Cataclysmic Events that Created the Soils of the Yakima Valley

The Yakima Valley AVA is blessed with a vast array of soil types offering notable depth, purity and natural complexity into its wines.

A series of natural phenomenon dating back fifteen million years ago have given the soils of the Yakima Valley enough variation to produce world class grapes well beyond the big six wine grapes; Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Deposits from the Ancient Columbia River
Deposits from the Ancient Columbia River

Volcanoes began the layering by depositing basalt, ash, and volcanic sediments across the Yakima Valley, and the Columbia River brought in pebbles, stones, granite and quartzite.

The ice age floods constricted at the Wallula Gap depositing sediment
from Idaho and Montana.  You can still see these sediments across the
Yakima Valley (up to 1,200 feet in elevation), and they still constitute
the deeper layers of soil in the AVA.

Ash deposits from Mt. St. Helens tops the final layer of soil

Ash deposits from Mt. St. Helens tops the final layer of soil

Flood sediments of the Yakima Valley have been topped by layers of a wind-deposited soil called loess and the final layer; ash deposits from the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens.

Tectonic plates compressed and wrinkled the Columbia Basin region into a series of east-west running ridges called the Yakima fold belt.  Two of these ridges, now called the Horse Heaven Hills and the Rattlesnake Hills, form the boundaries of today’s Yakima Valley.

What does all this mean to the wines produced from vineyards in the Yakima Valley?  In a word: purity.

The terrain of this region remains as open and clean as when cataclysmic floods swept through at the end of the ice age.  The soil components are uniformly silt and sand with quartz and micas—and nearly devoid of organic matter or pests common to the rest of the wine world.

Water drains through these soils with remarkable ease, forcing vines to send their root systems deep.  Such a pure foundation also allows Yakima Valley to grow ungrafted vines.  It’s a very traditional, but now very unusual, technique—and possible only because of our special geology.  The end result is grapes and then wines that are completely true to their varietal character.

Three Yakima Valley wines that exhibit great varietal character:
Doyenne Signature Syrah, Yakima Valley
Chinook  Cab Franc, Yakima Valley
Efeste “Sauvage” Sauvignon Blanc, Yakima Valley

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