Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Washington. Copyright Richard Duval.

(50+ wines reviewed below, including the latest from Alveare, Among the Giants, Amos Rome, Argyle, Armstrong Family, Betz Family, Force Majeure, Garageland, Goose Ridge, Liberty Lake, Love & Squalor, Matthews, Parabellum by Force Majeure, Passing Time, Sagemoor, Syncline, WeatherEye, and Woodward Canyon.)

Red Mountain is an appellation deserving of national and international recognition. Red Mountain makes many of Washington’s highest quality wines. It is also one of the state’s best positioned growing regions from a marketing perspective.

Red Mountain is physically beautiful and looks like wine country. Over half of its acreage is planted to wine grapes.

The appellation is easy to visualize and understand. It is a broad, generally south-facing slope located on a Yakima Fold Belt structure. One can see it from the highway in its entirety and on approach.

The wines, though varied, are similarly easy to understand. Why are they often quite bold? Red Mountain is typically the hottest appellation in Washington or close to it given its location near the center of the Columbia Basin. This, along with nutrient poor soils, contributes to small berry size.

Why are the wines so structured? The Yakima River runs by the appellation. This, and Red Mountain’s physical presence, create wind that contribute to thicker skins than the norm. (Read an article I wrote for Wine Enthusiast about Red Mountain that discusses these aspects.)

Last year, I wrote about five things that appellations need to succeed. Red Mountain is one of the few growing regions in Washington that checks almost all of the boxes.

Red Mountain was recognized for its wine quality long before it received appellation status. There are a number of iconic producers, located both on the mountain and across the state.

Cabernet Sauvignon is unequivocally Red Mountain’s star. It makes up fully 60% of plantings. Bordeaux-style blends also shine brightly on Red Mountain.

Some wines from Red Mountain make it out into distribution. Distribution is, however, certainly an area the appellation could improve upon.

Col Solare, Red Mountain. Copyright Richard Duval.

That said, given Red Mountain’s diminutive size (4,040 total acres), it is never going to be cranking out volume. That is fine. The story at Red Mountain is and always will be about quality and distinctiveness.

Wine tourism has also been somewhat of a sticking point. Yes, Red Mountain sees its fair share of visitors. However, many also pass by on their way to Walla Walla. That is a significant missed opportunity. Red Mountain has long needed more amenities close by to keep people in the area.

There are about 16 wineries on Red Mountain. That is surely more than enough to satisfy people visiting for a day or weekend. However, there are likely 200 or more producers in Washington using Red Mountain fruit.

This is both a boon and a bane for Red Mountain. The widespread use of Red Mountain fruit broadens local recognition but does not necessarily help drive visitation the way that it should. Instead, those visits go to the wineries’ home regions.

Still, put all these aspects together and Red Mountain has perhaps the most compelling pitch in Washington wine. As the wines reviewed below and many hundreds of others show, quality is there and has been for decades.

All area producers need to do, if they so wish, is unite and tell the story far and wide. Red Mountain’s rise is also something that could raise Washington’s profile more generally. Either way, the story of Red Mountain wine very much deserves to be told.

This article has been updated. 

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