04 Mar Soil, Slope & Sunshine
An appellation, or AVA (American Viticultural Area), is a designated geographical region that possesses unique climate, soil and physical features which distinguish it from surrounding areas.This combination of soil, slope and sunshine influences the growth and character of the grapes, which in turn produces wines distinctive in personality to that appellation.
Established in 1983, the Yakima Valley was the first AVA in the Pacific Northwest, and is now home to more than 90 wineries and over one third of the state’s vineyards boasting over 17,000 acres of premium wine grapes.
Here’s a look at how soil, slope and sunshine come together to produce great wine in the Yakima Valley:
Soil – When growing wine grapes, it is important that the soil is loose enough so that water does not accumulate in the ground, causing a slowdown in flavor development in the fruit.TheYakimaValley was sculpted by a number of ancient wrinkles formed in the land when volcanoes cooled and sank, leaving behind a large basalt layer in the earth. Prehistoric floods then aided in creating optimal soils as they layered the basalt with deposits of fine silt, loam, loess and cobble—each offering the proper drainage necessary to keep the vine’s vigor under control.
Slope – The sunny slopes of the Yakima Valley foothills are blessed with a long growing period, extended daylight hours, and cool evenings that yield bold, hearty and luscious world-class wines. Hot summer days and cool nights provide the perfect growing environment.This large fluctuation between daytime and nighttime temperatures is considered key by winemakers and wine grape growers to attain intense varietal character. TheValley’s cold winters kill pests that are prevalent in other, milder wine growing regions throughout the United States, reducing the need for chemical repellents on the fruit.
Sunshine – Within the framework of sunshine we include all climate factors. Beyond sunlight, we look for sufficient irrigation to promote natural sugar development and to the temperature moderating effects of the cool Yakima Valley nights.
Because the Yakima Valley Appellation is blessed with a bevy of the best wine grape- growing conditions, nearly every type of wine grape can be successfully grown in one or more of the Valley’s regions — from the cool weather Riesling to the warm weather Cabernet Sauvignon.