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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I’ve been a fan of Washington wines for a while, and when I saw “Columbia Valley” on a wine list, I knew I was ordering a Washington wine. But now it seems like fewer and fewer Washington wines are from Columbia Valley. What gives?

—Cris D., Seattle

Dear Cris,

Actually, 99 percent of the wines from Washington are still from Columbia Valley. It is Washington’s largest American Viticultural Area, covering nearly 11 million acres and representing a full third of the size of Washington state.

Problem is, such a large AVA doesn’t adequately describe the diversity of soils and microclimates within it, so it’s been further divided into subregions over the years: Yakima Valley (which contains the sub-AVAs Rattlesnake Hills, Red Mountain and Snipes Mountain), Walla Walla Valley, Wahluke Slope, Horse Heaven Hills, Lake Chelan, Naches Heights and Ancient Lakes. Only Washington’s Puget Sound and Columbia Gorge AVAs are located outside of Columbia Valley; Idaho’s Lewis-Clark AVA overlaps with Washington as well.

Columbia Valley also includes The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA, which lies within the Walla Walla AVA. Thing is, Columbia Valley and Walla Walla (as well as Columbia Gorge) stretch into neighboring Oregon and, funnily enough, The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater lies entirely within the state of Oregon.

—Dr. Vinny

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