An area between Chelan and Wenatchee now has federal designation as a wine grape-growing region.

It's called Rocky Reach because of its proximity to Rocky Reach Dam, and is Washington’s 20th American Viticultural Area (AVA) as of last Friday.

A release from the Washington State Wine Commission acknowledges the name comes from the dam and adjacent reservoir, also noting "the name originated from steamboat captains in the late 1800s who used the term to describe the rapids within a stretch, or ‘‘reach,’’ of the Columbia River."

Rocky Reach currently has eight commercial vineyards covering 117 acres.

Its wineries can begin applying to a federal agency for labeling under the Rocky Reach geographical region on July 5.

“We are extremely pleased to have the Rocky Reach AVA approved,” said David and Michelle Dufenhorst, who own Rocky Pond Winery and two vineyards located within the AVA. “This is an essential step towards recognizing what we’ve known for some time—that this is a remarkable place to grow and produce top tier grapes and wines.”

American Viticultural Areas must have distinguishing features.

The state Wine Commission news release identifies Kevin Pogue, Professor of Geology at Whitman College, for writing the AVA petition for Rocky Reach, with its defining characteristics being its geology, soils, topography, and climate:

  • Geology: Rocky Reach is unique from almost all other appellations in the Columbia Valley in that it has predominantly granitic bedrock, a feature it shares with only Lake Chelan.
  • Soils: While the area has the windblown sand and silt (loess) that is ubiquitous throughout the Columbia Valley, in Rocky Reach, these soils overlie cobblestones and gravels.
  • Topography: Rocky Reach is located on an area of the Columbia River where the river has eroded a deep canyon. Within this canyon are flat-topped terraces along both sides of the river near the valley floor, ideally suited for viticulture and other agriculture.
  • Climate: Rocky Reach is located at low elevations within this valley. These lower elevations are considerably warmer and have a longer growing season relative to the surrounding mountains and plateaus.