Mother Nature brings normalcy during not-so-normal times

Like every other community in America right now, disruption is the new norm.

Restaurants, bars and tasting rooms are among the many businesses closed to limit the spread of the coronavirus while wineries are allowed to continue operating only essential production and viticulture functions.  The disruption has forced the cancellation of wine tastings, wine events, and the celebration of new wine releases.

During this chaos, mother nature rests her comforting hand on the vineyards as the vines stay tried and true to their annual rituals. As warm temperatures arrive and sunshine increase, the signs of the 2020 vintage are beginning to be observed throughout the region. The vineyards are starting to show signs of waking up – buds are forming and bursting in the vineyards.

Over the past week, several winegrowers throughout Yakima Valley have spotted “bud break” in their vineyards. This annual event in the lifecycle of grapevines is apparent when small green buds that are fuzzy in appearance first appear on the vine. Having been tightly packed and protected all winter, these tiny and sparse leaves have but one goal—to restart photosynthesis and generate new energy.

This signals that vineyards are coming out of the dormant state they assume during the winter months, and that the 2020 vintage is under way.

According to Todd Newhouse, co-owner of Upland Vineyard near Sunnyside, “Everything is swelling, and we have first leaves on some chardonnay, cabernet franc and muscat”. Olsen Vineyards east of Prosser is also seeing break in their cabernet franc.

Matt Rawn, owner and winemaker of Two Mountain Winery says that everything in their vineyards is budding. “We are seeing flat leaves in the cabernet franc at Dineen Vineyard, on the north side of Zillah, and merlot in Pollard vineyard, northwest of Zillah.

“This year’s appearance of bud break is pretty much ‘spot on’ in relationship to historical timing,” according to Rawn. “It’s always exciting to see the vines come out of dormancy to kick off the vintage. Seeing the vines come alive gives us a welcomed sense of normalcy during a very un-normal time.”

I can’t encourage you to go out and taste or stroll through the vineyards, but I can encourage you to use this as an opportunity to celebrate the beginning of the season by enjoying the ‘bottle ready versions’ of some of the vines that are bursting with new life.

2016 Wit Cellars Olsen Vineyard Cabernet Francis outstanding. It is hard to believe this winery has only been open for four years.  Winemakers Flint Nelson and Cat Warwick consistently produce excellent wines.  This wine starts with beautiful aromas of dark fruit, blackberry and plums with floral hints. The dark fruit comes through on the palate along with good tannins and great balance. This wine is sold exclusively at the tasting room and is available for curbside pick-up. $45

2019 Two Mountain Cabernet Franc Rosèis a great summer wine.  If you haven’t experienced this wine put it on your list.  Bright and fruity, it is perfect for outdoor imbibing, particularly if you buy the creative 3-bottle (250ml) pack. The bottles are designed to be single-serve and enjoyed as a bottle or a glass.  This wine opens with great aromas and flavors of red fruit, it has great acids and perfect balance.  If you can’t get your hands on the 2019 3-pack, the 2020 vintage will be released Memorial Day weekend and rumor has it the 250 ml bottles will be available as a 4-pack.
$20 750ml

Bud break is the second step in preparing the vines for harvest (pruning is the first).  Once we see bud break, it’s just five short months to harvest.

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