Yakima Valley appellation split

The Rattlesnake Hills, southeast of Yakima in central Washington, has become the state's ninth federally recognized wine grape-growing region.

The U.S. Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved the Rattlesnake Hills for appellation status, effective March 20. The federal bureau awards appellation status to regions, also known as American Viticultural Areas, to recognize their distinct climate and soil features.

The 68,500-acre region lies within the Yakima Valley appellation, stretching from Union Gap, just south of Yakima, to north of Sunnyside about 45 miles to the east. Its loam soils hold moisture better than some other Washington areas and it historically is slightly warmer than the rest of the Yakima Valley appellation.

Gail Puryear, owner and winemaker at Bonair Winery in Zillah, and his wife, Shirley, were among proponents of the new appelation.

"We can ripen the warmest varieties, the sun-loving varieties like syrah and nebbiolo, but we have micro-climates because of the varying topography," he told the Associated Press. "Riesling does well in the cool micro-climates. We grow everything in between."

Dick Boushey, a Grandview grower who opposed the appellation request, told the AP the issue had become divisive in some corners. Half the 26 parties submitting comments to the government were opposed to the division of the current appellation.

"It just shows I don't really understand what it takes to be an AVA, and I guess I have a little bit less regard for what an AVA is," he said. "Whatever happens, we all need to work together. There probably will be more AVAs in the future, and I think we all want the same thing: to promote the area in any way we can."

If the application met all the criteria to be named an appellation, it just gives the Washington wine industry one more opportunity to market itself, said Robin Pollard, executive director of the Washington Wine Commission, a promotion agency funded by member fees on growers and wineries.

The Chelan area in north-central Washington and the Ancient Lake region near Moses Lake in central Washington have proposals for appellation status pending.

Washington is the No. 2 producer nationally of wine, after California. More than 350 wineries, 350 wine-grape growers and 30,000 vineyard acres support the more than $2.5 billion annual industry.

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