Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail

The Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail is wine country like it used to be with wineries in the vineyards and owners tending the tasting bars. The Rattlesnake Hills is often referred to as the 'green' tour of the Yakima Valley wineries. Situated in the low rolling hills, the Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail takes you through some of the best orchard and vineyard land in the area. Each winery offers a unique setting in which to enjoy the fruit of the vine. The tasting rooms vary from Northwest modern architecture to traditional European with everything in between. All tasting rooms are open to the public without reservations during their published hours.

Wine tasting in the Rattlesnake Hills is real wine country, only 2 ½ hours from Seattle via the I-90 interstate. The Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail extends from Union Gap, the beginning of the Yakima Valley, where the Yakima River squeezes between Ahtanum Ridge to the west and the Rattlesnake Hills to the east, then down to the Sunnyside Gap where Highway 241 heads for Vernita. The 15 wineries on the Wine Trail guarantee that you will have a fabulous time and will take home some of the best wines that you have ever tasted.

The Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail Association is The Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail, a nonprofit, 501(c)6 association of the 13 wineries within the Washington State Rattlesnake Hills AVA, is dedicated to providing a fun and educational tasting experience, offering wine tasting, vineyard tours, and entertaining events, and is open to the public year-round.

Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail - Yakima Valley

Our Mission

Our mission is to promote the wines produced in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA and to promote wine tourism within our area through high quality wines, education, and positive tasting room experiences.

Fast Facts

  • The first commercial vineyards in the region date back to 1968.
  • The first commercial wineries in the area opened their doors in 1980.
  • With 18+ wineries and 29 vineyards, it provides many Washington producers with:

    White Wine Grapes: Aligote, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Madeline Angevine, Mueller-Thurgau, Muscat Canelli, Muscat Ottonel, Orange Muscat, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Rousanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Siegerrebe, Viognier

    Red Wine Grapes: Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Lemberger (Blue Franc), Malbec, Merlot, Mouverdre, Nebbiolo, Petit Syrah, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah, Zinfandel
  • Wineries in the Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail association produce over 40 wine varietals.
  • In additional to one-wine varietals, a lot of our wineries, craft ‘fanciful’ wine blends with labels like 'Bung Dog Red'.
  • In recent years, Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail wineries amassed over 150 wine awards on their wines through national and international competitions.
  • Awarded American Viticulture Area status in March, 2006, the Rattlesnake Hills AVA is the ninth federally designated appellation in Washington State.
  • Located approximately four miles southeast of Yakima, the 68,500 acre (27,721 hectares) appellation has 1,500 acres (607 hectares) under vines.
  • Encompassing an expanse of hills running east to west along the northern point of the Yakima River and south of Moxee Valley, the Rattlesnake Hills AVA lies within both the established Columbia Valley and Yakima Valley appellations.
  • Beginning at an elevation of 850 feet and rising up to 3,085 feet, the viticultural area sits higher in elevation than the surrounding Yakima Valley region.
  • Vineyards are typically located on ridges and terraces and in areas with good air drainage to avoid late spring and early fall frost and winter kill.
  • Every year the Rattlesnake Hills Wineries and AVA receive national and international wine awards recognizing the superb quality of both the grapes grown in our area and the wines produced.  See the most current listing of Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail Wine Awards receipients.

About the AVA

Did you know the Rattlesnake Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area) is the ninth federally recognized AVA in the country? It is entirely contained within the Yakima Valley AVA, which is in turn is entirely contained within the larger Columbia Valley AVA. The hills form the northern boundary of Yakima Valley, and the AVA includes land between the north bank of the Sunnyside Canal and the entirety of the southern slopes of the Rattlesnake Hills between Outlook and the Wapato Dam. The AVA is centered around the city of Zillah. With elevations ranging from 850 feet to 3,085 feet, this AVA contains the highest point in the Yakima Valley AVA.

Vineyards in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA include the Morrison Vineyard, planted in 1968 to Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon for Chateau Ste. Michelle. It is the oldest vineyard in the AVA. In the late 1970's and early 1980's, the Hyatt Vineyard, Whisky Canyon, Outlook, and the Portteus Vineyard were also planted. Many of the wines from other regions across the state are made with grapes that come from the Rattlesnake Hills AVA in the Yakima Valley.

Don’t Worry – No Snakes Just Great Wine!

Those traversing the Rattlesnake Hills Trail won’t likely encounter slithery reptiles as they visit the various rural tastings rooms and vineyards.  AVAs are named for geography, not local fauna. In this case, the Rattlesnake Hills are a nearby land mass.

Chasing Out The Snakes

Every March in celebration of the anniversary of the Rattlesnake Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area), St. Gail of Bonair Winery will read the official proclamation and then perform the ritual of Chasing the Snakes out of the Rattlesnake Hills. This will ensure our visitors and friends that no snakes will ever interfere in the enjoyment of all of our fine wines.

AVA Questions and Answers

What does AVA stand for?

American Viticulture Area, a wine grape-growing region distinguished by geographical features. It is also known as an appellation.

When was Rattlesnake Hills granted AVA status?

Rattlesnake Hills was established an AVA in 2006

Who says whether an area is an AVA?

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), a federal department, regulates the AVA process, and decides when an application has merit.

How do you become an AVA?

In order to become an AVA, there is a petition process that defines boundaries, land formation, soils, climates, historic and current support for the name, and supporting evidence. There is a period for comments by the public, then the TTB reviews all information and documents, and rules whether the area can be called an American Viticulture Area.

Why is Rattlesnake Hills an AVA?

Several factors distinguish the Rattlesnake Hills area from others close by. These include temperature, soils, and climate.

  • Temperature: The Rattlesnake Hills has 2683 - 2870 annual degree-days (each degree that a day’s mean temperature is above 50 degrees F is called a degree-day), which is temperate compared to the surrounding regions. Moxee is more than 500 degree-days cooler, and Parker, Badger Canyon and Benton City are more than 100 degree-days hotter annually.
  • Soils: Fine, shallow silt loam soils left over from the ice age are the norm here. Sandier soils surround the AVA, but the silt loam on top of the rock and flood formations here provide the perfect soil structure for quality grapes.
  • Climate: To the west, the high Cascade Range shields the Rattlesnake Hills, and much of Eastern Washington, from ocean influences, and Umptanum Ridge, Yakima Ridge and the Rattlesnake Hills ridgeline shields the grapevines from the freezing polar air from Canada that can severely damage or kill the vines.

What are the boundaries?

From Union Gap just south of Yakima, the boundary follows the Sunnyside Canal (at about 900 feet elevation) to the power line just east of Tefft Cellars. It follows the power line to the summit of Rattlesnake Hills, than back along the ridge to the point of origin.

Why was it named the Rattlesnake Hills AVA?

An AVA must be given the most common name both currently and historically. The Rattlesnake Hills name originated in the 1850s with the first settlers in the area. It has appeared on Yakima Valley maps since 1910, and was the only choice since the AVA lies on the Rattlesnake Hills slopes.

What does it mean to be an AVA?

An AVA defines where the wine grapes come from. Grapes will take on certain flavors, based on the soil, climate and temperature from the region they were grown in. Consumers and vintners can then determine the “flavors” of the grapes in a certain wine based on the AVA where the grapes were sourced. When a vintner prepares a wine, if 85% of the grapes in that mix are from the Rattlesnake Hills, the label can say “Rattlesnake Hills” on it.