Vineyards of Horse Heaven Hills

By Kori ~ September 22nd, 2008.

Horse Heaven Hills is one of the newest AVA’s in Washington State. Established in 2005, it encompasses over 6,000 vineyard acres. Even though it is a fairly new AVA, Horse Heaven Hills is home to some of the oldest vines in the state. Located within the greater Columbia Valley AVA, Horse Heaven Hills borders the Yakima Valley to the north and the Columbia River bordering Oregon to the south.

We recently had the opportunity to visit some of the vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills. The area enjoys warm days and cool nights and receives quite a bit of wind. Most of the vineyards, featuring sandy soils and bedrock, are south sloping with picturesque views of the Columbia River and into Oregon.

Columbia Crest, the state’s largest winery, is located here. In fact, their newest line of wines is called H3 in honor of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA and features grapes grown there. Just above the Columbia River, the Columbia Crest Estate Vineyard is typical of the region in that it is south sloping with deep sand and silt and receives lots of wind.

Canoe Ridge Estate Vineyard is owned by Chateau Ste. Michelle. West of Columbia Crest, it is also located just above the Columbia River, runs north/south, and has deep sand. Chateau Ste. Michelle offers a Canoe Ridge collection of wines.

Destiny Ridge Vineyard, the estate vineyard for Alexandria Nicole Cellars, is located west of Canoe Ridge Estate and sits high on the bluffs above the Columbia River. Like Columbia Crest and Canoe Ridge, it features sandy soils. Grapes from Destiny Ridge that are not used in Alexandria Nicole wines are sold under contract to other wineries which have included Darby, Syncline, and Fall Line, among others.

Alder Ridge Vineyard is located west of Destiny Ridge but also sits high above the Columbia River. With over 800 acres set atop a series of ridges, Alder Ridge is known for its different slopes and different soils (sand, rocks, etc) that are planted to different varieties that are best suited for that particular part of the vineyard. Some of the vineyard rows run north/south and others run east/west.

Champoux Vineyard (pronounced shampoo) is one of the most prominent vineyards in the state of Washington. It boasts some of the oldest and most famous Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the state.

“And if you ask any serious Washington winemaker where the state’s greatest old vine cabernet is located, Champoux is the first vineyard they will name.” –Paul Gregutt, Washington Wines & Wineries

Located five miles from the Columbia River, Champoux is very different from other Horse Heaven Hills vineyards. It is fairly flat and features older soils. While it does not really look like it would be a great vineyard site, it has produced some great grapes which have been used to produce excellent wines. Some of the wineries that have used Champoux grapes include Quilceda Creek, Woodward Canyon, Fidelitas, Andrew Will, and Soos Creek.

Wondering how Horse Heaven Hills got its name? According to Wikipedia, large bands of wild horses once roamed the area and James Kinney, a Yakima pioneer, unofficially named the hills in 1857 when seeing the knee-high grass of the hills for the first time he exclaimed, “This is surely a horse heaven!”

Filed under: American Wine, Vineyards, Washington State Wine

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