Rattlesnake Hills AVA produces an excellent red

in Wine by

How often do you think of rattlesnakes and wines in the same context? Probably not too often, if ever.

But, this week we get to do exactly that. Not to worry, though. We may talk about them in the same lesson; we’ll only be tasting one of them.

Rattlesnake Hills AVA was established in 2006, although the first vines were planted there in 1968. It is in the Yakima Valley in the state of Washington. Officially, that makes it a sub-AVA, located in the northern part of Yakima.

The Yakima Ridge is on the north side of Rattlesnake Hills. The peaks of this ridge are 4,000 feet high so they can more than adequately protect the low-lying Rattlesnake Hills AVA and its vineyards.

Blasts of freezing Arctic air are not good for grapes or grapevines. During really cold seasons, Rattlesnake Hills stands out because of this protection. It means their harvests are safer and larger than some of the areas around them, like Walla Walla and Red Mountain.

We’ve crossed paths with both AVAs before. The soils in our AVA are predominantly loam with assorted layers of others underneath. Good air flow and good drainage both do their part for better grape growing, as well.

Our winery, Hyatt, is located in the center of the small Rattlesnake Hills AVA. Because of its very select micro-climate – an arid continental climate with an average of 6 to 12 inches of rain per year – they have better heat units than the rest of Yakima Valley. Vineyards in Rattlesnake Hills are planted at 700 to 1,200 feet. There are 20 wineries in the AVA currently, and they all show promise because of the excellent grapes with balance and developed flavors that grow there. There are over 40 varieties grown in Rattlesnake Hills.

Hyatt Vineyards was established in 1983 by Leland and Lynda Hyatt. Their first vintage of wine produced was in 1987. They started as a small, estate winery and now they own 180 acres. These are spread over four sites, all within 3 miles of their original estate. The four are Cherry Hill, Three Rocks, Roza Ridge and the Estate Vineyard in Rattlesnake Hills. Each of these has a distinct soil, elevation and exposure.

The Hyatts were part of the reason Rattlesnake Hills became an AVA. Today, besides their Hyatt label, they also produce wines for their Roza Ridge brand. They grow and make wines from merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, chardonnay, riesling, black muscat, petit verdot, malbec and zinfandel.

Our wine this week is the Hyatt Roadside Market Red, 2012. This vintage was very good in Rattlesnake Hills. There were good temperatures for the whole growing season. The fall was long, with cool nights and there was no danger of any frost during the harvest.

This wine is a blend of mostly two Bordeaux varieties, with interesting flavor and texture tweaks from several others. It is 48 percent cabernet sauvignon, 25 percent merlot, 22 percent syrah, 3 percent tempranillo and 2 percent petit sirah. Thirty percent of the wine was aged in new oak barrels.

It has raspberry and plum flavors in a dark black-red colored wine. There is vanilla smoke on the nose, red cherry, plum and blueberry notes. The dark fruit flavors are balanced with moderately soft tannins, good acidity and a luxurious mouth-feel. At Hyatt it is known as the “crowd pleaser!” and as a food pleaser.

Roadside Red goes well with meats, pasta dishes, cheeses, even baked and broiled seafoods.

Maybe we shouldn’t think of rattlesnakes with this wine, despite where it comes from. Instead, it’s just a really good wine at a really good price. For $10.99, it may be the new crowd pleaser ever.