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The federal government has approved a new wine grape appellation in the Northwest: the Lewis-Clark Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA).

The appellation, which sits in a geographic region of northwestern Idaho known as the “banana belt,” encompasses some 479 square miles, with about 72 percent of the land in Idaho and the rest in Washington. The area is home to 16 vineyards growing more than 80 acres of grapes, including 14 red and nine white wine grape varieties, according to the Washington State Wine Commission.

Riesling wine grape cluster. (Photo courtesy of Jack Kelly Clark, University of California Statewide IPM Program)

A wine grape cluster. (Photo courtesy of Jack Kelly Clark, University of California Statewide IPM Program)

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau announced the designation on Wednesday. As part of its ruling, the bureau also is modifying the boundary of the existing Columbia Valley AVA to eliminate a partial overlap with the new Lewis–Clark Valley AVA.

“Idaho is seeing continued growth and success with wine,” Moya Shatz Dolsby, executive director of the Idaho Wine Commission, said in a statement. “We have lured experienced winemakers from other popular regions because of Idaho’s unique growing conditions, variety and quality. Vintners are coming for the opportunity to be pioneers in winemaking and to be part of our rapidly growing industry.”

The Lewis-Clark AVA is a remarkable growing area that will help to elevate the Northwest wine industry as a whole, said Steve Warner, president of Washington State Wine.

Terroir is not defined by state borders, but by the unique geological characteristics shared between our two borders. Washington State Wine is proud to work collaboratively with the Idaho Wine Commission to tell the story of this new region,” he said.

The announcement of a new AVA allows wineries to market grapes from the Lewis-Clark Valley, giving it a regional identity.

To qualify as an AVA, a wine grape-growing region must be distinguishable by distinct geographic features such as climate, soil, elevation and physical features.