Region Overview-Columbia Valley

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THE MISSOULA FLOODS : The Story of Washington’s Columbia Valley Soils

Fifteen thousand years ago during the last Ice Age, an enormous two thousand foot high ice dam formed near what is now the northern border of Montana and Idaho. When the ice dam weakened and erupted due to the enormous pressure from Lake Missoula, a giant wall of water equal to ten times all the world’s rivers — the Missoula Floods — ripped through what are now central Idaho, eastern Washington and northeastern Oregon.

A rich brew of minerals and silts were created as these waters churned toward the Pacific Ocean. Easterly-blowing winds then lifted these deposits from western Oregon and Washington back to what is now the Columbia Valley. Thus the soils for our Riesling Vineyards were born. There’s a reason that Pacific Rim’s home is in the Columbia Valley — the region provides ideal terroir for Riesling. Soils found nowhere else in the world combined with an arid climate with cool evenings year-round are the perfect ingredients for growing world-class Riesling.

Washington Wine FACTS

  • 700+ wineries producing over 12 million cases
  • More than 43,000 vineyard acres and 13 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs)
  • Economic impact of US: $8 billion
  • #2 wine producer in the U.S.
  • #1 Riesling producer in the U.S.
  • Riesling #1 varietal in Washington
  • Continental climate influenced by Cascade range
  • Mineral soils created by the Missoula floods
  • Managed irrigation due to 8”of annual rains


  • Columbia Valley river basin
  • Snow run-off to feed rivers and canals
  • Underground aquifers (wells)


  • 40° F difference from day to night
  • Grapes ripen during the day, vines rest at night
  • Natural balance of sugars (alcohol) and acids


  • 17 hours per day during the growing season
  • “Burgundy in the desert”
  • 300 days per year
  • High-intensity light
  • Warm=Ripe grapes


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