One of the things that I knew that I would need to get a handle on when I moved to Washington, was the layout of the various American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). This can sometimes prove to be more difficult than you might think, as the AVAs here have this tendency to overlap, or possibly to be contained within the boundaries of another AVA. Let me show you what I mean.
As you can see, Eastern Washington is a mess of overlapping appellations. Aside from the Puget Sound AVA, the rest of the appellations in the state are situated in the Eastern portion of Washington. The largest of these is the Columbia Valley AVA, which stretches into Oregon. Within the borders of the Columbia Valley AVA, you will find the Yakima Valley, which in turn contains at least portions of the Rattlesnake Hills, Red Mountain, Snipes Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills AVAs. Hopefully you've got that, because I'm not repeating it.
I recently had the opportunity to visit a few spots in the Yakima Valley AVA, and specifically a couple of wineries in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA. The Rattlesnake Hills has been its own appellation since 2006, and includes land between the north bank of the Sunnyside Canal and the southern slopes of the Rattlesnake Hills.
Two Mountain Winery
Two Mountain Winery is owned by brothers Matthew and Patrick Rawn, whose family ties to the Yakima Valley go back over 100 years, and who have been involved in agriculture in the area for over 50 years. The Rawns started converting some of their land from orchards to vineyards in 2000, planting Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Syrah, Lemberger, Cabernet Sauvignon and Touriga Nacional.
When I showed up at the winery, Matthew and Patrick were actually out of town, but I was met by Jay Spurlock, owner of Severino Cellars, who was pressing some grapes at Two Mountain. This is one of the things that I love about visiting smaller production wineries within the different winemaking communities. I love to see the cooperative spirit that you will find among businesses that are technically "competition" to each other. With the Rawns out of town, Spurlock and one of the men who was assisting with the pressing duties were only too happy to pour me some wine.
Hidden Horse VII – Red Blend – $15
This non-vintage blend is comprised of 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 6% Syrah, 4% Lemberger and 1% Malbec. The nose has lots of dark fruit, vanilla, and oak, as well as a touch of tea leaves. On the palate I found lots of blackberries, plums, and black pepper. An interesting table wine for $15.
2006 Merlot – $22
Slightly vegital aromas, cherries, and toast stand out on the nose of this wine. The palate is full of red fruit, vanilla, and a touch of juniper. Nice long finish. Not my favorite Washington Merlot, but you should definitely try it for yourself if you make it by their tasting room.
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon – $28
The nose on this Cabernet Sauvignon is showing some complexity, with aromas of leather, tea leaves, and cigar box aromas, as well as some nice dark fruit. The tobacco notes surface again on the palate, along with dark fruit, vanilla, and a nice finish. Not a bad Cab for the price, and definitely worth a try.
Since I had met Jay Spurlock at Two Mountain, I decided to make a stop at his winery while I was in Zillah. Severino Cellars has a great location in Zillah, located in a charming little house right off the highway. When I arrived at the winery, I met with Spurlock's daughter Nikki Samaniego. Severino Cellars is another family operation. The winery is named after Spurlock's son-in-law, Severino Samaniego, who is also the winemaker and operates a vineyard. The winery is still young, the tasting room just opened it's doors in 2007, but they seem to be off to a good start.
2009 Viognier – $19.99
The nose on the 2009 Viognier is floral and fruity, with citrus, tangerine and stone fruit all showing up. The palate is chewy, with honey, apricot, and some nice minerality. This dry Viognier is made from Severino estate fruit, and pretty much gives you what you want from a Viognier.
Severino Red Lot #3 – $15.99
This non-vintage blend is made up of 66% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose gave me some nice red berry and cherry aromas, as well as some baking spice notes. The palate offers more red fruit, some black pepper, and chocolate. A very nice table wine for $15.
2007 Merlot – $21.99
On the nose I got some of the same tea leaf notes that I got from some of the Two Mountain wines, which is probably because some of the same fruit was used to produce this Merlot. I also was getting cherries, vanilla, and some mineral notes. The palate had some nice berry flavors, spice, and tobacco.
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon – $24.99
Red fruit, tobacco, and spice drive the nose on this wine. The palate has some nice spicy raspberry, blackberries, and chocolate. The well balanced acidity in this wine seems to suggest a very food friendly Cab. A found this one to be a good value at $24.99.
Although I didn't really spend enough time in the Rattlesnake Hills to fully get to know it, I did enjoy the two stops that I made. The entire Rattlesnake Hills AVA is contained in a fairly small area, and the visits that I made had a very tightly knit community feel, although I have heard that the relationships in this area are not without their strife, but that's a bigger topic than I want to tackle in this post. The countryside in the Zillah area has a rugged beauty to it that begs for exploration, and I look forward to getting a deeper look soon.