We spent a glorious evening at Owen Roe Winery, tasting wines and meeting winemakers from all over the Yakima Valley. Now it was time to get into the nitty gritty geeky stuff.
Wine Yakima Valley, set us up with a morning seminar for a video flyover of the Yakima Valley with Co Dinn and Kerry Shiels to orient us on the layout of the valley.
Yakima Valley Seminar
I had met Co Dinn on the first evening in Yakima. As the party was winding down, and the table emptying out, he came to my end of the table and introduced himself. We spoke for quite awhile in the shadows, my shot of the wine I tasted with him, with attest to that.
Co has been a winemaker in Washington for over 20 years. A UC Davis master’s grad, he worked in Napa and then came to Washington in 1996. Since then he has worked with vineyards all over the state to make his wines.
He spent 12 years working with Côte Bonneville before diving into his own label Co Dinn Cellars, where he makes wines of the Yakima Valley and is devoted to learning everything about this areas soils and climates. His knowledge is expansive as you will see as he speaks with us.
We mentioned that Co had spent time working with Côte Bonneville. The Côte Bonneville estate vineyard is Du Brul Vineyard. It was planted by Hugh and Kathy Shiels back in 1992 with the winery founded in 2001. Kerry Shiels, daughter of Hugh and Kathy and the current winemaker at Côte Bonneville joined us for this conversation.
Did I mention that Co was devoted to learning about the climates of the area. Yes, that was plural climates. When you talk about DuBrul vineyard, they have multiple microclimates within their 45 acre site.
“In distance measured by hundreds of feet or less, we observe different growing conditions and tailor our farming practices to provide for the individual needs of the vine.
Quote courtesy the Cote Bonneville website https://www.cotebonneville.com/vineyard
This vineyard is recognized as one of the top in the state.
Part 1 – Overview and comparisons
In Part 1 below, we begin with Barbara Glover, the Executive Director of Wine Yakima Valley giving us an overview of the Yakima Valley AVA, it’s sub AVA’s and some of the surrounding area. She then turns it over to Co Dinn. Co gives us a little perspective on the size of the wine region here compared to other regions. He and Kerry move on to a comparison of Washington to Burgundy and then moving on to talk about the soils and geology within this region.
Part 2 – Soil overview and Union Gap to DuBrul Vineyard
Part 2 continues with details on the soils and top soils. They don’t have clay here, the soils here are gravel or sand. As they don’t have clay, they don’t have phylloxera. They are also in a rain shadow. We zoom in and begin our flyover where Kerry details some of the vineyards that we will be driving by shortly on our way first to Elephant Mountain and then on to Walla Walla.
Kerry mentions the world class vineyard research happening here in the Yakima Valley. She also tells us about the Red Willow Vineyard. They focus on Syrah here and have a replica of the Chapel at Hermitage on the hill at the vineyard. They also are looking deeply into the nuances of the different microclimates of the vines on different sides of their hill. Red Willow is a vineyard and at least 18 wineries source fruit from this iconic vineyard. Our flyover takes us from Union Gap on the western end of the valley discussing areas and vineyards as we travel east. We get to DuBrul Vineyard in Rattlesnake Hills AVA, where Kerry takes over speaking of their vineyard.
Kerry gives us a great quote from Bob Betz, Master of Wine
“Every grape would be red if it could. Every grape would be cabernet if it could, and the best cabernet in the state of Washington is DuBrul Vineyard merlot.”
Part 3 – DuBrul to Red Mountain
In Part 3 Co continues us east from DuBrul ending in Red Mountain. This hill is an extension of Rattlesnake Ridge. Red Mountain provides excellent structure and tannins and is used often in blends. This is a southwest facing slope, not an entire mountain. It is one of the warmest grape growing region in the state, so the cabernet grown there always ripens fully.
We had a little time for questions which got into climate change. Kerry says the hillsides help to protect them according to most projections, but they are working on water management. (She goes into some great details on why this is so)
Thanks to the Wine Media Conference https://www.winemediaconference.org/ (then known as the Wine Bloggers Conference) and Wine Yakima Valley https://wineyakimavalley.org/ for setting us the enjoyable and informative Pre-Conference tour.
Next up – Elephant Mountain Vineyard
From here we head out to Elephant Mountain Vineyard in the middle of the Yakima Valley
What a fabulous overview of what we believe are some of the most underrated vineyards in the world (and thank you for satisfying the inner geek in us ;).
Watch for our next post! They took us to visit the beautiful Elephant Mountain Vineyard in Rattlesnake Hills. The views were spectacular! (You may have caught a glimpse on my Instagram).
It’s funny how many people don’t realize that grapes can’t just grow anywhere, and that certain types of grapes are better suited to certain climates. You can’t grow bananas anywhere, so why would grapes be any different? What’s particularly interesting is just how much the soil composition influences the end product. You can have grapes quite literally planted across the road from each other, and if the soil composition is different, the wine will also be different.
It’s so true, and so beautiful. The sense of place that can gather in a glass is one of the most amazing things about wine.
Quite a tour of the Yakima Valley! I need to get WA state wines into the lineup here with more regularity.
It is an amazing area. Get some WA wines, but then do one better and get out and visit Washington. The landscape is so different than what we are accustomed to for wine with vineyards surrounded by high desert.