The Columbia Gorge is the natural divider between Washington and Oregon, where the Columbia River flows from east of the Cascade Mountains all the way to the Pacific ocean. The Gorge was etched out of the earth by prehistoric floods and volcanic eruptions, significant events which greatly affected not only the landscape, but also the vineyard soils. The area has long been famous for its pears, apples and cherries, but in the 1970s winemakers discovered that the sloping gravel and silt beds would be a great location to plant vineyards.
The climate is molded by the Columbia Valley desert to the north and east, the cool Cascade mountains running through the area that include Mount Hood and Mount Adams and the prevailing wind gusting upstream from the Pacific. Rainfall varies through the Gorge, with the AVA receiving 36 inches per year at the western end and 10 inches per year at its eastern border. These factors balance each other out, providing the area with moderate summers and winters. Vignerons have found that Alsatian and Burgundian grapes, including Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir are best suited for the region’s climate. However, Bordeaux and Italian varietals are constantly be planted to determine which are best suited for the region.