Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyards sits on 300 acres of Red Mountain, a treeless mountain in the arid, sunny desert of eastern Washington.
The area around eastern Washington has turned into one of the world’s most exciting regions for wine grape growing and winemaking. The reason? Our Terra Blanca.
It all began around 16 million years ago. Long before a wine grape had even evolved, the terrain in this region was setting a world record. It was volatile. Fissures formed by slow moving, subterranean hot spots fractured the crust along the present day Washington-Idaho border and put into motion a series of lava flows that burned up the land for 10 to 14 million years. These flows became basalt, settling into layers over a mile thick.
With its basalt bedrock in place, the Columbia River Basin weathered a long and hard ice age. Large ice sheets covered the northern part of the United States for thousands of years. A portion of an ice sheet named Cordilleran blocked the Clark Fork River near the Canadian border in northern Idaho. This damming created glacial Lake Missoula, a huge body of water estimated to have been around 3000 square miles and about a half a mile deep. This large lake took up a huge chunk of western Montana.
Failing repeatedly, the ice dams released the largest floods documented on earth. Waters surged southwest at 45 miles per hour. The many paths of the rushing floodwaters converged on the greater Pasco Basin. These cataclysmic waters were slowed down by the narrow passage of the Wallula Gap along the Columbia River. The Horse Heaven Hills to the west and the Blue Mountains to the south blocked the escaping water. Eventually the rushing waters drained out along the Columbia River Gorge, which borders Washington and Oregon, and out to the Pacific Ocean.
This “slowing down” caused water to “back up” and flood local river valleys and basins. The receding water, which drained slowly, left behind deposits of relatively fine-grained slack water sediments. In the Red Mountain area, flood sediments were deposited from swirling back-eddies and included numerous layers of relatively coarse gravel.
The high levels of calcium carbonate, commonly known as chalk, that settled out of the ebbing floodwaters thousands of years ago into the soils of Terra Blanca’s Red Mountain Estate Vineyard have proven to be an invaluable asset to the quality of our wines. It’s our Terra Blanca.