The balance of Yakima Valley wines

Balanced Wine: The way in which a wine’s key components including fruitiness, sweetness, acidity, and tannin co-exist. A well-balanced wine displays a harmony of components, with no single element dominating.

balance wine diagramBalance is often used in describing a wine. But what makes a well balanced wine?  As with so many elements of a good wine, it starts in the vineyard.

Abundant sunshine is crucial to world-class wine grape cultivation.  But sun  alone is not sufficient to grow the caliber of grapes grown in the Yakima Valley.  Temperature totals, (warmth and coolness) are equally vital to grape development; and this is where the Yakima Valley really shines.

On the wine region classification system developed by the University of California at Davis, the Yakima Valley’s 2,600 to 3,000 “growing-degree (F) days” define this AVA as “Region II” and place it on par with the Bordeaux wine region of France.  Even better is the way this heat accumulates.  If it were uniformly warm all season long, Yakima Valley’s grapes would lose their natural acidity and the resulting wines would be flabby.

However, there is a dramatic difference between day and night temperatures in this valley during the growing season: afternoon highs in the 90s t0 100s (F) plunge down to the 50s (F) after midnight.  It’s what climate scientists call diurnal shift; and those dramatic temperature swings enable grapes to retain their natural, flavor-enhancing acids.

The climate of this region combines sunshine, water, heat, and cold temperatures like almost nowhere else on earth.  Most remarkable is the way this balance is achieved across multiple varieties—from Riesling and Chardonnay to Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet.

The next time you taste a wine sourced from Yakima Valley fruit, think about the balance of the wine, the astringency, acidity, and the fruitiness…..and how they are each balanced to one another.

An example of the balance of Yakima Valley wines can be found in these
three wines.

Savage Grace 2011 Cabernet Franc    Copeland Vineyard, Yakima
Valley  (planted in 2000)

Saviah 2011 GSM  Elephant Mountain Vineyard, Yakima Valley

Hightower 2010 Reserve Red Cab/Merlot   Red Mountain, Yakima

The climate of the Yakima is an integral piece of the harmony you taste in your glass.

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