No tour of Washington’s wine scene is complete without a nod to the AVA that started it all: Yakima Valley.
Washington’s first federally-recognized AVA was designated as such in 1983 and, today, hosts more than 65 wineries and cultivates 17,000 acres of wine grapes annually, making the Yakima Valley the biggest grape-growing region in the Pacific Northwest.
The AVA stretches from Cascade foothills to windswept ridges and the broader high desert expanse, buoyed by long, sunny days and cool evenings that create the ideal conditions for balanced, complex grapes like merlot, chardonnay, and syrah.
Cities and Towns
Oddly enough, Yakima — home to quaint downtown tasting rooms and a variety of urban and rural wineries — sits within the Columbia Valley AVA, not the Yakima Valley AVA. Nevertheless, the largest city in the region makes an ideal home base for exploring the five AVAs and more than 120 wineries throughout the wider Yakima Valley.
At the far southeastern edge of the Yakima Valley AVA, the small community of Prosser offers a quieter — but no less fascinating — look at the state’s historic wine scene. Prosser has been called the “birthplace of the Washington wine industry” thanks in large part to the irrigation development and grape research conducted around the city for more than a century. Today, Prosser hosts more than 30 wineries — 12 of which are within walking distance of one another.
Key Touring Routes
Interstate 82 travels the length of the valley and offers the easiest, quickest access to the region’s cities and attractions. Yakima Valley Highway, also known as Wine Country Road, parallels I-82 through much of the Yakima Valley, and side roads branch out into the surrounding vineyards. Winery directional signs are plentiful.
AntoLin Cellars cultivates its grapes from a five-acre estate vineyard in the Yakima Valley where the boutique winery grows riesling, cabernet, and malbec varieties (to name a few). Visitors can taste those clean, crisp wines at the AntoLin Cellars tasting room in downtown Yakima.
Please remember to designate a driver.
–Written by John King. Updated by Matthew Wastradowski in September 2020
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