The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA

Coordinates: 45°57′30″N 118°24′30″W / 45.95833°N 118.40833°W / 45.95833; -118.40833
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The Rocks District
Wine region
The Rocks AVA map.JPG
Rough location of The Rocks District (red) within Walla Walla AVA (black)
Official nameThe Rocks District of Milton-Freewater Viticultural Area
TypeAmerican Viticultural Area
Year established2015[1]
CountryUnited States
Part ofColumbia Valley AVA and Walla Walla AVA, Oregon
Climate regionArid
Soil conditionscobbles
Total area3,770 acres (1,526 ha)[2]
Size of planted vineyards472 acres (191 ha)[2]
No. of vineyards35
The Rocks District signature cobblestones

The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA (The Rocks District) is an American Viticultural Area that is a sub-appellation of the Walla Walla Valley AVA, which itself is a sub-appellation of the Columbia Valley AVA.[3][4][5]

It is named for the city of Milton-Freewater, Oregon, and a unique alluvial fan resulting in rocky soils with "baseball sized" basalt cobbles[6] covering the earth,[4] and is notable as being "the only AVA in the United States whose boundaries are defined by the soil type".[7] Unique wine flavors are said to result from the mineral composition, hydrology, and temperatures of the volcanic rocks.[8][a][9][10]


Washington State geologist and terroir consultant Kevin Pogue submitted the proposal for the new AVA to the U.S. government.[3][4][6][5][b][2] The AVA was published for comment in the Federal Register in February 2014,[2] and was established in February 2015.[1]


The AVA, unlike the Walla Walla Valley AVA, and the Walla Walla Valley itself, lies entirely within the state of Oregon. This has implications for use of the appellation on wines produced in Oregon and Washington. Because Federal rules require wines to be fully finished in the state in which the AVA lies,[12][13] only a handful of Oregon wineries,[14][c] out of the more than 100 wineries in both states in the Walla Walla Valley,[16] would be permitted to use the appellation on their product.[d] At the same time, Oregon wineries as far away as Portland could use the appellation.[e] This has caused some, labeled "prominent dissenters" by Wine Spectator's Harvey Steiman, to oppose the AVA.[5] Other reactions were less pointed with wine publishers using terms like "a bit of controversy"[11] and "the location...creates some nuances".[15] One of the same publishers said a "sub-appellation was ... inevitable given the uniqueness of the soils and resulting wines".[15]

Critical reception[edit]

Wine Spectator's two top-rated Northwest wines as of 2013, both Syrahs, and both of which scored 98 out of 100, were from the AVA.[17]


  1. ^ "Vines struggle to grow, resulting in tiny grapes of amazing flavor intensity. And yes, the wines show the sort of flavors that fall under the heading of "minerality," although to my taste it's more like black olive and tar.": Steiman 2013[5]
  2. ^ "[Kevin] Pogue authored a petition to recognize 'The Rocks at Milton-Freewater' as a federally approved American Viticultural Area.": Perdue 2014[11]
  3. ^ Sullivan states only Cayuse, Otis Kenyon, Watermill, Don Carlo Vineyard and Zerba wineries meet the criterion.[15]
  4. ^ "The [Rocks AVA] petition is surrounded by a bit of controversy because it is wholly within Oregon though entirely within the Walla Walla Valley. Under current federal labeling laws, Washington wineries that use grapes from 'The Rocks' would not be able to use that AVA name on the label. Instead, they would need to refer to it as coming from the Walla Walla Valley. This would apply even to Washington wineries that own vineyards within the AVA. Only Oregon wineries would be able to use the designation.": Perdue 2014[11]
  5. ^ "[Wineries in] Portland, hundreds of miles away, can and do make wines from these grapes. They could legally use the AVA.": Steiman 2013[5]


  1. ^ a b "TTB Approves New AVA: The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater" (Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance). Cision. PR Newswire. February 6, 2015. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Federal Register 2014.
  3. ^ a b Richard 2013a.
  4. ^ a b c Richard 2013b.
  5. ^ a b c d e Steiman 2013.
  6. ^ a b Holden 2014.
  7. ^ Kimbel 2014.
  8. ^ Pogue 2009.
  9. ^ Sullivan 2013b "Stylistically, the wines are known for their outrageous, earthy, meaty aromas and flavors. In contrast to Syrah grown elsewhere in the Northwest, many of the wines off The Rocks emphasize the savory aspects of the grape instead of the fruitiness."
  10. ^ Cayuse 2014 "The rocky soil offers excellent drainage and limited nutrients, the vines have to struggle to survive, thus reducing production and concentrating the fruit's flavor. High density planting forces their root systems to compete and dig deeper for moisture and sustenance, and the heat transmitted by the stones helps the grapes to ripen."
  11. ^ a b c Perdue 2014.
  12. ^ Hermann & Kipp 2014.
  13. ^ Kingery Ritter & Trinidad 2014.
  14. ^ Degerman 2014.
  15. ^ a b c Sullivan 2013a.
  16. ^ Marquardt & Darr 2014.
  17. ^ Richard 2013c "Reynvaan syrah Walla Walla Valley Stonessence 2010 snagged the [2013] No. 11 spot with a score of 98. The only other Northwest wine to ever receive 98 by the magazine is Christophe Baron's No Girls syrah Walla Walla Valley La Paciencia Vineyard 2009. The two wines that scored 98 come from grapes grown on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley, in what could become next spring a sub AVA called the Milton-Freewater Rocks District."


Further reading[edit]

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