Encompassing more than a third of the state, the Columbia Valley is by far Washington's largest growing region at nearly 11 million acres. The appellation is located in central, south-central, and south-eastern Washington with part of the appellation spilling across the border into Oregon.
The Columbia Valley is home to over 99% of all of Washington's vinifera acreage. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted grape followed by Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling and Syrah. However, over 30 vinifera varieties are currently planted in this region.
Variety typicity and pure fruit aromas and flavors are the hallmarks of wines from the Columbia Valley. For Cabernet Sauvignon, black cherry, cassis and light, high-toned herbal notes are often the hallmarks. Merlots are redolent with red fruit aromas and flavors, such as sweet cherries, red currants, and raspberries, along with chocolate and, occasionally, mint. Chardonnay are mildly aromatic with aromas and flavors ranging from fresh green apple to stone fruit and tropical fruit depending on the warmth of the site. In terms of Riesling, cooler sites tend to produce aromas and flavors of lime, lemon, and green apple. In warmer regions this turns to stone fruit, particularly peach. Aromas and flavors for Syrah range from dark fruit, such as blackberries, to blueberries and cranberries. However, many are notable for being less fruit forward and more dominated by savory notes.
The relationship to the Missoula Floods, a series of cataclysmic events, defines the soil types of the vineyards in Washington. Most vineyards lie below the floodwaters with soils of loess - wine blown deposits of sand and silt - overlying gravel and slackwater sediment with basalt forming the bedrock. This provides a diversity of soil types that are well drained and ideal for viticulture.
The Columbia Valley lies in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountain range, receiving an average of 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) of precipitation annually. irrigation is therefore required to grow vinifera grapes.
The irrigation, along with consistently warm, dry temperatures during the growing season, provides growers with a large amount of control over grape development compared to many other regions of the world. This leads to minimal vintage variation and consistently high-quality wines.
Early and late season frosts along with hard winter freezes are the main environmental threats. Due to dry temperatures and sandy soils, phyloxera has not as of yet established itself in the area, so most vines are grown on their own rootstock in contrast to many other areas of the world.
Most of Washington's growing regions are sub-appellations of the Columbia Valley, with only the Columbia Valley Gorge and Puget Sound lying outside of it.
The Ancient Lakes appellation is located in central Washington. The area is wholly contained within the Columbia Valley region and is named after a series of thirty-five lakes that dot the area.
Over 20 different vinifera varieties are planted in this region with white grapes the emphasis. Riesling is by far the most planted grape, with many of the plantings at Evergreen Vineyard. These wines display aromas and flavors of lime, lemon, and green apple and often have bright acidity and noticeable minerality.
The Ancient Lakes region has an arid, continental climate, receiving an average of 6 inches (15cm) of rainfall annually. Irrigation is therefore required to grow vinifera grapes.
Being more northernly than many of Washington's growing regions, heat accumulation begins later in the Ancient Lakes and ends sooner, making it one of the cooler growing regions in the state.
Like most of eastern Washington's growing regions, the soils are defined by the Missoula Floods, a series of cataclysmic events. While soils vary considerably across the appellation, fine sand along with silt and sandy loam are predominant. Some sites, such as Evergreen vineyard, have significant deposits of caliche, which is rich in calcium carbonate.
The majority of the Ancient Lakes appellation has a gentle slope of less than 4% going towards its eastern boundary. The Columbia River, which defines the appellation's western boundary, protects many of the areas from early and late season frost, which can affect nearby regions.
The Lake Chelan appellation is located in central Washington, about 112 miles east-northeast of the city of Seattle. Like most of all eastern Washington growing regions, it is a sub-appellation of the Columbia Valley.
Lake Chelan is an extremely young growing regions, with its first modern day vinifera plantings in 1998. Of the appellation's 24,040 acres (9,730 hectares), only 247 were under vine as of 2011. the area is therefore still defining itself as a growing region.
The most planted grapes are Pinot Noir and Riesling, followed by Syrah. The region also has significant plantings of Gewürztraminer. However, over 20 vinifera varieties are currently being explored.
Climatically, the area is defined by Lake Chelan, with the growing regions located along the southern an eastern portions of the lake. names after a Native American word for "deep water," this glacier-carved lake is 55 miles long and 1,486 feet deep, with an average width of one mile. The lake moderates temperatures providing cooler summer days and warmer summer nights compared to the surrounding regions.
As a growing region, the Lake Chelan appellation is unique from others in eastern Washington in that it lies north of the Missoula Floods, which define the soil types of most of the Columiba Valley. Soil types here are glacial sediments along with ash and pumice from volcanoes from the nearby Cascade Range. The glacial sediments have substantial amounts of quartz and mica.
The area, which includes the small towns of Chelan and Manson, is a popular tourist destination for outdoors activities, especially in summer.