Nestled within and just beyond the stunning beauty of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area sits a wine region like no other.
Located 60 miles east of Portland and Vancouver, the region is defined by the Columbia River Gorge, a narrow passage that marks the dramatic transition from eastern desert to cool maritime climate as the Columbia River cuts through the Cascade Mountain range on its way to the Pacific Ocean.
The region encompasses the corridor flanking the river in both Washington and Oregon, and includes the Columbia Gorge and the southwestern part of the Columbia Valley American Viticultural Areas.
Within the compact area of the Columbia Gorge lays an extraordinary combination of climate, soil and geology, creating distinctly different microclimates perfect for growing premium grapes.
This is a land of strong contrasts and rapid change. Passing through the Columbia Gorge from west to east, the rainfall diminishes at almost an inch per mile while sunshine increases dramatically.
The western vineyards have a cool, marine-influenced climate where it rains 36 inches a year — ideal for cool weather-loving varietals like Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling.
Eastern vineyards have a continental high desert climate with just 10 inches of annual rainfall but plentiful sunshine to ripen hot-weather Bordeaux, Rhone and Italian varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Barbera. California Zinfandel also fares well there.
Grapes reflect the soil in which they are rooted. When visiting a Gorge vineyard, notice the ground: Is it red from old volcanic mudstone, or gray and showing fragments of basalt rock? You may even be standing on soil deposited from the ancient floods and carried to the Gorge from present-day Montana.
It truly is a unique place on Earth.