An Elevated Distinction-Naches Heights AVA

As the nation’s second largest producer of wine, Washington has long held a distinguished reputation for excellence and diversity of its terroirs facilitating Washington’s rise in the wine world. Each terroir found within the now 20 Washington AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) can vary significantly even within the area they encompass and share.

When you take a closer look at the Eastern Washington grape growing regions, you find a number of sub-appellations of the large and original Columbia Valley AVA. These AVAs include Ancient Lakes, Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Wahluke Slope, Rattlesnake Hills, Horse Heaven Hills, Snipes Mountain, Naches Heights, and Lake Chelan.

Naches Heights AVA marked by dark red, is seen on the above map.

Within this collection of AVAs I will be focusing on the Naches Heights AVA which became the 12th AVA in Washington State on January 13, 2012.

Wholly contained within the larger Columbia Valley, Naches Heights is situated in south-central Washington, between the small towns of Naches and Tieton, northwest of the city of Yakima, in the Yakima Valley. The boundaries of the Naches Heights are the Naches River to the north and east, Cowiche Creek to the south and west, and the lower Tieton River on the west.

What’s in a name….

The task of obtaining an AVA designation involves considerable work including gathering information about the area’s geography, soil, and its climate. A thorough explanation of how these factors differ from surrounding areas and more specifically a surrounding AVA is required. Other issues must also be addressed and documented, such as whether or not the proposed name has already been used or established, and whether or not historical evidence exists to use the name. According to the petition for the AVA and USGS maps, the name of the AVA “Naches Heights” applies to an elevated plateau area in Yakima County, Washington.

In researching the word “Naches” I found that it hails from the Naches River which is a tributary of the Yakima River in central Washington.

“The river’s name comes from the Indian words “naugh”, meaning rough or turbulent, and “chez”, meaning water. Among numerous spellings used historically, “Naches” is the official spelling in the Geographic Names Information System.” (Wikipedia)

Digital Elevation Model of Naches Heights AVA by Kevin Pogue, Whitman College

An Elevated Distinction….

The Naches Heights AVA, boasts a significantly elevated terrain, with elevations ranging from 365 to 640 metres (1,200 to 2,100 feet) above sea level. The appellation’s high elevation is a crucial factor distinguishing it from other wine regions in the area. The higher elevation of the Naches Heights AVA provides several advantages for wine grape cultivation. The cooler temperatures at higher altitudes help to preserve the grapes’ acidity levels, which is key in producing high-quality wines. Additionally, the increased elevation leads to lower atmospheric pressure, which can help to mitigate pest and disease pressures on the vineyards.

The high-altitude vineyards found in the Naches Heights AVA enjoy ample exposure to the sun. Extended daylight hours and abundant sunlight aid in the development of the grapes’ flavors and aromas. Additionally, the volcanic soils of the region provide excellent drainage and a distinctive minerality that sets them apart from other wines in the area.

From the proposed Naches Heights AVA petition some significant geological and geographical factors set the generally flat plateau which forms the AVA boundaries apart from the surrounding Columbia Valley AVA. In the petition presented by Wilridge Winery and Vineyard owner Paul Beveridge, it is stated:

Approximately one million years ago, the termination of andesite flow from the Cascade Mountains down the valley of the Tieton River formed the Naches Heights plateau. The proposed Naches Heights viticultural area is located on, and encompasses, a geological formation of Tieton andesite, a volcanic rock. In contrast to the Naches Heights plateau, there are alluvial deposits, including those that are terraced and older, to the north, east, and south of the proposed viticultural area. To the west of the area are alluvial deposits and Grande Ronde Basalt, Ringold Formation gravels, the Ellensburg Formation, and the Cascade Mountains.

While the large Columbia Valley AVA is characterized by river valleys which were shaped by the ancient Missoula floods, the Naches Heights AVA’s elevation means that it was never inundated by the floods, making its soils completely different from the surrounding AVAs.

Wanting to learn more about this volcanic rock and the properites of Tieton andesite, I found an interesting book, the Field Volcanology: A Tribute to the Distinguished Career of Don Swanson, which touches on the uniqueness of this volcanic activity.

The Tieton andesite lavas of the south-central Washington Cascades have lengths of 74 km and 52 km, ranking them among the longest known andesite flows in the world. These two Pleistocene intracanyon flows occupy ancestral canyons of the Tieton River and its tributaries that drained the Goat Rocks volcanic complex, and part of the Naches River valley from its confluence with the Tieton River to Cowiche Creek.”

Formed by cooled and solidified magma or lava Tieton andesite is characterized by its dark, fine-grained texture and is known to be rich in minerals such as feldspar, pyroxene, and hornblende. The speckles are crystals of feldspar and quartz.

More about the Andesite Lava Flow….

The Tieton Andesite found in the Naches Heights AVA was formed by an Andesite lava flow from volcanic eruptions that occurred over a million years ago in the Cascade Mountains, which is a range of volcanoes situated between Northern California and British Columbia. The Andesite lava flow is an important feature of the Cascade Mountains, as it has played a significant role in shaping the region’s geology and ecosystem.

The volcanic soils of the Tieton Andesite are known for their mineral-rich composition that promotes excellent drainage. This exceptional feature of the Andesite rock gives rise to wines that are distinct in their mineral-driven and complex palate. The rock contains various minerals like feldspar, pyroxene, and hornblende, which are responsible for the unique characteristics found in wines from the region.

The abundance of feldspar and quartz found in andesite is what makes it so attractive to many growers. Quartz is an essential component of biodynamic farming, and it is likely that some of the quartz has flaked off into the soil. In biodynamic farming, horn silica, which is finely ground quartz, is used in preps to attract sun energy. This silica helps to enhance the growth of healthy vines, resulting in more vibrant grapes. The presence of quartz in the soil can make a significant difference in the quality of wine produced. As a result, winemakers often seek out regions that have soils rich in andesite with high levels of feldspar and quartz, such as the Naches Heights AVA in Washington. By utilizing the unique properties of the Tieton andesite deposit, winemakers in this region can create exceptional wines that showcase the distinct characteristics of the terroir.

The Andesite lava flow also forms a natural barrier that protects the vineyards from harsh winds and weather. This added protection means less chance of winter damage and a reduced risk of frost damage in in the vineyard during Spring.

Another important aspect of Naches Heights AVA’s terroir is the climate, which is characterized by hot summers and cool nights. This diurnal temperature variation allows the grapes to retain their acidity while fully ripening, resulting in wines with a good balance of acidity and sugar. The microclimate of the lava flow is also influenced by the nearby Yakima River and the Cascade Mountains, by providing moderation in temperature and contributions to the unique character of the Nache Heights.

The andesite rock is relatively young compared to the basalts of Columbia Valley, which it covered during its formation. In contrast, the windblown loam that blankets the andesite is older than the flood sediments deposited over the Columbia Valley. Both the rock and soil of this region have unique chemical compositions that set them apart from those found in Columbia Valley.

A Distinctive Soil Type

Naches Heights AVA is renowned for its Tieton Loam Loess soil, which distinguishes it from other grape-growing regions in Washington. One of the most remarkable aspects of this appellation is its elevation, as it is situated above the level of the Missoula Floods.

These catastrophic floods played a significant role in forming and defining most of Washington’s grape-growing areas. However, unlike these regions, which have alluvial soils, Naches Heights AVA features windblown soil (loess) that continues to accumulate over time. The loess soil is also notable for its high clay content, which enables it to retain water and promoting optimal grape growing conditions.

A Focus on Sustainability….

The Naches Heights AVA is recognized for its focus on sustainability within the Washington wine industry. Vineyards in this AVA are committed to preserving the natural beauty and resources of the region, while also producing high-quality wines. This is achieved through a variety of practices such as reducing chemical inputs, using cover crops to improve soil health, and implementing integrated pest management. Additionally, many vineyards in the Naches Heights AVA have implemented water conservation measures, such as using drip irrigation, to reduce their water usage.

The focus on sustainability in the Naches Heights AVA also extends to the wineries themselves. Many have incorporated energy-efficient practices, such as using solar power and recycling waste materials, to reduce their carbon footprint.

The vineyards found within the Naches Heights AVA are recognized for their organic, biodynamic, and sustainable farming practices. The region’s dedication to sustainability has garnered attention and acclaim within the wine industry, with numerous wines receiving recognition for their eco-friendly approach.

All seven vineyards in the area, including Wilridge Vineyard, Strand Vineyard, Treveri Vineyard, Keller Vineyard, and Kalkruth Vineyard, are certified either biodynamic or LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology). This makes Naches Heights the first exclusively sustainable AVA in Washington.

Many of the vineyards in Naches Heights AVA have received Salmon Safe certification for their commitment to restoring native biodiversity and protecting water quality. This certification recognizes vineyards that use sustainable farming practices to promote healthy streams and rivers and support salmon habitats. Grape growers in the region are working towards restoring the native Yakima Valley biodiversity by planting cover crops, hedgerows, and pollinator habitats. These efforts not only improve soil health and water quality, but also support local wildlife and contribute to the region’s ecological sustainability. Through the implementation of Salmon Safe practices, the vineyards in Naches Heights AVA are leading the way in sustainable winemaking and environmental stewardship.

Diverse Grape Varieties

Naches Heights AVA in Washington boasts an impressive array of wine grape varieties that are ideally suited to the region’s unique climate and soil conditions. The appellation features a diverse range of grape varietals, including red Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, and Petite Verdot, along with two white Bordeaux varieties, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. The region’s cool climate makes it the perfect place for Riesling, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer

The appellation is also home to three Rhone grape varieties, including Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Viognier as well as a selection of Italian varietals, such as Barbera, Gewurztraminer, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Sagrantino, and Pinot Grigio. Naches Heights also features one of the Muscat grapes, White Muscat, and within the AVA you can find four Portuguese grape varieties, including Souzao, Tinta Cao, Touriga Nacional, and Tinta Roriz. The diverse array of grape varietals grown in Naches Heights AVA certainly makes it an exciting and dynamic wine region. Wineries in the Naches Heights AVA and those that source grapes from this region also produce Rosés and Sparkling Wines.

This small and remote wine region currently only has two wineries operating within it, Wildridge Winery and Naches Heights Vineyard. During my visit to Naches Heights, I spoke with both Paul Beveridge, the founder and owner of Wilridge Winery as well as the owner and operator of Naches Heights Vineyard, Phil Cline. Each of these farmers and winery owners shared their unique perspectives on what makes the Naches Heights AVA stand apart from the surrounding area.

Wilridge Winery, Vineyard & Distillery

Paul Beveridge started Wilridge Winery in 1988, with the goal of producing high-quality wines that reflect the distinctive sense of place found within the Naches Heights AVA. Beveridge is an advocate for sustainable and organic farming and has been farming his vineyards organically since their inception. He believes that by working in harmony with nature, he can produce wines that are a true expression of the land. He implements a variety of practices such as cover crops, integrated pest management and water conservation to preserve the natural resources of the region.

Beveridge’s dedication to sustainable practices and high-quality winemaking has earned him a reputation as a respected winemaker in the industry. He has received numerous awards and accolades for his wines, and Wilridge Winery & Vineyard is considered a leader in sustainable winemaking in Washington State.

During my tour of the estate and my conversation with Paul he shared even more information about the formation of the Naches Heights region and his role in getting the Naches Heights AVA approved.

When it comes to the actual size of the Naches Heights AVA and it’s boundaries, Paul said “Square miles of the AVA is about 30,000 acres total, runs from the tip of the lava flow up to the town of Tieton. We define the AVA as the footprint of the Andesite, as the distinction factor.”

Paul explains further in that, “The Eastern Washington region is predominantly composed of basalt, which originated from Pullman around 20 million years ago and flowed out to Astoria through the Columbia River Gorge. Over time, the region was also shaped by millions of years of volcanic activity and Columbia River dust blown into the area, resulting in the creation of the Palouse and other types of soil.”

“Despite the relatively young age of the land, about one million years ago, the largest flow of andesite lava in the world occurred, originating from near Mount Rainier and the Goat Rocks. This unique type of lava, known as andesite, is only found in this area and contributes to the region’s special terroir and minerality. Moreover, the high elevation of the region has kept it above the floods that have affected areas like Yakima, allowing the soils that blew in since the andesite lava flow to remain undisturbed.”

Paul has a strong appreciation for the bedrock and the rocky outcrops that surround his vineyards, and over the years of grape growing experimentation, his key takeaway has been that Naches Heights is a versatile region where almost any grape variety can flourish, provided it is planted in an appropriate location.

Paul went on to explain, “The thing about Naches Heights is we planted at this elevation and temperature range because I anticipated Global Warming and when you hear about a good year in Washington it might be for say Red Mountain but we are cooler here so our wines might be a little more austere those years. But the hot years are perfect for us and then the fruit on Red Mountain gets baked. It gets so hot at Red Mountain that sometimes the vines shut down for a month in the middle of the summer they actually end up with a later harvest, but for us those years are just incredible, like 2013, 2014, 2018.”

In regard to the AVA application Paul told me that it took a few years to get the American Viticultural Area application approved. He shared, “when I did the AVA application it took a long time to get it because there were some controversial ones in California that were in the Queue ahead of us. But when the person finally got around to reviewing it, she said it was the best AVA application that she had ever read. Because we are truly unique, and I took aerial photographs of the cliffs that are all around us. How could they call us Columbia Valley? We are a plateau surrounded by cliffs.”

He went on to add; “All together it took 3-4 years to get the application approved because it was when they were trying to divide up Napa and doing some other stuff and they only have one person in the whole US government assigned to do the AVA application reviews.”

Balsamroots; Balsamorhiza, commonly referred to as balsamroots, is a plant genus in the Asteraceae family. These plants are perennials with fleshy taproots and caudices that bear erect stems and large basal leaves. On top of these tall stems are vibrant yellow, sunflower-like blooms. Balsamroots are indigenous to western regions of North America.

On Being Sustainable….

Wilridge Vineyard follows biodynamic farming practices that involve holistic approaches, including animal assistance. Marmots, for instance, help remove unwanted suckers and weeds from the grapevine trunks while adding natural fertilizer.

I asked Paul if he if he always knew that he wanted to do Organic Farming?
“Yeah, being an environmental attorney I always knew that I wanted to go organic because I knew that I wanted to let the public into the vineyard and that there would be young children in the vineyard, so I never wanted to spray anything. Then I learned about biodynamic on my first trip to Italy and really got interested in that from a quality stand point because the best wines in the world are coming from Biodynamic vineyards. It was always something that I really admired so we got into it from a quality standpoint and we have been biodynamic since day one but as I learn more and more about it, it gets more and more interesting. It is all really fascinating.”

The upside to being organic in Eastern Washington, is that it’s an ideal climate for organic practices, Paul added that; “we don’t typically get rain until harvest, we don’t have any humidity so we don’t have to spray all of those nasty pesticides like they do in Oregon or Burgundy.”

I asked Paul if he used compost in the vineyards and he shared;
“We don’t have a dairy cow, that’s milking it every day, twice a day for the rest of your life, so that is the one thing to be completely perfectly biodynamic we need a lactating dairy cow. So we get dairy manure from an organic farm down in the valley and then we process it ourselves. But, our soils are so fertile, that we have a problem with too much vigor, so we only apply compost every three years. We don’t really need it. But, then we spray the preparations every year and make all of our decisions on the biodynamic calendar and you can’t argue with the results.”

Paul currently cultivates 22 grape varieties, from Sauvignon Blanc to Nebbiolo, all grape varieties are farmed using biodynamic techniques. A unique variety in his vineyard is Sagrantino, a red Italian grape.

Paul shared that he planted the original first three rows of Sargrantino vines in 2009, a varietal not yet planted in Washington state. While visiting Montefalco in the Umbria region of Italy, he fell in love with Sargrantino, but the grape varietal was not available in the United States. After contacting several universities, UC Davis offered to provide cuttings of a vine that had been in their library for over a century, labeled as Sangiovese, but suspected to be Sagrantino by an Italian grapevine scientist. Thirty cuttings were sent to Paul to plant, then Washington State University offered to test the plant’s genetics and virus-free status, requesting permission to add the vine to their library in exchange for running the tests. Impressed by the grape’s quality, Paul planted a second acre. Unfortunately, the first crop yielded only enough for half a barrel, and the assistant winemaker mistakenly poured it into a tank of Syrah, so no single varietal wine was produced from the first crop of Sargrantino grapes.

When it comes to grape growing Paul added; “Naches heights is really great for whites, it is really great for sparkling wines. We get everything ripe every year. The hardest grapes to ripen are the Mourvèdre and Petit Verdot that we planted and those have always been good enough to go in a blend but in 2018 we did a varietal of Mourvèdre that was simply amazing.”

The Wilridge Estate is comprised of 80 acres total, 14 acres are currently planted with grapes, 6 acres in apples, pears, apricots and plums.

In addition to his sustainable farming practices, Paul is also dedicated to using sustainable and environmentally friendly practices in the winery. In 2008, Paul put in solar power that runs the estate in the Spring and the Fall, he hopes to install more to give them enough heat in the winter and to run the air conditioning in the Summer as well.

In regards to the solar power Paul said;

“We do meter back to the power company so we do sell the surplus back. It is just part of being green, we call ourselves the greenest winery in Washington so if there is anything that we can do to be greener we try to do it.”

In 2017, Paul continued to add onto the diversity of Naches Heights when he established the first distillery in the AVA and since then it has become a well-known name among spirits enthusiasts.

Paul told me that to be called ‘the greenest winery in Washington” is in fact why he started the distillery, so that he could use their own waste products. The distillery produces a variety of handcrafted spirits using locally sourced ingredients. Wilridge’s spirits are all made in small batches, and the distillery takes great care to ensure that each batch is of the highest quality.

When I asked what his bestselling spirit was, Paul replied;
“The pear brandy, of the hard fruits, pear is the most expressive, but then the apricot and plum have been really successful too. With the apples we do, granny smith apple, gala apple, golden delicious apple and crab apple which are all so different which is kind of fun. Then the grapes for the grappa, we use Muscat Blanc.”

Naches Heights Vineyard

Phil Cline is a name synonymous with the wine industry in Washington State. Along with being a true pioneer in the Naches Heights region, he has made a name for himself by producing some of the most exceptional wines in the region. His love and passion for the craft have been passed down from his father, who was also a wine enthusiast. Phil’s dedication to his vineyard over the years is evident in how he has experimented with different varieties of grapes and techniques to produce wines that embrace this exclusive wine region.

Phil’s vision was to create a vineyard that would produce wines that reflect the unique character of the Naches Heights region. In 2002, he set out to establish his first vineyard in the area, this was followed by putting in a lot of hard work to make it happen.

Phil expressed, “There are grapes in the Naches Valley that were planted a long time ago and they have survived over many, many years through frost and freeze and I was thinking if they can make it, they can make it here. I did enough research to decide that we were going to plant some grapes.

Nestled in a region characterized by its unique topography, Naches Heights Vineyard now boasts an impressive 24-acre property, with 8.5 acres dedicated to grape cultivation.

Phil told me, “The rest is rock outcroppings, from the Ancedite lava flow and the rest of it is too cold to grow anything. Here is this area we are hotter than a lot of regions as far as altitude, we still have some really cold spots. It is different from the valley because the cold air acts just like water and it flows that way so the pass of less resistance, the lowest possible grounds is going to have the coldest air, plus it can flow out.”

He went on to say, “So, we have little pockets around here that have areas where the air can’t flow out very well and they get really cold, which means we can have huge temperature differences between 50 feet of elevation, up to 10 degrees.”

Here, Phil is holding a piece of the Ancedite rock found in Naches Heights, as mentioned above what makes this deposit so attractive is that it contains a significant amount of feldspar and quartz, which are crucial components for biodynamic farming. It is believed that some of the quartz may have flaked off into the soil, which is beneficial for vine growth.

In biodynamic farming, horn silica, which is finely ground quartz, is used in preps to attract sun energy. The presence of silica in the soil can enhance the effectiveness of these preps, resulting in healthier vines and more vibrant grapes.

Focusing on the Land….

As we toured the property Phil pointed out some trees and shared, “I planted some apricots just to see how they would do, there used to be Apricots here about 60 years ago, this area has been farmed for over a hundred years, with irrigation water starting around 1913, so lots of things have been grown on this property and it has been in my family for three generations.”

I asked how many varietals he currently grows and how he chose those particular varieties. “White grapes up here are certainly a no brainer, Sauvignon Blanc, Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and the Rieslings are super. We are growing Chardonnay up here now for Treveri and I am working on getting some Chardonnay planted for still wine because I think it would be really good.
We also have, Alberino and Syrah.”

On Being Sustainable….

Phil is dedicated to sustainable and organic farming practices and he believes in protecting the environment while still producing high-quality wines. This commitment to sustainability extends beyond his own vineyard; he also advocates for environmentally responsible practices throughout the Washington wine industry.

When it comes to what sustainability Phil stated, “We have been live certified and Salmon Safe for pretty much most of the growing time and I am farming pretty much organically with using any of the conventional products and starting in 2020 our intent was to not use anything that was not on the list of approved organic products.

He went on to add, “I think the thing that I believe in because I basically live in my vineyard and have farmed for so long and have actually been poisoned by the toxic chemicals that I used to apply so stupid, but you do stupid things when you are young. But, it is not a healthy environment and it is not a healthy environment for micro organisms that live in the soil and we know so much more than we did twenty years ago, so everything that we do up here is moving toward more organic.

When asked about other practices, Phil said, “Our soils are so rich, we don’t have to irrigate very often. Here we have to irrigate only about once a month during the growing season. Our vines are self-rooted, we’ve not seen anything related to Phylloxera up here, we don’t have leaf roll which is the benefit about farming in an area that has not been farming grapes for a long time, we don’t have the pests that get moved around, but it may definitely happen. We are just trying to keep everything in balance. Not composting right now because there is plenty of nitrate in the soil because the area used to be an apple orchard. One of the interesting things about this area versus to the lower area of the valley is that you will see a cover crop in middle because we get more moister and this soil has got 10-15 percent clay, which really holds the moisture well.”

Farming and Climate Change….

When interviewing grape growers and winemakers, the topic of climate change often arises. With the rising temperatures and changing weather patterns affecting the timing of the grape harvest, altering grape flavors, and ultimately impacting the quality of the wine it is always an important subject to address.

“Farming is definitely going to be more challenging with Climate Change. I use to tell people that when we planted grapes up here, who used to give me such a bad time, that I was a long term visionary and I was planting in an area that would become a great grape growing area when climate change happened.”

Phil Cline-Naches Heights Vineyard

Phil began to touch on the topic of climate change by sharing that, “When I first started farming in Naches Heights in 1978, when I graduated from College, my family had been farming here for two generations, we had about 135-140 days of frost free weather. Today we have almost 180 days of frost free weather. We have gained almost a month in growing and if I was to be asked to go back in time and think about planting grapes back then I would have never even attempted it because it routinely got cold in May and June, where you would have frost and the grape buds are just so tender.

I asked if he could tell me more about the effects of climate change that he has seen in the vineyard and Phil said, “We had major freeze issues in 2010 as well as 2011, the whole industry was hurting. That was the coldest two years we had had in about 60 years. In fact, the growing season was just barely long enough for me to ripen the fruit. We picked the Riesling in November, which was a little bit of a struggle. Since then, we have had nothing but warmer weather and 2015 was the warmest year we have had in 60 years and we had over 300 growing days here, which is almost what they get in Red Mountain, which is pretty phenomenal.”

Phil went on to add, “I just see expansion becoming more and more as a lot of grapes have been taken out in areas in the state because economically they didn’t make sense or the climate changed enough that the grape quality was not what they were expecting, or used to getting. So they are planting something different.

When it comes to the winemaking for Naches Heights Vineyard, Phil told me, “I physically help to make the wine, but if I were to make the wine you wouldn’t enjoy it. My heart isn’t in it. I’m too big and don’t like to be inside, so crawling in and cleaning out tanks is not my idea of fun. I like being outside and growing the grapes and I have been very fortunate in working with some very talented winemakers, like Justin Neufeld from 2010-2015, I worked with Owen Roe and David O’Reilly and his group from 2007 to 2010. My first wine was released in 2006 that was made by Mark Wysling who still makes some white wines for me at Parejas Cellars.” He went on to add, “I am really good with a forklift at the winery but other than that watch out. It has been fun; I have worked with some really knowledgably and talented people and the wine industry has been really open. I’m glad I got in it when I did. It was like early California when everybody was sharing their experiences and trying to make sure that we all made good product, I hope that never changes.

With over 1000 wineries in Washington competition to get an individual wineries’ wines recognized takes a lot of work, Phil shared what he has experienced when he told me; “We are struggling with consumer recognition, we can grow amazing grapes but if people don’t know what it is, their not going to pick it off the shelves. So, the education that we continue to have to do is pretty daunting, but it has to be done because you want to make your customers feel comfortable about the decisions they make and the only way that they are going to do that is with some knowledge. Without having the ability to have them taste it, it is really difficult at the grocery store because you can’t open a bottle there, taste it and put it back on the shelf.”

I’m hopeful that it will be a slow process up here and not get too crazy but I’m kind of excited because when we decided to start this project, we had no idea where it was going, I just knew that the apple business wasn’t what I wanted to do the rest of my life. I thought this would be an interesting challenge and I have always enjoyed wine, so here we are.” -Phil Cline

As the region continues to grow and evolve, I envision even more excitement and buzz to come from Naches Heights. With more vines being planted and winemakers experimenting with different grape varieties and techniques, the wines produced here are only going to get better. It’s exciting to see how winemakers are exploring the potential of this unique region and as more people discover the wines of Naches Heights, I think that you can expect it to become a destination for wine lovers and a continual source of pride for the local community.

Exploring the Naches area

Move out on foot and get to know the area on a more personal level.

In addition to its high-quality wines, the Naches Heights AVA is also known for its beautiful scenery and outdoor recreational opportunities. The area is home to a number of hiking and biking trails, as well as several lakes and rivers, making it a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Tieton River Nature Trail

If you’re planning a trip to the Naches region, especially in the spring or summer, a great choice for a brief hike would be to take a stroll along the river, marvel at the magnificent geological formations, and experience a sense of peaceful isolation, even though the place is accessible to mountain bikers and frequented by rock climbers and bird enthusiasts.

The trail follows the south side of the river from the Oak Creek Wildlife Area Visitor Center to FS Rd 512 with two access points from Hwy 12 along the way: a suspension bridge at the Quonset hut 1.3 miles west of the Visitor Center and a footbridge at the west end of a large pullout 3 miles from the Visitor Center.

It is also important to point out that the distinct properties found in the Naches Heights AVA area are also ideal for growing a number of other Washington products, including apples, pears, and cherries, as well as a variety of other crops such as hops and mint. Depending on the time of year that you visit Naches Heights, you can treat yourself to some local produce.

Thanks for reading and please drop me a comment if you have any questions about Washington Wines or the Washington AVAs. Cheers Everyone!


If you want to learn more about Washington state wine history you can read my articles; WASHINGTON WINE: THE SHAPING OF A REGIONWASHINGTON WINE: THE EARLY YEARS and WASHINGTON WINE: THE EVOLUTION OF THE INDUSTRY.

All images and content © copyrighted by Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

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