Ancient Lakes

  • Ancient Lakes of the Columbia Valley became the 13th AVA in Washington State on October, 18 2012.
  • Currently there are 1,603 acres planted to wine grapes in Ancient Lakes, but the AVA encompasses 169,153 acres in total.
  • The border of the Ancient Lakes is 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 creates the border to the west. The famous Gorge Amphitheatre resides on the western edge of the AVA.  
  • Wine grapes have been planted in the Ancient Lakes region since the 1980s. Most vineyard acres are planted to white varieties such as Riesling and Chardonnay, but red varieties are also planted.  
  • Located within the Columbia Valley on soils left from the Missoula Floods, Ancient Lakes has elevations ranging from 570 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 Ancient Lakes AVA, with the most common 17 soils making up 88 percent of the land. The Ancient Lakes region soils are Aridisols, which are formed in arid conditions and contain little organic matter. Wine grapes 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” of rain a year.

Characteristics

The Ancient Lakes appellation is located in central Washington. The area is wholly contained within the Columbia Valley region and is named after a series of thirty-five lakes that dot the area.

Over 20 different vinifera varieties are planted in this region with white grapes the emphasis. Riesling is by far the most planted grape, with many of the plantings at Evergreen Vineyard. These wines display aromas and flavors of lime, lemon, and green apple and often have bright acidity and noticeable minerality.

The Ancient Lakes region has an arid, continental climate, receiving an average of 6 inches (15cm) of rainfall annually. Irrigation is therefore required to grow vinifera grapes.

Being more northerly than many of Washington’s growing regions, heat accumulation begins later in the Ancient Lakes and ends sooner, making it one of the cooler growing regions in the state.

Like most of eastern Washington’s growing regions, the soils are defined by the Missoula Floods, a series of cataclysmic events. While soils vary considerably across the appellation, fine sand along with silt and sandy loam are predominant. Some sites, such as Evergreen vineyard, have significant deposits of caliche, which is rich in calcium carbonate.

The majority of the Ancient Lakes appellation has a gentle slope of less than 4% going toward its eastern boundary. The Columbia River, which defines the appellation’s western boundary, protects many of the areas from early and late season frost, which can affect nearby regions.