Yakima Valley AVA was the first AVA created in Washington State. The valley, a 600,000-acre area in south central Washington, was granted AVA status in 1983. In 1984 Columbia Valley was given AVA status, and Yakima Valley was enclosed within the Columbia Valley AVA. Nevertheless, Yakima Valley remains home to the largest concentration of vineyards and wineries in the state. There are more than 60 wineries and some 16,000 vineyard acres, and nearly 40% of Washington wines are made with Yakima Valley grapes. The most frequently planted grape is Chardonnay, followed by Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Winemaking here dates to 1869, when a winemaker from Alsace planted grape vines. Vineyard planting and wine production plodded along slowly until the early 1980s when numerous modern pioneers started making well-reviewed Yakima Valley wines. Some of the state’s newest, most closely watched appellations, including Red Mountain AVA and Horse Heaven Hills AVA, are contained within Yakima Valley.
The Merlot grape is such a deep blue that it is named for the blackbird. It’s an early ripening grape and one of the primary varietals used In Bordeaux. Merlot is also grown in the "International style," which is harvested later to bring out more tannins and body.