Thursday, February 19, 2015

If We Are Going to Tell the Story, Let's Tell the Whole Story

 The 2015 Washington State Wine Tour Guide just came out. The lead article is Fire and Ice by Julie H. Case. Why is this article important? Well, a lot of other writers will look at it for content and copy it. I found it a little confusing but other than that it seems accurate. It is written in a style that is meant to be exciting (not instructive) which makes it a little hard to follow.
First off, the picture they chose is of Mt. Hood in Oregon. Although the picture was taken in Washington, all the land shown is in Oregon. A picture of Mt. Adams in Washington from the Rattlesnake Hills AVA would be more appropriate.
In the fine print, the story is essentially correct. But I quote, "Vines scatter across a basalt cliff formed by ancient volcanoes." When one thinks of volcanoes, the picture of the beautiful stratovolcanoes of the Cascade Range comes to mind; one of which is Mt. Hood along with Mt. Adams. The other type of volcano is  the shield volcano, like Mauna Loa in Hawaii. Ancient volcanoes consist of remnant cores like Morro Rock in California. None of this will be found in the Columbia Plateau. Shortly after the eruptions, the land was perfectly flat. It wasn't until California started pushing northward into the "perfect climate for wine" did the wrinkling occur. I assume with global warming California will continue to push northward - in more ways than one.
The whole story is even more interesting. The type of volcanism that created the basalt cliffs of Eastern Washington no longer exists in the world, that is at this time anyway. Fortunately for humankind there are no active examples because.......
The source of the lava was giant fissures in the earth, not the cones or mountains we call volcanoes. These fissures were more than 100 miles long is places, unlike a volcano that has a single vent. The lava that flowed from these fissures was unique in that it was very fluid and able to travel at great speeds and cover great distances before cooling. It is estimated that this lava travelled at a speed of three miles per hour covering distances of over 375 miles from central Idaho to the Pacific Ocean before solidifying.
The quantity of lava extruded from them was also amazing. Geologists say that enough lava was released from the Grande Ronde Basalt flow to cover the entire United States in twelve feet of lava.
Luckily, according to the Humane Society, no dinosaurs were harmed during this event. You see the dinosaurs were gone 66 million years ago and the majority of the lava flows occurred only 17 to 15.5 million years ago. Considering the Earth is 4.54 billion years or 6000 years old, depending on the story you believe, either way, the Columbia Plateau is a relatively recent event.
Not included in the article are the wines grown on the ancient cobbles of the Yakima River (called the Ellensburg formation) found in the Rattlesnake Hills above 1100 feet. These wines have a unique minerality and complexity with a lack of herbaceous notes not found elsewhere in the state. With the same warmth as the Horse Heaven Hills it is the perfect site for Bordeaux-style reds. Unfortunately these unique wines are hard to identify, since many examples are labeled as generic Yakima Valley and can't be distinguished from wines grown on Warden soils. Two good examples of wines grown on the ancient cobbles are Portteus Vineyards' Cabernet Sauvignon and Bonair Winery's Morrison Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

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