The state of Washington is to get its seventh federally-recognised American Viticultural Area (AVA). Horse Heaven Hills, an area of 570,000 acres in south central Washington, will be awarded appellation status by the US Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau on Monday (1 August).

"Horse Heaven Hills is one of the state's premier wine growing regions and home to some of our oldest and most established vineyards," said Robin Pollard, executive director of the Washington Wine Commission. "Government approval of the AVA is a significant achievement for our industry, as it allows vintners to distinguish wines produced from Horse Heaven Hills vineyards and allows consumers to easily identify these quality wines from our state. Appellation status also brings notoriety to the region and will help boost tourism to the area's wineries and vineyards."

Horse Heaven Hills currently includes four wineries with 6,040 acres of wine grapes planted, although it is estimated nearly 70% of the total region could produce quality grapes. More than 20 grape varieties are grown in the AVA, dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Riesling, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Horse Heaven Hills's 20 vineyards produce grapes for many of the region's premier wineries, including Andrew Will Winery, Betz Family Winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest, Columbia Winery, Hogue Cellars, Long Shadows Vintners, Quilceda Creek and Woodward Canyon, amongst many others.

"Some of the finest wines in Washington state are produced from grapes grown in the Horse Heaven Hills," said Ted Baseler, president/CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and a Washington Wine Commissioner. "I am confident the Horse Heaven AVA will be one of the top appellations in the US."

The Horse Heaven Hills AVA stretches along the Columbia River in portions of Klickitat, Yakima and Benton counties, approximately 115 miles east of Vancouver, Washington. It lies entirely within the established Columbia Valley appellation.