrients during dry periods. This contributes to the resilience and overall health of the grapevines​​​​.


Most Common Grapes from the Rocky Reach AVA

The Rocky Reach AVA is known for its unique terroir and favorable climatic conditions that support the cultivation of high-quality wine grapes. The region's soils, composed of cobblestones and gravels overlaid with windblown sand and silt, combined with a warmer climate and longer growing season, make it an ideal location for growing different red grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Malbec, and Carmenere.

Most Common Red Grapes

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon: Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in the Rocky Reach AVA due to the region's warm climate and well-drained soils. This grape variety requires a long growing season to reach full ripeness, which the AVA's climate provides. The cobblestone and gravel soils help in warming the vines quickly and maintaining the necessary heat throughout the day. Additionally, the deep-rooting encouraged by these soils ensures the vines have access to essential nutrients and water, which is crucial for the healthy growth of Cabernet Sauvignon.
  2. Cabernet Franc: Cabernet Franc, a versatile grape variety, also benefits from the Rocky Reach AVA's conditions. This grape requires a slightly cooler climate compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, but the region's warm days and cooler nights create a suitable environment. The well-drained soils prevent waterlogging and reduce the risk of diseases, which is essential for maintaining the health of Cabernet Franc vines. The longer growing season allows the grapes to develop fully, ensuring good quality and yield.
  3. Grenache: Grenache is well-suited to the Rocky Reach AVA's hot, dry climate. This grape variety is drought-tolerant and thrives in the region's cobblestone and gravel soils, which provide excellent drainage. The warm temperatures help Grenache vines to ripen fully, which is necessary for this late-ripening variety. Additionally, the soil's ability to retain heat ensures that the vines are kept warm even during cooler periods, promoting steady growth and fruit development.
  4. Malbec: Malbec requires ample sunlight and a warm climate, both of which are abundantly available in the Rocky Reach AVA. This grape variety benefits from the region's well-drained, rocky soils, which help to prevent excessive moisture and promote healthy root development. The warm growing season in Rocky Reach allows Malbec grapes to mature fully, which is crucial for achieving the best possible yield and quality.
  5. Carmenere: Carmenere, known for its preference for warmer climates, finds an ideal environment in the Rocky Reach AVA. The region's long, warm growing season ensures that Carmenere grapes can ripen completely. The cobblestone and gravel soils provide excellent drainage and help to maintain the necessary heat, preventing the vines from becoming waterlogged and promoting robust growth. The consistent warmth and soil conditions in Rocky Reach support the healthy development of Carmenere vines, making it one of the common grapes in the area.

The combination of  warm climate, long growing season, and well-drained, heat-retaining soils makes the Rocky Reach AVA an ideal region for cultivating Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Malbec, and Carmenere, as well as other less planted grapes such as Pinot Noir.

The Rocky Reach AVA is celebrated for its exceptional terroir that fosters the growth of high-quality wine grapes. The region's climate, coupled with the cobblestone and gravel soils, contribute to the unique aromatic and flavor profiles of its wines.

Most Common Red Wines

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon: Cabernet Sauvignon from the Rocky Reach AVA is known for its rich and fruity aroma, featuring notes of plum, cherry, and red currant. The flavor profile is robust, with a delightful balance of polished tannins and juicy acidity. These wines often present a full-bodied character with a harmonious blend of fruit and subtle hints of earthiness, making them both generous and age-worthy​​​​.
  2. Cabernet Franc: Cabernet Franc wines from Rocky Reach typically exhibit a vibrant bouquet of red berries, particularly raspberry and strawberry, with a touch of floral notes. On the palate, these wines are smooth and medium-bodied, showcasing a refined balance of acidity and tannins. The flavor often includes a mix of ripe fruit with a slight herbal undertone, adding complexity and depth​​​​.
  3. Grenache: Grenache from the Rocky Reach AVA is distinguished by its bright and aromatic profile. The nose is filled with red fruit aromas such as strawberry and raspberry, complemented by subtle spicy notes. In the mouth, Grenache is usually light to medium-bodied, offering a fresh and fruity experience with a hint of spice and a pleasingly soft finish​​​​.
  4. Malbec: Malbec wines from this AVA are noted for their lush and expressive aromas of blueberry and blackberry. The flavor profile is rich and full-bodied, with layers of dark fruit flavors, including boysenberry and black cherry. These wines often feature a velvety texture with well-integrated tannins and a touch of spice, making them both complex and approachable​​​​.
  5. Carmenere: Carmenere from Rocky Reach presents a distinctive aromatic profile of dark fruit, such as black plum and blackberry, combined with earthy and spicy notes. The flavor is typically bold and full-bodied, with a smooth and velvety mouthfeel. The wines often have a pronounced fruitiness, balanced by hints of pepper and a long, satisfying finish​​​​.

Besides these wines, there are other wine styles gaining popularity, such as Pinot Noir.