Yakima Valley Flavor Camp

An old adage says there is strength in numbers. When it comes to the Yakima Valley’s agricultural bounty, this statement is truer than ever.  Regardless of the final product, producers find the growing aspects of the region’s raw agriculture products makes for an excellent story and a great way to gain attention and visibility for the region.

Craft beverage is a frequently used term. A clear definition is difficult to find, but the sentiment seems to be that of the artisan food movement, focusing on flavor, high quality ingredients and adequate time to give those ingredients justice. Whether simple or complex, the results are libations made with more care than your average beverage delivering a more satisfying experience.

Local growers and producers operating along the adage that rising tide lifts all boats recently united to share the story of the Valley’s raw products and craft beverages to help raise awareness of the region and its beverage bounty.

A team approach offers the opportunity to create something new. That’s what a group of growers – hop, wine grapes and apples – along with a team of brew masters, winemakers and cider producers did to create a spectacular showcase of the Valley’s craft beverage industry.  The project featured a “Yakima Valley Flavor Camp,” hosting 25 wine and beverage bloggers from all over the United States and even France highlighting characteristics that make this growing region so spectacular.

The message: The flavors of three of Yakima Valley’s most notable agricultural products; wine grapes, hops, and apples are defined by soil, elevation changes, water, and weather patterns.

Flavor Camp explored various microclimates and how they impact the flavor profiles of these popular craft beverages by demonstrating why these specialty crops are grown so successfully in this region.

Marcus Robert, General Manager/Owner and cider maker for Tieton Cider Works offered a camper session outlining how the Valley’s abundant sunshine and clean water are crucial to growing quality apples. The Yakima Valley receives seven to eight inches of precipitation each year, the definition of a true desert is anything less than 10. “Few desert regions have access to abundant water like the Yakima Valley,” according to Robert. Irrigation allows growers to water specifically to the need of each plant.

Nicholi Pitra, Molecular Hop Breeder at Hopsteiner hosted a camper session identifying how climate, particularly the Valley’s ample sun and growing degree days (heat), are pivotal to growing flavorful hops. The stress of the Yakima Valley heat promotes the development of high yield, flavorful hops that grow 12 – 20 inches per week.

The third session focused on how elevation and poor soils create wine grapes with characteristics that produce world-renowned wines. David O’Reilly, owner of Owen Roe Winery and Union Gap Vineyard toured camp goers through the vineyards in an authentic Swiss Army Pinzgauer. Poor soils force the vines to send their root systems deep helping to create pure, clean grapes and then wines true to their varietal character.

The following were stand-out beverages at Yakima Valley Flavor Camp’s sunset dinner held on October 3, at Owen Roe Winery.

Fortuity Cellars 2017 Viognier – crisp, acid-forward wine accentuated by notes of guava, pineapple, and pear. $24.99 bottle – available at Fortuity Cellars tasting room.

Tieton Cider Works Ash Mead’s Kernel – single varietal cider sourced from the Antiquity apple offers fruity floral notes with high acidity.  $8.99 bottle – available at Tieton Cider Works tasting room.

Terminal Gravity Roshambo Hoppy Pale Ale made with Denali hops offers notes of pineapple, melon and citrus flavors with round bitterness. $13.00 – 6-Pack 12 oz bottle. Contact brewery for availability.

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