The Horse Heaven Hills AVA, nestled between the Yakima Valley and the Columbia River in south central Washington, accounts for roughly a quarter of the state’s total grape production.
Vineyard elevations range from 300 feet near the Columbia River to 1,800 feet at the region’s northern boundary. Coupled with high winds and well-draining soils, these conditions allow for a wide variety of grapes to ripen. In fact, it is a testament to the region’s climate and soil conditions that both red and white grape varieties grow in abundance here. Of the 37 varieties, the region’s top grapes include merlot, chardonnay, riesling and syrah.
Cities and Towns
The Horse Heaven Hills AVA totals more than a half-million acres, making it ripe for exploration. But even with all that acreage, most of your best bets for indulging the area’s wine come from outside the AVA. Prosser, just beyond the AVA’s northern edge, has a small but thriving wine scene, while the Tri-Cities — beyond the AVA’s northeastern border — offer a variety of amenities to accommodate regional tourists.
Key Touring Routes
Interstate 82 runs mostly north-south through the region’s eastern edge before turning west and forming a backward “C” shape around Horse Heaven Hills. State Route 221, meanwhile, runs north-south, almost perfectly cutting the AVA in half. Most of the area’s wineries and tasting rooms are along Interstate 82.
The small-lot, hand-crafted wines of Alexandria Nicole Cellars showcase the best of Horse Heaven Hills — both at a tasting room in Prosser and one at the vineyard itself. Canoe Ridge Vineyard, named for a crest of land noted by Lewis and Clark, pours a captivating lineup that showcases some of the region’s best grapes — including merlot, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay — at its Walla Walla tasting room.
Please remember to designate a driver.
– Written by John King. Updated by Matthew Wastradowski in September 2020