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The difference in climate between the West coast of the United States and the East coast has all to do with wind. Prevailing winds blow the same way on both sides of the continent, but in the West, the winds are blowing off of the ocean into the land and in the east they are blowing from the land into the ocean. Simply put, large bodies of water, particularly oceans, are highly influential in creating climates. In turn, natural inland obstacles or refuges from this wind, such as mountains or deep valleys, respectively, will block and re-direct this blowing weather resulting in microclimates. The state of Washington pretty much takes the cake in this category as it has the winds of the Pacific, at a latitude where the ocean experiences particularly strong, cold currents, blowing into a ton of geographic diversity that diverts, traps, and manipulates it resulting in a multitude of microclimates. Some of these microclimates are perfect for growing wine since Washington is also squarely within the one of the two latitudinal Wine Belts. It is on the same latitude as the Bordeaux and Burgundy appellation regions in France, and indeed the same varietals thrive in many of the winegrowing regions of Washington. This northern latitude gives Washington two more hours of daylight during the summer growing season than wine regions in California. However, the tradeoff is that the soils in Washington are much less rich in nutrients than the soil in California, so there is far less arable land for vineyards in Washington than in California. However, Washington vines that do thrive produce, for the most part, hardier more nuanced grapes in terms of tannins and other flavor-producing components.

Before we go further, a quick refresher on terminology: the American Viticultural Area (AVA) is the United States equivalent of an appellation in Europe…kinda. It is an official delineated grape-growing region with specific geographic or climatic features that distinguish it from other areas, and it is sanctioned by a United States government agency, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). However, unlike in Europe, AVAs do not go as far as dictating the varietals and blends of varietals that are allowed to qualify for an appellation, mostly because there are no Vitus vinifera grapes that are native to any American regions. In fact, instead, AVAs are based on geography and climate, which then usually dictates what kind of varietal grape best grows in that combination; however, growers can still grow whatever they want and still claim the AVA designation for their wine.
The state of Washington has 20 AVAs. The first AVAs naturally started inland and continue to have the most success due to the protection that the Cascade Mountains provides from the cold winds of the Pacific Ocean and Puget Sound, and, in fact, the only AVA west of the Cascade Mountains is the Puget Sound AVA. Talking about microclimates, despite being close to a literal rainforest, the Puget Sound appellation region experiences long, mild, dry summers, but with enough rainfall to grow grapes without irrigation. It’s tiny, though, in terms of acreage, so we did not find a wine club wine from there. On that note, it must be noted sooner than later that a whopping 99 percent of all of the state’s vineyards are grown in the Columbia Valley AVA. And the AVAs within this Columbia AVA are still evolving. The first AVA was established in 1983 and they are still being added (e.g., the White Bluffs came into being in 2021. Hence, we found a red representation that comes from multiple vineyards in multiple AVAs across Columbia Valley, and we also found a white that comes exclusively from the Yakima Valley AVA and a red exclusively from the Wahluke Slope AVA.


Columbia Valley was established in 1984. It covers 11 million acres and, as we mentioned earlier, accounts for 99 percent of the acreage planted in the state, and a small piece of it even spills into Oregon, so don’t be surprised if you see Columbia Valley on the label of the occasional Oregon-based wine. The Cascade Mountain Range forms the AVA’s western border, and to the north it is hemmed in by the Okanogan–Wenatchee National Forest. The name Columbia Valley AVA is deceiving as there are actually numerous valleys within the AVA, many with separate microclimates, and they are all formed by the Columbia River and its tributaries, the Walla Walla River, Snake River and Yakima River.

Again, keep in mind that the Columbia Valley AVA has many AVAs within its umbrella, and nine of them are often referred to separately, including Ancient Lakes, Yakima Valley, Red Mountain, Walla Walla Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, Rattlesnake Hills, Lake Chelan, Snipes Mountain and Wahluke Slope. And to confuse matters even more, some of these nine are technically sub-appellations of some of the other nine. Yet, it all makes more sense if you just think about localization. If grapes for a wine are sourced completely from a specific geographical AVA, then that AVA will be the appellation on the label, but often vineyards may spill across AVAs in which case the larger AVA that encompasses them will be identified on the label.
The Columbia Gorge AVA within the far west border of the Columbia AVA
The founders are in the foreground of an aerial view of  vineyards in the Red Mountain AVA with the Candy Mountain AVA in the background
Featured Amaro Wine Club Washington State wine: DeLille Cellars Metier Cabernet Sauvignon (2021)
VARIETALS: Cabernet Sauvignon

In line with the growing potential strength of Washington’s latitude, DeLille Cellars began 30 years ago with a specialization in Bordeaux varietals and Bordeaux-style blends. It has since expanded to include Rhone Valley blends, and some Burgundy varietals. It was founded by Chris Upchurch Jay Soloff and the father son team Charles and Greg Lill. The name of the enterprise is from Lill family’s ancestor Julius DeLille, a Huguenot who fled religious persecution in Lille, France in the 16th century and started a winery in what is now the Czech Republic. The company has several vineyards, mostly in the Red Mountain AVA, but also in Horse Heaven Hills, Yakima Valley, and Snipes Mountain as well as some newer vineyards in Candy Mountain. Their Metier portfolio sources from across these AVAs and vineyards to create approachable value wines as opposed to the high-end wines that they produce with cellar aging in mind from Grand Cru vineyards in their portfolio of estates.

Most of the grapes for this single-varietal Cabernet Sauvignon comes from their Candy Mountain AVA vineyards. The grapes are macerated for 10 days and then 40 percent is aged in new French oak with a result of showcasing a fresh terroir-driven expression of the varietal.

FOOD PAIRINGS: beef short ribs, venison cheeks, lamb shanks, burgers, earthy vegetables


Yakima Valley is technically the first AVA, designated in 1983, before the Columbia AVA was conceived. Think of it as a company that was bought by a bigger company that is now its parent company. Over time, it was divided into four sub-appellations: Red Mountain, Snipes Mountain, Rattlesnake Hills, and Candy Mountain. You’ve probably already noticed that some of these are in the “nine” aforementioned AVAs that tend to stand on their own for labeling purposes.
Yakima Valley comprises one-quarter of the vineyard acreage of Columbia Valley, and of the state by default, and has a mixture of cooler and warmer climates, allowing for a wide spectrum of wine styles. Because of its cooler regions, it is also one of the few areas in the state where more white grapevines are planted than red, so we selected a white varietal from the AVA to feature in the wine club.
Vineyards in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA
Featured Amaro Wine Club Washington State wine: Airfield Estates Sauvignon Blanc (2021)
VARIETALS: Sauvignon Blanc

The Miller family has farmed for four generations along the anticlines of the Rattlesnake Mountains near a World War Two airbase. The airbase was also a flight school that was built on December 21, 1941 shortly have the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the US entry into World War Two. After the war came to an end and the pilots moved off the base, the US government sold the land and buildings to the highest bidder which turned out to be only one, the estate’s founder H. Lloyd Miller who bought it for $1. The buildings became the headquarters for the Miller family’s farming operations, now known as Airport Ranch. As for the estate’s vineyards, it still has vines that date back to 1968, but they have been dwarfed by expansion to 860-acres of vineyards on which 26 different grape varietals are cultivated. For this wine, the Sauvignon Blanc grapes are whole cluster pressed and the juice sat for six days before being fermented in stainless steel. After fermentation it sat on its fine lees for two months before being filtered and bottled. This is truly a unique Washington-style single-varietal Sauvignon Blanc wine.

FOOD PAIRINGS: summer salads, gazpacho, calamari with garlic and peas, grilled-vegetable pasta with cumin, bucheron or sharp cheddar
Miller family members in their vineyards


The Wahluke Slope is an alluvial fan. For those who are not geologists, an alluvial fan is a deposit of gravel, sand and silt that is the result of of flowing water interacting with some type of hill, mountain, or canyon millions of years ago. The AVA accounts for a sizeable 15 percent of total acreage in the state and the entire growing region is on a south-facing slope that has a consistent grade of less than 8%. The climate in this region is generally warm and dry and as such is mostly planted with red grape varietals.
Aerial view of the Wahluke Slope AVA and the Columbia River
Featured Amaro Wine Club Washington State wine: CasaSmith Cervo Barbera (2021)

Charles Smith started the K Vintners winery in 2001 and sold his first vintage of 330 cases of Syrah wine from Walla Walla out of the back of his van. Since then the company has grown considerably becoming one of the more well-known producers of Washington wine.
ViNO CasaSmith?is a 2010 addition of the company that focuses on wine made from classic Italian varietals. They started under the name ViNO with a single-vineyard Pinot Grigio from the Ancient Lakes region, followed by a Sangiovese Rosé and a Moscato. The CasaSmith brand was added in 2012 to focus on classic Italian red varietals, namely Barbera, Primitivo, and Sangiovese. The vineyards are in the Missoula Flood plain, which is at a relatively high enough elevation to have cool evenings, which, again, contributes to unique chemical components that result in minerality and concentrated flavors.

The Barbera grapes for this wine are fermented whole in stainless steel and stay with their skins for 38 days. After fermentation, it is aged in neutral French oak for nine months and comes out as big, bold with a high alcohol by volume (15%) and zero residual sugar.

FOOD PAIRINGS: braised rabbit with olives, charcuterie, duck, venison, lamb, root vegetables, herbaceous cheeses, such as blue cheese.
Barbera vineyards in the Missoula Flood plain