The March to Harvest Has Begun

Yakima Valley Grape Growers Excited
About 2019 Vintage

Veraison in Wine Country

Yakima, Wash., — Aug 9, 2019 — The home stretch to harvest has begun, and there are happy faces all around Yakima Valley’s wine country. Not to jinx it, but the 2019 vintage is looking really good.Veraison in the vineyard marks the march to harvest. It is a crucial period when the grapes begin to soften and start losing their green color, taking on shades of red or yellow depending on the variety. The grapes stop growing in size and start accumulating sugar.

This transition is also an indication of when harvest will begin — in about six weeks depending on the grape variety, location, weather and farming practices. Most vineyards around the Valley are going through veraison. At Upland Vineyard in Sunnyside, the tempranillo grapes have completed their transformation and the cabernet grapes are just beginning.Local grape growers agree that the growing season seems to have been a Goldilocks experience so far: not too hot, not too cold, just the right amount of heat.

“This year’s weather has been pretty much perfect,” said Todd Newhouse of Upland Vineyard. “We had good moisture in the spring that offered a strong start with good growth early on. The moderate temperatures in June and July allowed us to shut things down, and then veraison started.”

“We haven’t had the intense heat this summer, which is good for the grapes. White grapes such as riesling, sauv blanc and chardonnay do better in the constant moderate temperatures. And temperamental varieties such as grenache tend to thrive best without the heat spikes. They all look really good.

“In addition to good weather, it’s a fruitful year. We had a good fruit set — we’ve had to do some cluster thinning, but overall it looks like a great vintage.”

Newhouse is not expecting any surprises at this point.

“There is still a lot of weather between now and harvest,” he said, “but I think we’ll just roll into September.”

Another vintner, Kerry Shiels of DuBrul Vineyard, concurs.

“We had a perfect fruit set this year,” she said. “Our berries are tiny, and we have a lot of them.”

The small berries translate into good structure, color and intensity — all great qualities for the wine. Because of the good fruit set, Shiels anticipates a slightly higher yield in her vineyard this year than in 2018.

Newhouse and Shiels agree that the growing season has been “long-term average” for the Yakima Valley.

“You never want to say anything is easy,” Newhouse said. “But it has been an as-expected kind of year.”

Most local vineyards begin harvest in late August with sauvignon blanc, an early-ripening grape, and end with the cabernet sauvignon harvest in late October or early November.

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