Saturday, September 18, 2010

Harvest without Al Gore (September 15 update)

After a cool start, September has had a few warm days near normal. Growing Degree Days still seem to be on the short side. On the bright side, the birds have arrived and we are getting some good sugars. If we were making a dry Gew├╝rztraminer this year we would be picking today. Acids need to drop a little and pyrazines need to give way to ripe flavors and we will be ready to pick reds in the Rattlesnake Hills. We still have six weeks left in the season.

The Horse Heaven Hills and Red Mountain seem to be the place to be this year with the Rattlesnake Hills following. The Yakima Valley (Sagebrush Ridge) and Walla Walla Valley seem to the places not to be.

All of those people who said that the Rattlesnake Hills has the same climate as Sagebrush Ridge are just plain wrong. Sagebrush Ridge is only at 2044 GDD, good for Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, but definitely not Cab Sauv country.

Walla Walla is a great school of winemaking, but it is turning out to be problematic as a growing region. They have accumulated only 2220 GDD, making gains in the last several days. The big problem with Walla this year is rain. Unseasonable thunderstorms have hit northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington this year. Rising 30,000 feet or higher in the air, these storms are visible from the Rattlesnake Hills AVA. Tracking them on Nexrad radar shows lots of rain and hail. In comparison, the Rattlesnake Hills AVA has had 2.47 inches of rain the growing season while Walla has had 6.40 inches. Rumor has it that the grapes aren't even through veraison and are showing signs of rot.

For those into numbers, here are the GDD accumulations to September 15.



Rattlesnake Hills


Yakima Valley


Horse Heaven


Red Mountain


Walla Walla



This might turn out to be a good year for food friendly wines. It is definitely going to be hard to make desert wines (Any wine over 14% alcohol is classified as a desert wine by the TTB) the kind the wine expectorators like. Wine drinkers rejoice. Wine collectors take a sabbatical.


  1. Enjoyed your post, but just wanted to point out that there has been no hail here in Walla Walla. We had a big thunderboomer roll through last night, and definately some accumulation in rainfall, but the vineyards are fine. There are several micro climates in Walla Walla and we should be able to ripen most reds in almost all of the microclimates with the exception of the vineyards closest to the blues, where ripening is definately delayed. A sunny October will be welcome at these sites! The south end of town, where Seven Hills and other surrounding vineyards are located, along with the Rocks properties, will be picking off this week, and are going to be just fine.

  2. Great to hear the good news. Keep me posted. We all hope for a warm October - even here in the usually warm Rattlesnake Hills.