Growing wines that look, smell, and taste distinctly of their amazing origins
The federal government designated the Yakima Valley as the first American Viticulture Area (AVA) in the Pacific Northwest in 1983. The unique geology and climate of the Yakima Valley combined with the pioneering multi-generational farming families has created the largest concentration of the Pacific Northwest’s most famous vineyards.
The terrain of this region remains as open and clean as when cataclysmic floods swept through at the end of the ice age. The soil components are uniformly silt and sand with quartz and micas—and nearly devoid of organic matter or pests common to the rest of the wine world. Water drains through these soils with remarkable ease, forcing vines to send their root systems deep. The end result is grapes and then wines that are completely true to their varietal character.
The rain-shadow effect created by the Cascade Range creates a desert climate that combines sunshine and water, as well as heat and cold, like almost nowhere else on earth. The end result is grapes that are ripe and yet crisp; creating wines that are lush and yet fresh. Most remarkable is the way this balance is achieved across multiple varieties—from Riesling and Chardonnay to Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet.
Washington State’s wine industry began here, so it’s no surprise that Yakima Valley vineyards pioneered the first plantings of several key grape varieties in the Pacific Northwest. Take for example, the regional roots of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
Wine grape grower, Otis Harlan planted a six-acre block of cabernet sauvignon more than 60 years ago in the central part of the Yakima Valley. That original block has been emulated by growers throughout all of Washington State. Today, Cabernet Sauvignon is the number one red wine grape in Washington.
Mike Sauer and his family were the first to plant Syrah in 1986. Three acres were successfully planted that year. Today Syrah is Washington state’s third most popular wine grape.
There is no debating that the Cabernet vines from Otis Vineyard, and the Syrah vines from Red Willow have launched the most popular and note-worthy wines in Washington and represent a standard of excellence of age worthy wines from the Yakima Valley.
The special confluence of topography, climate, farming families, and viticultural research are like almost nowhere else on Earth. They result in wines that look, smell, and taste distinctly of their amazing origins.
For more information on the Yakima Valley visit www.wineyakimavalley.org.
Byron Marlowe, PhD. says