Snipes Mountain AVA

Snipes Mountain AVA

46°18'58" N


120°05'08" W




about this subregion

Overview of the Snipes Mountain AVA

The Snipes Mountain AVA, established in 2009, is a sub-appellation of the Yakima Valley AVA, which itself is part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA in Washington State. This region is recognized for its unique environment, which supports the cultivation of a variety of high-quality grape varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Viognier.


The Snipes Mountain AVA is characterized by its distinct geological and climatic conditions. The area features a seven-mile-long anticline ridge with elevations ranging from 750 to 1,300 feet. This ridge, composed of ancient gravel deposits from the Columbia River, provides excellent drainage and heat retention, crucial for grape ripening.


The climate of Snipes Mountain AVA is warm and dry, benefiting from its position in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains. The region experiences significant diurnal temperature variation, with warm days and cool nights, which helps in maintaining the balance between acidity and ripeness in grapes. The area receives an average annual precipitation of about 7 inches, necessitating controlled irrigation to ensure vine health.


The soils in Snipes Mountain are predominantly composed of loess over Missoula Flood sediment, along with gravel deposits from the ancient flow of the Columbia River. These well-drained soils are ideal for viticulture, reducing vine vigor and promoting the growth of smaller, more concentrated berries.

Main Grape Varieties

Snipes Mountain AVA is known for producing high-quality wines from various grape varieties, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Viognier being the most prominent. These grapes thrive in the region’s unique soil and climate conditions, contributing to the AVA’s reputation for excellence in wine production.


vinerra illustration

Vineyard Hectares





Discover Terroir

Landscape Characteristics of the Snipes Mountain AVA

The Snipes Mountain AVA, established in 2009, is located within the Yakima Valley of Washington State. It encompasses 4,145 acres and is known for its distinctive landscape features, which significantly contribute to the region's viticultural identity.

Geographical Formation

Snipes Mountain itself is part of the Yakima Fold Belt, a series of geological folds that define many of Washington’s viticultural areas. The AVA is characterized by its seven-mile-long anticline ridge, which reaches an elevation of up to 1,290 feet. This natural upwelling has created a unique topography distinct from the surrounding valley floor, which was largely altered by the Missoula Floods. The ridge’s elevation protects it from frost, which can impact lower-lying areas.

Terrain and Slopes

The landscape of Snipes Mountain includes steep north and south-facing slopes. These slopes are beneficial for viticulture as they allow cold air to flow downhill, reducing the risk of frost damage. The varied aspects of these slopes also provide diverse microclimates, which are advantageous for growing a range of grape varieties. The slopes' orientations ensure that vineyards receive ample sunlight, essential for grape ripening.

Unique Features

One of the most distinctive features of Snipes Mountain's landscape is the presence of large cobblestones, remnants of ancient riverbeds. These cobbles retain heat and reflect it back into the vines, much like the galets found in the Rhône Valley. This characteristic helps to enhance the ripening process of the grapes.

Climate of the Snipes Mountain AVA

The Snipes Mountain AVA, located in the Yakima Valley of Washington State, enjoys a warm and dry climate, ideal for viticulture. This climate is heavily influenced by the region's geographical features and its position within the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountain range.

Temperature and Sunlight

The AVA benefits from abundant sunlight, which is crucial for ripening grapes. The region experiences long, hot summers with significant diurnal temperature variation, where warm days are followed by cool nights. This temperature variation is beneficial for maintaining acidity in the grapes while allowing for the development of complex flavors.

Precipitation and Irrigation

Snipes Mountain receives low annual precipitation, averaging about 7 inches per year. This necessitates the use of irrigation to provide the necessary water for grapevines. The controlled irrigation practices help ensure consistent vine health and grape quality.

Wind and Air Drainage

The elevation of Snipes Mountain, ranging from 750 to 1,300 feet above sea level, provides excellent air drainage, which helps to mitigate the risk of frost. The vineyards are also exposed to cooling breezes during the summer, which help moderate the heat and further protect the vines from extreme temperature variations.

Influence of the Cascade Mountains

The AVA is situated within the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains, which significantly reduces the amount of moisture that reaches the area. This dry climate, combined with the elevation and unique soil composition, creates ideal conditions for growing a wide variety of grape types, from robust reds to aromatic whites.

Most Common Soils of the Snipes Mountain AVA

The Snipes Mountain AVA is known for its unique soil composition, which is the result of the combination of geological events and river activity over thousands of years. Next, we explore the most common soil types found in the Snipes Mountain AVA:

  1. Loess Over Missoula Flood Sediment: Loess is a type of fine, wind-deposited sediment primarily composed of silt, with smaller amounts of clay and sand. In Snipes Mountain AVA, loess is often found overlying sediment deposits from the ancient Missoula Floods. These floods, which occurred during the last ice age, left behind layers of fertile soil. The loess provides excellent drainage and a loose structure that allows vine roots to penetrate deeply, accessing essential nutrients and moisture. This combination of loess and flood sediment contributes to the development of robust and healthy grapevines​​​​​​.
  2. Gravel Deposits from Ancient Flow of Columbia River: Another significant soil component in the Snipes Mountain AVA is gravel deposits from the ancient flow of the Columbia River. These deposits consist of cobblestones and larger rocks, which were carried and deposited by the river thousands of years ago. The gravelly soils are well-drained and low in organic material, which stresses the vines and reduces their vigor. This stress results in the production of smaller berries with more concentrated flavors and higher quality grapes. The heat retention properties of the gravel also help to moderate the temperature around the vines, promoting even ripening of the fruit​​​​​​.


Most Common Grapes from the Snipes Mountain AVA

The Snipes Mountain AVA, situated within the Yakima Valley in the Columbia Valley AVA of Washington State, is renowned for its unique combination of ancient soils, varied elevations, and warm, dry climate, that makes it an ideal location for growing a wide range of grape varieties. Among these, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Viognier are the most commonly grown.

Most Common Red Grapes

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon: Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in the Snipes Mountain AVA due to the region's warm, dry climate and well-drained soils. The vineyards benefit from elevations ranging from 229 meters to 396 meters, which provide ample sunlight and cooling breezes. This grape requires a long growing season to develop its full potential, and the AVA's significant diurnal temperature variation helps maintain the balance between acidity and ripeness. Consistent irrigation is necessary due to the low annual precipitation of about 7 inches.
  2. Syrah: Syrah is well-suited to the Snipes Mountain AVA, where the combination of warm temperatures and varied elevations creates optimal growing conditions. The south-facing slopes of the AVA ensure that the Syrah vines receive maximum sunlight, aiding in the development of the grape's robust characteristics. The region's well-drained, rocky soils help in reducing vine vigor and promoting the growth of smaller, more concentrated berries. Controlled irrigation practices are essential to provide adequate moisture throughout the growing season.
  3. Merlot: Merlot benefits from the unique soil composition and climatic conditions of the Snipes Mountain AVA. The ancient gravel deposits and loess soils offer excellent drainage, which is crucial for preventing root diseases and ensuring healthy vine growth. The moderate temperatures and consistent sunlight exposure in the AVA support the development of Merlot's smooth and rich profile. Like other varieties in the region, Merlot requires careful irrigation management due to the limited rainfall.

Most Common White Grapes

  1. Chardonnay: Chardonnay thrives in the diverse microclimates of the Snipes Mountain AVA. The higher elevations provide cooler temperatures, which are beneficial for maintaining the grape's natural acidity. The well-drained soils prevent waterlogging and support deep root development, essential for the vine's health. The region's long growing season allows Chardonnay grapes to ripen fully while retaining their crispness and balance. Irrigation is carefully managed to ensure the vines receive adequate water without excess.
  2. Viognier: Viognier is particularly well-suited to the warm, dry climate of the Snipes Mountain AVA. The grape requires a lot of sunlight to fully ripen, and the region's elevation and south-facing slopes provide optimal exposure. The well-drained, rocky soils of the AVA help control vine vigor, leading to the production of high-quality grapes. Consistent irrigation is vital to support the vine's growth, given the area's low annual precipitation. The warm temperatures and long growing season allow Viognier to develop its characteristic richness and complexity.

The Snipes Mountain AVA offers a unique terroir that is highly conducive to the cultivation of a wide range of grapes, among which stand out Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay and Viognier. In addition to these grapes, there are other varieties produced within the region, such as Cabernet Franc.

Most Common Wines from the Snipes Mountain AVA

The Snipes Mountain AVA of Washington State is known for its exceptional terroir, which supports the cultivation of many grape varieties , leading to a wide range of exquisite wines. The signature wines from this region are Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Viognier. 

Most Common Red Wines

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon: Cabernet Sauvignon from Snipes Mountain is renowned for its deep and complex profile. These wines typically exhibit rich aromas of blackcurrant, blackberry, and cassis, with subtle hints of cedar and tobacco. On the palate, they offer flavors of dark fruits, such as black cherry and plum, complemented by notes of vanilla and spice from oak aging. The wines are full-bodied with firm tannins and a long, smooth finish, making them both robust and refined​​​​.
  2. Syrah: Syrah wines from Snipes Mountain are distinguished by their bold and intense character. They often feature powerful aromas of black pepper, smoked meat, and dark berries like blackberry and blueberry. The flavor profile includes rich layers of black fruit, licorice, and earthy undertones. These wines are full-bodied with a velvety texture and balanced acidity, offering a complex and satisfying drinking experience​​​​.
  3. Merlot: Merlot from Snipes Mountain is celebrated for its smooth and approachable profile. These wines typically present aromas of ripe plum, cherry, and chocolate, with a hint of herbal undertones. On the palate, they are rich and plush, showcasing flavors of red and black fruits, along with soft tannins and a balanced, velvety finish. The wines are well-rounded and versatile, making them a favorite among wine enthusiasts​​​​.

Most Common White Wines

  1. Chardonnay: Chardonnay from Snipes Mountain is known for its crisp and refreshing qualities. These wines typically offer bright aromas of green apple, pear, and citrus, with subtle notes of vanilla and toast from oak aging. On the palate, they are medium to full-bodied with flavors of apple, melon, and a touch of minerality. The well-balanced acidity and clean finish make these Chardonnays both vibrant and elegant​​​​.
  2. Viognier: Viognier from Snipes Mountain stands out for its aromatic intensity and rich texture. These wines present fragrant aromas of peach, apricot, and honeysuckle, often with floral notes like jasmine. The flavor profile is lush and exotic, featuring ripe stone fruits, hints of citrus, and a creamy mouthfeel. Viognier wines from this region tend to have a slightly lower acidity, giving them a smooth and round finish that is both luxurious and complex​​​​.

The Snipes Mountain AVA produces a diverse range of high-quality wines, each with a unique aromatic and flavor profile that reflects the unique terroir of the region. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Viognier are among the most notable wines, offering wine enthusiasts a rich and varied tasting experience.