The newest of the American Viticultural Areas in Washington state is Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, which became AVA No. 13 on Oct. 18, 2012.
Currently there are 1,399 acres planted to winegrapes in Ancient Lakes, but the AVA encompasses 162,762 acres in total. The borders are the Beezley Hills to the north, the eastern edge of the Quincy Basin (defined by the manmade Winchester Wasteway canal) to the east, the Frenchman Hills to the south, and the western shoreline of the Columbia River to the west. The famous Gorge Amphitheatre resides on the western edge of the AVA.
There are six wineries and six commercial vineyards located within the Ancient Lakes area at present. Winegrapes have been planted there since the 1980s. Most vineyard acres are planted to white varieties such as Riesling and Chardonnay, but some red varieties also are planted.
Located within the Columbia Valley on soils left from the Missoula Floods, Ancient Lakes has elevations ranging from 570 feet at the edge of the Columbia River to 1,912 feet in the Frenchman Hills in the southern portion of the AVA.
There are 65 soil types within the boundaries, with the most common 17 soils making up 88 percent of the land. The soils are Aridisols, which are formed in arid conditions and contain little organic matter. Winegrapes thrive in these “poor” soils because less nitrogen in the dirt results in a smaller vineyard canopy and more intense flavors in the grapes.
The Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley has a 182-day growing season and receives very little rainfall — only 6.5 inches per year, on average.