Right on the heels of the recent Royal Slope designation, the state of Washington has another new wine AVA, Candy Mountain, granted by the TTB on September 25, 2020. Located in Benton County, near the well-known Red Mountain AVA, the new Candy Mountain AVA is just over 800 total acres, making it Washington’s smallest appellation. Candy Mountain is wholly within the larger Yakima Valley AVA, which is, in turn, nested within the much larger Columbia Valley AVA.
Southeast of taller Rattlesnake Mountain, Candy Mountain is one of a series of four hills, often referred to as the “rattles.” All four rattles, including Red Mountain, are circled in pink on the map. Looks like a rattlesnake, right? The arrow points out Candy Mountain, in relationship to the others.
Currently, Candy Mountain has just over 100 acres planted in grapevines and one, lone winery. With southwest-facing slope between 640-1,320 foot above sea level, the new appellation is less susceptible to frost than the valley floor. The northeastern side of the mountain was excluding from the AVA proposal because of its significant grape-growing challenges, including very steep slopes and much less direct sunshine.
Basalt bedrock forms the base of the Candy Mountain, with wind-blown loess soils and fine sand atop it, much like icing on a cake. The cataclysmic Missoula floods repeatedly swirled around bedrock, depositing layer after layer of silt and sand with each flood. In the years between floods, the wind dusted the mountain with glacial loess blown in from Montana, much like as a baker sprinkles powdered sugar on a dessert. The flood material is thickest near the base and gradually thins as you move up the mountain. Only windblown loess soil is found above 1,250 feet, indicating that the Missoula flood waters didn’t completely wash over the mountain.
Grapevines love loess and sandy soils since they are loose materials and easy for roots to penetrate. The downside is that these soils also don’t hold much water so grape growers need to irrigate their wines during the growing season. Once the vines reach the basalt rock, their roots must search for small cracks if they want to grow deeper. However, their struggles are worth it as that basalt is filled with iron, calcium and magnesium-rich nutrients, which grapes love too.
Rumor has it that a man who owned much of the area was a fan of Walt Disney. He dreamed of opening a small amusement park but knew he needed a name that would appeal to both adults and children. Eventually, he christened the area Candy Mountain in the hopes it would draw many visitors to his amusement park. Sadly, he never achieved his dream of building the park but his legacy lives on, just in a slightly different form. Soon adults above legal drinking age can enjoy Washington wines with Candy Mountain AVA on the labels. Well, it’s that the cherry on top?