Walla Walla, Washington, U.S.A.
Vitis vinifera, wine grapes, were originally planted in Washington in Fort Vancouver near Oregon in 1825 with plants brought over from Europe. Second only to California in the amount of wine produced in the U.S., Washington is much smaller but has grown tremendously in the past 20 years.
Washington State is unusual in that it has two very different growing climates from one side of the Cascade mountain range to another.
The Eastern part of the mountains is comprised of many small appellations, or AVAs, and an “umbrella” appellation called the Columbia Valley that encompasses many smaller AVAs such as Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope, Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Rattlesnake Ridge, Walla Walla Valley, Columbia Gorge. Recognized in 1984, the Columbia Valley extends from the Cascades in the west to the Palouse formation in the east, from the northern Oregon border to Lake Chelan in the middle of Washington.
Formed 12,000 years ago, what was once in the area was crushed and devastated by a massive glacial flood based in Missoula, Montana. The “Missoula Floods” created Lake Lewis and widened the Yakima, Columbia and Snake Rivers. The floods deposited an unusually thick layer of nutrient rich lacustrine topped over the centuries by wind blown silty loess.
Recent freezes occurred in 1991, 1996 and 2004. Cold weather helps keep the insect population down and though it is occasionally credited for the lack of phylloxera in the valley, it is more likely due to our sandy soils and low humidity.
Phylloxera find their way from one vine root to another though cracks in the soil, something that extremely sandy soils do not produce. Phylloxera, therefore, do not die of cold, but rather, from not being able to find their way from one food source to another. In the few spots in Eastern Washington where the soils are clay ridden enough to shelter Phylloxera, their ability to migrate is yet again mitigated by their inability to enter the winged stage of their life cycle in a dry environment.
Occasional freezes, powdery mildew, leaf hoppers and mites are some of the biggest threats to Columbia Valley vineyards.
Rainfall averages about 10 inches per year in the Columbia Valley. Temperatures during the growing season can vary up to 45°F from morning to night in the same day. The Columbia Valley is situated between the 46th and 47th parallels in the northern hemisphere and about 118° West longitude.
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling and Syrah are the most commonly grown grapes in the Columbia Valley, though due to the success of Syrah in the area, more Rhone varieties, such as Cinsaut, Grenache, Mourverdre and Counoise are being planted. Other odd and recent plantings include Carmenere and Malbec.
Washington wines tend to have earthy yet fruit forward flavors with strong tannins, decent alcohol content and are full bodied.
Though it depends on the varietals, these wines tend to have a cellar life of about seven years.
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Situated at the foot of the Andes, between the 31°58’ and 37° 33’ latitude south and between the 66° 30’ and 70° 36’ meridian longitude west, Mendoza is the principle wine producing region in Argentina. Its viticultural history began in the early 20th century with the massive European immigration.
Known as a rain shadow, an effect found in few parts of the world, the Andean mountain range prevents the humid air that originates in the Pacific ocean from reaching Mendoza, east of the barricades. The humidity is released over Chile, allowing only hot, dry air into Mendoza. This produces a warm temperate, desert climate. Sporadic and torrential precipitation occurs during the summer months, averaging only 8 inches per year, characterizing the area as a semi-desert. During the summer months, Mendoza receives approximately 14 hours of light while the winter tends to bring about 10 hours of sun per day.
The vines are cultivated at the foothills of the mountains at altitudes varying from 1,650 feet to 4,920 feet above sea level. There can be up to a 59°F difference throughout the day. The major whether problems that tend to affect Mendoza vineyards are the hail storms during the summer and the late freezes in the southern zones.
The vineyards in this oasis are irrigated by the different rivers that cross the province. Irrigation systems are organized according to the density of the soil. The main forms of which are drip irrigation, flood irrigation and furrow or rill irrigation Soils vary from the west to the east due to alluvium deposits. In the mountain foothills, the land is comprised of both shallow and deep layers of rocks. The ground in the west tends to be rockier and drains water easily. As you descend toward the east, the soil tends to be more heterogeneous and is generally finer, sandier and siltier. Due to the young age of the Andes, this soil makeup tends to be relatively new and therefore has some organic matter deficiencies, totaling less than 1% of the soil composition. Nitrogen and Fosforus are low but Potassium levels are high.
Climatic conditions evade vineyard plagues such as Phylloxera. Other problems, such as Oidium, Downy Mildew and Botritis, exist in the rainy years but are easily treated when caught early enough.
The common varietals in the province differ from one oasis to the next. In the north, they cultivate red, white and roses made from Cereza, Criolla Grande, Moscatel Rose, Pedro Ximenez, Bonarda, Tempranillo, Chenin and Syrah. In the northern zone by the Mendoza River, they make fine wines primarily from Malbec, but also from Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin, Merlot, chardonnay, Syrah, Trebbiano and more.
In the eastern Mendoza one finds Criolla Grande, Moscatel Rose, Perdro Ximenez, Cereza, Malbec, Bonarda, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Barbera, Trebbiano, Merlot and Syrah. These grapes are used to make a wide range of wines, from table wines to early drinking wines, and from fine wines to concentrated musts. This zone is responsible for the majority of Mendoza’s wine production.
The southeast of Mendoza city contains Valle de Uco, where the highest quality vineyards and grapes are cultivated. There they grow Tempranillo, Barbera, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, and Bonarda. Among the white varietals, Semillon does excellently, as does Torrontes, Pedro Ximenez, Chardonnay and Chenin. While grapes such as Pedro Ximenez are used to produce bulk wine, Torrontes is a white varietal that has proven itself worthy of much more, though few know it yet.
Toward the south of the province there are Malbec, Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Chenin and more Pedro Ximenez grapes, used to produce both fine wine as well as more common table wines.