Walla Walla’s Terroir

A Cataclysmic Grape Growing Region

Cataclysmic geological events, including the Earth’s largest known lava flows and fine grained deposits from the Earth’s largest glacial floods, have contributed to the superb grape-growing soils of the Walla Walla Valley.

In this small appellation, there is as much variation in vineyards, as is seen in entire regions and sometimes entire countries. Essentially, a merlot vine of the same stock can produce different results depending its location in the valley.

Variations depend upon a wide range of geologic, climatic and cultivating practices, as well as the winegrower’s cultural background and connection with the land. Together these make up what the French call terroir. Here are some more interesting facts about the terroir of Walla Walla Valley:

  • 12,000-14,000 years ago, the world’s largest and most spectacular glacial outbursts flooded the region and left rich glacial sediments.
  • Overlayed with more recent volcanic deposits, the soils are unique in the world and superbly suited to viticulture.
  • The valley is located at latitude 45½ N, parallel to the great French wine region of Bordeaux.
  • This region enjoys 2 hours more summer sunlight than in California wine regions, and 300 days of sunshine a year, allowing for more ripening and ‘hang time’.
  • The cooler nights allow for higher natural acidity, giving Washington an advantage over other grape growing regions.
  • Recognition that red wine varieties benefit from the longer growing season, aridity and temperature differential (that is warm days and cool nights) is just one more reason why Walla Walla is a great area for producing fine red wines.