Yakima Valley’s heat nets near perfect harvest

Oct. 2018 – Yakima Valley wineries are beginning to bring in the final haul for the 2018 harvest.  The fruit is spectacular with exceptional color and flavors.
Winemakers are anticipating the 2018 vintage to be intense, complex wines.

As a growing region, I talk about the Yakima Valley’s exceptional soils and the vast day-to-night temperature shifts, but what about the overall temperatures found in the region? Heat and sunshine are two vital attributes to growing wine grapes.

The Valley enjoys 200 days of sunshine each year, including more summer sun than San Diego, Phoenix, or Honolulu. What impact does this have on the wine grapes of the Yakima Valley?

During the growing season itself, if temperatures hover below 50 degrees * or above 95 degrees, photosynthesis virtually stops. Photosynthesis is the process by which energy from sunlight allows for the manufacture of sugars in green plants, including grapevines. A vine without these sugars is like a car without tires — useless. Excessive heat or cold can frustrate this process.

The temperatures between 50 and 95 degrees are when the plants are manufacturing the much-needed sugars for quality wine grapes. Add to that the long days and cool nights that allow the grapes to maintain acidity. Sunshine, and experienced growers are a vital reason the Yakima Valley AVA and its sub AVA’s have become the most sought-after place to purchase wine grapes.

Some grapes can tolerate warmer temperatures, such as the thick-skinned Cabernet Sauvignon grape, more delicate grapes such as Riesling enjoy less heat. The variations in air and soil temperatures, soil types, and elevations are just a few of the characteristics that allow the Yakima Valley to successfully grow 47 different wine grape varieties.

Heat accumulation for the 2018 vintage has been above average for the season. Warmer than 2017 but cooler than 2015.

The vintage started out with a moderately cool, wet winter, withaverage snowfall in the Yakima Valley. A cool trend going into springgave growers a thought of another 2011 vintage.

As a result, bud break in 2018 was slightly behind historical averages andsignificantly behind the most recent warm vintages of 2013-2017. However,a verywarm May accelerated bloom by about 10 days ahead of average to early June.

Following the warm May, June had close to normal temperatures in theYakima Valleyfollowed by slightly warmer than average July and near normal August.

The wine grape growers of the Yakima Valley and the winemakers who purchase the fruit are pleased with results of the 2018 vintage – you will be too. The wines will be true to Yakima Valley’s quality and style.

The next time you open a wine sourced from Yakima Valley fruit, consider the almost perfect temperature and abundant sunshine that went into ripening the grapes in your glass.

The following are three excellent examples of Yakima Valley wines that exhibit true Yakima Valley characteristics.

AROMATICS – 2016 Avennia Oliane Sauvignon Blanc Red Willow/Boushey Vineyards $28

DIVERSITY – 2014 Latta Grenache Upland Vineyard $40

AGE ABILITY – 2015 Betz Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon $110

*All temperatures are Fahrenheit.


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