A visit this week to the Yakima Valley to check-out the 2017 vintage discovered one very important thing; its going to be a great vintage.

Patrick Rawn inspects tendrils on Cabernet Sauvignon

After a cooler spring than had been experienced in the previous 5 years, vineyard temperatures are now reaching 100 degrees. “When the temps get into the high-90s the vines basically shut-down,” explained vineyard manager Patrick Rawn. “When the soil begins to dry it restricts vine photosynthesis and sugar production. Managing irrigation properly allows for more controlled canopy management.”

Patrick’s grapes are used in Gianni Buonomo’s Blaufränkisch and Maestrale. (Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon)

Also on the list of vineyard managers visited this week was Andrew Schultz of Elephant Mountain Vineyards. Andrew is responsible for managing Gianni’s flagship Sangiovese as well as the grapes that are used for Avennio (Syrah, Mourvedre). “Deficit irrigation is crucial. Keeping the plant yearning for more water and stressing it a little helps to bring deeper flavors to the berry, “says Schultz.

As Washington grapes continue to garner worldwide attention, the giant California wineries are buying-up wineries and vineyards here.

Gianni Buonomo winemaker Keith Rolle isn’t surprised. “I turned-on to Washington fruit many years ago. There certainly are advantages to growing grapes in Washington. First, the vine isn’t grafted on to another rootstock. It grows on its own roots. Another big advantage I see is the manager’s ability to control moisture levels. The area gets less than 7 inches per year of rain. There is virtually no chance of it raining during the summer or during harvest. One of the last things anyone wants is a rain storm blowing in during harvest season.”

The cool spring was welcome and, although it is virtually impossible to estimate a pick date, these managers are eying a mid-October harvest.