The American Viticulture Areas or AVA's, is the term for the vineyards in a certain geographic area where the grapes are grown and the characteristics of the climate, soil, elevation that affect the wine produced from those grapes. These are federally designated regions recognized by the Alcohol, Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. When a wine bottle label designates an AVA, 85% of that wine must come from the AVA.
There can be AVA’s designated within a larger AVA. The Columbia Valley is an AVA, and includes areas that are also designated AVAs. For example, the Yakima Valley is within the Columbia Valley AVA while the Rattlesnake Hills AVA, Red Mountain AVA and Snipes Mountain AVA are all smaller geographic areas located within the Yakima Valley AVA.
The Yakima Valley is Washington State's first AVA established in 1983 with over14,000 vineyard acres and more than 65 wineries. The Rattlesnake Hills AVA, established in 2006, has 1500 vineyard acres and over 20 wineries. The nearby Horse Heaven Hills AVA, established in 2005, is over 8,000 vineyard acres and has 20 wineries. Red Mountain AVA established in 2001, features over 710 vineyard acres and 15 wineries. The most recent AVA is Snipes Mountain. It was recognized in 2009, has a mere 145 acres and is located above and between the towns of Sunnyside and Granger in the Outlook area. (video interview on history of Snipes Mountain AVA)
The vast acreage of vineyards in the Yakima Valley and numerous wineries make this the premier area in Washington State to both taste wine and enjoy the changing views of the vineyards from spring to harvest. Special celebrations take place each year, Spring Barrel Tasting to Thanksgiving in Wine Country, where on can enjoy the fruit of the vine at the source.