If you enjoy robust red wines, the wines of the Columbia Gorge American Viticultural Area (AVA) are for you. This AVA is located in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, the famous gorge Lewis and Clark traveled through in 1805 on their way to the Pacific (part of the Columbia Valley AVA is also located here.) This AVA encompasses both Oregon and Washington wine regions, including 40 vineyards, 31 wineries and 350 acres of vineyard. For more information on the Columbia Gorge AVA, as well as its wineries, vineyards, and recommended wines, see below.
History. The first vines were planted in the Columbia Gorge in the 1880s, but the wine region did not begin to
expand until the 1970s, with the planting of vineyards on the southern slopes of the Underwood Mountains in Washington. The Columbia Gorge appellation was approved in 2004.
Climate and Soil. The Columbia Gorge AVA has drastic climate changes in its different regions, including cooler western areas that receive 36 inches of rain and eastern regions with a desert climate that receives only ten inches. The soils are silty loams that have accumulated over time from volcanic eruptions, floods and landslides. The Columbia Gorge is recognized as an area for growing world-class grapes.
Wines. The Columbia Gorge AVA produces predominantly Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Riesling wines. For more information on the vineyards and wineries of Columbia Gorge, as well as some recommended wines, see below.
Cascade Cliffs Winery and Vineyard. A family owned Washington winery that specializes in red wines, including Barbera, Dolcetto, and Nebbiolo, as well as French varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. This winery uses three kinds of oak in the aging process to create their signature wine style. To sample some of the best from this Washington winery, try the 2008 Barbera, with black cherry and currant flavors. For more information on this Columbia Gorge winery and its Washington wines, click here.
Cathedral Ridge Winery. Located in Oregon, this Columbia Gorge winery produces 10,000 cases of wine each year, including Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chardonnay, among others. Try their 2006 Syrah, an Oregon wine with aromas that include black pepper, followed by flavors of blackberry and other dark fruits. Their 2007 Huber Pinot Noir is also an outstanding Oregon wine, with aromas of cherry and raspberry followed by flavors of spices and strawberries. For more information on this Columbia Gorge winery and its Oregon wines, click here.
Maryhill Winery. This Washington winery and its vineyards produce 80,000 cases of wine each year, including Syrah, Grenache and Riesling, among others. Their 2007 Zinfandel is an outstanding wine, with aromas of cherries and chocolates, and flavors of vanilla and fruit. Also try their 2008 Viognier, a wine with honeysuckle aromas followed by flavors of green apple and honey. For more information on this Columbia Gorge winery and its Washington wines, click here.