Celebrating Stillwater Creek’s New AVA
Royal Slope, home to Novelty Hill’s estate vineyard Stillwater Creek, is Washington’s newest American Viticultural Area (AVA). The TTB, the federal agency charged with approving AVA designations, made the announcement Sept. 2, 2020, officially confirming the distinct characteristics of grapes grown here as defined by the region’s climate, soil, elevation and topography.
Critics have long recognized the quality and uniqueness of Novelty Hill’s Stillwater Creek wines. Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Advocate have awarded Novelty Hill’s vineyard-designated collection 122 90+ ratings since the debut vintage in 2002. “It is hard for me to find a vineyard in the state that produces such a consistently good range of wines,” wrote Washington wine blogger Owen Bargreen following a recent tasting of Novelty Hill’s new Stillwater Creek wines.
Stillwater Creek is also distinguished by its exceptional selection of premium varietal clones, including seven clones of Cabernet Sauvignon (2, 4, 6, 8, 47, 169 and 191) and four clones of Syrah (1, 174, 300 and Phelps). The site’s varying topography creates diverse mesoclimates, allowing a wide range of grape varieties to thrive here. Veteran viticulturist Ed Kelly has managed the vineyard since 2011.
The Royal Slope is Washington’s 15th AVA. It is located south of the Ancient Lakes AVA and north of the Wahluke on the south-facing slopes of the Frenchman Hills. The designation is well-deserved according to Novelty Hill winemaker Mike Januik who wrote a letter in support for the AVA last December. He recalls his first visit to the site in 1999 where Stillwater Creek is now planted. “I was immediately impressed by the site’s elevation and soils,” Mike remembers. “Unlike other growing regions surrounding the area, Stillwater Creek’s soils are distinguished by a large amount of fractured basalt. At an elevation of 1200-1500 ft., the soils found here are unlike soils deposited by the Great Missoula flood in neighboring appellations, further differentiating the Royal Slope from other vineyards outside the boundaries of the AVA.”
The Royal Slope AVA encompasses over 156,000 acres in Grant and Adams counties. Alan Busacca PhD, who co-wrote the AVA petition with Richard Rupp PhD explains, “The AVA is something of an island geographically that is surrounded on all four sides by very different lands.” The growing region is classified as warm but not excessively hot, in part due to the area’s elevation — 1,300 feet on average, compared to 600 feet on the Wahluke Slope 15 miles to the south. The majority of Royal Slope soils are formed of windblown silts or ‘loess.’ All these factors, along with the AVA’s steep, south-facing slopes, define the growing region.
To taste the wines of the Royal Slope, schedule a tasting room appointment to savor a flight of Novelty Hill’s Stillwater Creek Vineyard wines or shop online to purchase a selection of your favorite varieties to enjoy at home. Now through the end of September 2020, ground shipping is included on the purchase of six or more wines.
The Royal Slope AVA designation will be included on Novelty Hill’s Stillwater Creek vineyard-designated wines with the release of the 2019 reds and 2020 whites.