The Reach of Red Mountain Extends Well Beyond its Vineyards

This article originally appeared, in part, in the January, 2021 issue of Bellingham Alive Magazine

Tucked away on a hillside about 15 miles west of the Tri-Cities, the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area (AVA) is one of Washington’s most prominent wine grape growing regions.

Aerial view of Ciel du Cheval vineyard on Red Mountain. Photo courtesy of Richard Duval.

At just a shade over 4,000 acres, Red Mountain is small in size but big on producing some of the best red wines in the country. Top red grape varieties grown here include cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, malbec, cabernet franc, and petit verdot.

The agricultural success of the region lies in a number of important climatic and geographic features including a sun-drenched southwest-facing slope, soils rich in alkaline and calcium carbonate, and a warm, almost desert-like environment tempered by cool evenings and the influence of the nearby Yakima River.

For winemakers, that’s a recipe for potentially picture-perfect wines with intense and focused fruit flavors, a streak of minerality, and seamlessly balanced acidity levels.

But the impact of the Red Mountain AVA isn’t limited to just vineyards and wineries located within the region.  It extends statewide through a cooperative known as the Red Mountain Alliance and includes wineries in the Tri-Cities, Walla Walla, and western Washington that utilize the area’s grapes in many of the wines they produce.

Tim & Kelly Hightower

Alliance members Tim and Kelly Hightower of Hightower Cellars moved from the Seattle area to Red Mountain in 2002 and planted their first vineyards in 2005.

“We fell in love with the AVA after tasting wines from there in the 1990’s,” recalls Tim, noting that “it was the concentration of fruit and balance of the wines that was captivating.”

“Even though it’s a warm area, it’s also windy, which thickens the skins of the grapes and results in smaller berries,” he says. This contributes to the concentrated flavors in the finished product that are a hallmark of the region’s wines.

“The ‘neighborhood’ on Red Mountain is also fantastic,” adds Kelly. “The quality of the people it’s attracted has really resulted in quality wines.”

“And the personality of the winemakers comes through in the personality of the wines,” notes Tim, referring again to the quality product that wine consumers will find here.

Kathy Cortembos, Hospitality Director at nearby Hedges Family Estate agrees; “I love that there is a great comradery between the growers and producers to insure everyone has a great experience drinking a bottle made from Red Mountain fruit.”

“With all the (wildfire) problems in California, which is horrible, we think many more people will discover Red Mountain Cabernets and more. I believe it is the best growing area for Cabs and Syrahs in the USA. It is truly a magical place,” she says.

For those considering a visit to the area there are plenty of options for accommodations in the nearby town of Prosser, to the west, and the Tri-Cities, to the east, including The Lodge at Columbia Point, a highly recommended riverside hotel located in Richland, along with a number of bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals, and other unique accommodations.

Red Mountain wines can also be purchased from participating wineries through the Alliance web site at www.redmountainava.com/buying-guide.

For a comprehensive list of places to stay in the Tri-Cities go to www.visittri-cities.com and click on “Hotels & Lodging.”

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