Harvest 2009 in the Rattlesnake Hills
Those people who opposed the establishment of the Rattlesnake Hills AVA - including some people with PhDs who should know better - said that the proposed AVA was the same as Prosser Flats -aka the Yakima Valley. As you can see by the chart below, the Rattlesnake Hills AVA was warmer in 2009 than Red Mountain. As usual, it was much warmer than Prosser Flats (Yakima Valley).
Cumulative GDD (°F)
since April 1
Cumulative Precipitation (in)
since Jan 1
Horse Heaven Hills
Walla Walla Valley
Port of Sunnyside
Last Updated: October 26, 2009 3:04 PM
We started out the year with a very cool month of May. Because of that, we at the Bonair Winery Estate Vineyards (Château Puryear Vineyard and Morrison Vineyard) dropped a lot of fruit early, thinking that this might be a repeat of 2008, an unusually cool year in Eastern Washington. The resulting light crop matured early with extreme quality. Everything we picked came off at about 26 brix. Flavors were outstanding because berry size was small. Due to the low rainfall this year, <5 inches, bunch rot in susceptible varieties like Riesling was non-existent.
My only complaint about this year with over 3000 degree days is that our fruit was more like Red Mountain than the characteristic Rattlesnake Hills. Usually Red Mountain gets sugar before ripeness, so 26 brix is a normal picking point. In the Rattlesnake Hills, we are usually ripe i.e. beyond vegetative flavors, at 24 brix, resulting in less alcoholic wines. Red Mountain is known for big powerful tannic reds and the Rattlesnake Hills produces more elegant classical, food-friendly reds. The Yakima Valley is known for vegetative reds from Bordeaux varieties. Syrah and Pinot Noir are more suited to this cool climate.
Unfortunately, all this hype about a great vintage will be forgotten, three years from now when the first red wines start to appear for sale.