Fine, powdery soils produce highly aromatic wines.
Powdery soils tend to produce wines with more intense floral aromas, finer tannins, and slightly paler color in the glass. This is the main soil type you'll come across in Walla Walla Valley.
It's common to find this soil condition in the valley and the nearby rolling hills. These silky-textured soils don't hold water well but they do go incredibly deep. This means vines grow extensive root systems to extract nutrients.
Here's where you'll see these soils:
- Valley Floor Vineyards: These include vineyards in the Southside District which have soils that include both wind-blown (loess) over Missoula Flood silt deposits.
- Foothills Vineyards: These vineyards exist at higher elevations over 1,200 feet (the Missoula floods high water mark). Although they don't have Missoula Flood silt, they have very deep Loess (wind-blown) soils .
Rocky, volcanic soils bring savory and salty notes to wines.
Rocky soils add minerality and aromatic intensity to wines and volcanic soils add a unique salty-savory quality. This is an exciting soil type in Walla Walla Valley because it's so rare!
The volcanic base here is Basalt and because of this, wines often have a very meaty and iron-like flavor. Key grapes to explore from this soil include Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Grenache.
Here's where to find these soils:
- The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater: A massive ancient river deposited millions of cobblestones up to 600 feet deep! The cobbles sit within the appellation so you can look for wines that are from vineyards here.
- The River Canyons: There are a few vineyards in the river canyons on the Northfork and Southfork Walla Walla Valley rivers heading into the eastern Blue Mountains. Vineyards here are planted on steep slopes with terraces made of broken basalt pieces.
The Missoula Floods filled Eastern Washington with fine wine soils.
Walla Walla Valley can thank its tumultuous geological history for its great-tasting wines. It all started around 17,000 years ago when an ice dam broke on glacial Lake Missoula.
When the dam broke a massive 400 foot wave travelling 60 miles an hour rushed across Washington state towards the ocean!
Here's the thing, the Missoula Floods didn't happen once. They happened continually over a period of around 2,000–5,000 years as the ice slowly receded with the end of the ice age.
The floods carved out the Columbia River valley. And, each time the waters slowed and settled, they deposited millions of tons of silt across Washington state.
This is why much of Eastern Washington under 1,200 feet is covered with exceptionally fine silt-like soils.