On February 6, 1984, The Walla Walla Valley received it’s official AVA designation. It has now reached a milestone; Walla Walla AVA turns 40 years! The wine community has a rich history and feel privileged to be a part of it. Here are some highlights from the Walla Walla Union Bulletin‘s article to commemorate the occasion.


For [Norm] McKibben, who has been called one of the founding fathers of the Walla Walla wine industry for his push to rewrite the original AVA boundary [in 2001], the establishment of the AVA was an important moment for all winemakers and grape growers in the Valley. 

He said an AVA is important because it reflects the terroir or the unique qualities of a wine once it is ready for tasting. It is beneficial for a winery to be part of a well-known AVA because it allows the vintner to better market their wines.


McKibben said another aspect of the wine industry that has changed over time is the practice of sustainability, which is at the core of each step of winemaking at Pepper Bridge. Sustainable grape cultivation is the practice of responsible land management, ensuring the long-term health of the soil.

“I have learned a lot about sustainability,” he said. “It has changed a lot over the years, but it is so important to protect the environment and the soil. We want to leave it healthier than we found it.”

Pepper Bridge Winery has installed a system of 378 solar panels that produces 70% of the winery’s energy needs, uses a compost tea to restore fungal and microbial components of the soil, using organic products to replace hard chemicals and using drip irrigation.


Future of wine

Jean-François Pellet, director of winemaking and partner of Pepper Bridge Winery, has been making wine in the Valley since 1999.

“The AVA has changed so much since I started making wine in the area,” Pellet said. “When I first started, Pepper Bridge was one of the first few wineries here. Since then, we have seen a tremendous growth on the winery side of things but what I think was more exciting was the growth of the town.”

“All in all, I think the future of Walla Walla wines is bright,” he said. “One thing with the wine industry is that we only make wine once a year. If you’re working in a restaurant and you miss a dish, you can turn around and do it again. We can’t do that. Forty years, in wine time, is not that long. I think we are still writing the book of the AVA. We have a lot of things to discover and a lot left to learn.”


Read the article in its entirety on the Walla Walla Union Bulletin’s Website–The article is free to read until March 8, 2024