Thursday, January 3, 2013

Annual Growing Degree Days

Each year since the approval of the Rattlesnake Hills AVA, I have reported the Growing Degree Days (GDD) for the major AVAs in Washington State. By major, I mean the ones where most of the grapes are grown – not discounting the importance of others. This all started because a group of people insisted that the area north of Prosser (Sagebrush Ridge) was the same climatically as the proposed Rattlesnake Hills AVA. Well, we proved them wrong and are still doing it.
Funny, one of our detractors who said he would ‘never put Rattlesnake Hills’ on his label, is planting ten additional acres of grapes in the AVA. He already has a vineyard here. Well, just keep putting Yakima Valley on your label and nobody will know where you grow your grapes. They could come from the Fort Road west of Toppenish for all anyone knows. Ah, but that would be too cowboy.
After a slow spring, it was a very good year for everyone. Rain was a factor in Walla Walla (as usual) and everywhere toward the end of the season. Those who sprayed for bunch rot were fine. Our Chardonnay and Pinot Noir came off before the rains, but the Riesling needed the extra spray.
Here is the summary:


Red Mountain
Sagebrush Ridge
Walla Walla
Horse Heaven
As usual, Wahluke is the workhorse AVA of the state. With a solid achor in Region III it is a consistent producer for wineries large and small.
Red Mountain, Horse Heaven, and Rattlesnake Hills all tied for second in a three-way tie with no statistical difference. These three AVAs are the major producers of top Bordeaux Reds, but also workhorses of major wineries like Ste. Michelle, Gallo, and Constellation. Gallo bought everything they could get their hands on in the Rattlesnake Hills.
Walla Walla suffered spring and summer thunder storms and fall rains. With about 2700 GDD, they ripened all their grapes. This is a tough place to grow grapes, but those who succeed get well rewarded.
Sagebrush Ridge (not an AVA, but could be one if anyone cared) came in barely in Region II with 2559 GDD. With less the 5 inches rainfall, this is a prime area for Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling and other cool climate whites that benefit from the dry climate.
This was a vintage year all over the state. Can’t wait? Bonair Winery will be releasing the 2012 Riesling in January!


  1. I have two questions:

    1. How did you get that summary box thing in your post? I've never seen anything that does that on any blog.

    2. What's the difference between Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris? I thought there was only one plain Pinot and that was it!

    1. I made and formatted the box in an Excel spreadsheet. Then I simply copied it and pasted it into the blog.

      'Noir' in French means black and 'Gris' in French means gray. So their are black Pinot grapes and gray Pinot grapes. Pinot Noir makes a red wine and Pinot Gris makes a white wine.