Okay, Al Gore cheated on his wife and is no longer flying around the world in his private jet exhausting greenhouse gases and hot air speeches. Growers up and down the Pacific Coast are wondering if we will even ripen grapes this year without old Algore.
Growers are concerned that they won't be able to produce those 27 brix raisins the wineries use to produce 16% dry wines with residual sugar that Parker likes. Wineries could care less. They are taking the year off and not buying grapes to adjust inventories of overpriced parkerized wines.
Here is the view from the Rattlesnake Hills AVA and the Yakima Valley AVA. (Note to wine bloggers: this article is scientific and involves numbers (OTHER THAN YOUR OPINION BETWEEN 80 AND 100)and demands comprehension. It will require more than your 40-second attention span, so click off now.)
1993 was set to be the coldest year since grapes have been widely grown in the Yakima Valley. I remember going on vacation in September and finally giving the order to pick the last two weeks of October, bringing in the grapes as fast as we could process them. We were still getting grapes from Sagebrush Ridge (Roza AKA Prosser Flats) back then and the wines were quite vegetative, although the Morrison Cab (Rattlesnake Hills) was quite good. On August 30, 1993 Buena Station (the coldest in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA) had accumulated 1842 degree days. The Morrison Vineyard is quite a bit warmer, but there were no comparable stations in 1993. Roza Station had accumulated 1748 degree days. It takes at least 2400 degree days to properly ripen Cabernet Sauvignon. By October 31 Roza had reached 2752 degree days, which is above average. Buena reached 2797 which is also above average. A long warm fall saved our butts.
1999 was truly the coldest year in recent history and the year all Yakima Valley reds were dissed by the wine expectorators. The wines from Sagebrush Ridge were noticeably vegetative. It was this year I started thinking about forming the Rattlesnake Hills AVA to separate our grapes from the vegetative Prosser grapes. By August 30, Buena Station had accumulated 1992 degree days while Prosser only accumulated 1724. By the end of the season Buena reached 2394 and Roza accumulated 2204. Even though it was warmer at the end of August, by the end of the year, 1999 was actually worse than 1993.
2009 was a fairly average year with the heat coming late in the season. The wines were pretty typical for the region. By August 30 Buena Station had accumulated 2453 degree days and Roza had only accumulated 2151. In 2009 the Rattlesnake Hills was the warmest AVA in the state, beating Red Mountain, Wahluke, and Horse Heaven Hills. This chart summarizes the confusing numbers.
So where are we in 2010? Buena Station has accumulated 2029 degree days and Roza has only accumulated 1842. We are pretty optimistic about the chances of having nice ripe flavors and non-vegetative wines from the Rattlesnake Hills. As you can see by looking at 1993 and 1999 a lot can happen between the end of August and the end of October. It is not a year to label your Bordeaux reds with the Yakima Valley AVA. If you object to Rattlesnake Hills, opt for the generic Columbia Valley.