Get to Know: Horse Heaven Hills AVA

At Long Shadows, we build our wines on the best fruit sourced from Washington State’s most prestigious vineyards. One of those vineyards, The Benches at Wallula, is tucked into the defined benchland ridges of Horse Heaven Hills AVA, where a series of geologically formed “benches” created by the Great Missoula Floods has left wrinkled “folds” of land with intriguing layers of mesoclimates.

The Columbia River serves as a cooling insulator at the base of the AVA happily mediating temperatures while many of the high elevation vineyards represent some of Washington’s warmest regions, perfectly suited to Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec (which is exactly what we are sourcing from Horse Heaven Hills – see below).

Our Top Horse Heaven Hills Wine Ambassadors:

2018 Feather: Our 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, sources a quarter of the fruit from the Horse Heaven Hills vineyards.

2018 Saggi: Our savvy Tuscan blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon brings Horse Heaven Hills to the blend in the refined tannins of the Cab contribution.

2018 Pirouette: Our ultra-elegant Bordeaux blend spotlights Horse Heaven Hills’ Sonnet Vineyard in the spicy splash of Malbec.

Horse Heaven Hills by the Numbers:

First Vines Planted: 1972
Designated as an AVA:
17,082 acres (6,912 hectares)
Top Varieties:
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, Syrah
Average Annual Precipitation
: 6-9 inches

Rumor has it that the name “Horse Heaven Hills” comes from an early pioneer’s appreciation of the wide-open prairies and hilly landscapes and declared, “Surely this is horse heaven!” The name stuck and today Horse Heaven Hills is home to over a quarter of Washington’s vineyards. This southernmost winegrowing region, along the Oregon border, is readily recognized as one of Washington’s warmer grape growing appellations. Sunny days, well-drained soils, and a predominately continental climate, make it an ideal place for growing Cabernet Sauvignon which dominates the plantings.

Most of the vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills are planted on south-facing slopes, allowing for extended sun exposure, and ripening. It’s estimated that about a third of the grapes grown in this AVA are white wine grapes and two-thirds are planted to red wine grapes. Vineyard elevations range from 200 feet near the Columbia River to over 1800 feet with considerable soil variation. Today, there are over 150 wineries designating Horse Heaven Hills AVA on bottle labels. In fact, Horse Heaven Hills is the source of the state’s five, top-rated 100-point wines.

(Stats and image provided by Washington State Wine Commission -

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