Monday, June 18, 2012

Because Great Wine is Made in the Vineyard: Yakima Valley's Summer Vineyard Tours

The Washington wine industry is still a young one, and yet already it's become apparent that not all fruit is created equal and a few of the state's vineyards have become some of the most sought after in the Northwest.  Washington wine labels initially designated the fruit as "Columbia Valley," then moved to the more specific AVAs like Red Mountain or Walla Walla, and now increasingly tout individual vineyard designate bottlings, names like Les Collines, Boushey or Ciel du Cheval.

When it comes to food the Farm to Table movement communicates an understanding of quality in the food and the way it's grown or harvested by real people with a connection to the land and animals that they farm and harvest.  That all holds true with respect to wine, as well, with the addition of the concept of terroir, which most succinctly expressed in a wine from a single vineyard. Terroir is a French term for which English really has no equivalent; it's about the location, soils, weather, and canopy and trellising techniques. For the French, even the people who've worked the vineyards are part of the wine's terroir.

To the winemaker, whether they're called the vineyard manager, the grower, or the farmer it's an essential partnership.  Without their talent and cooperation it becomes almost impossible for a winemaker to craft the best wines they can.  Given the vital role that farmers play, it's about time that the farmers get a little love from the wine fans.  To that end the Yakima Valley Wine Association is giving wine fans an opportunity to explore where their favorite wines are coming from and meet the farmers and families responsible for some of the state's most sought after fruit.

This July, the Vineyard Tour Series kicks off with four of Washington's most storied and respected vineyards and farmers.  Guests will visit the vineyard, taste wines right from the source, enjoy food from Washington Wine Country's favorite caterer Frank Magana and get to walk the vineyard rows and hear from the growers themselves about what sets their vineyards, fruit and ultimately their wines apart.

Every Saturday in July offers a new location, and the tours kick off at Red Willow on the 7th and the last one is at Boushey Vineyards on July 28th.  That's the one I'll be checking out. If there's a rockstar wine grower in Washington it's most certainly Dick Boushey.  Maybe I'll see you there?  There's more information below about each individual vineyard from the event's press release. Tickets for the event are $75 and can be had here.

Schedule of Vineyard Tour Series

Red Willow Vineyard – July 7
Aged To Perfection – Tour one of the state's oldest vineyards, the birthplace of Washington’s first Syrah, and a pioneer of cabernet franc and sangiovese. Tours convey a nostalgic touch with transportation in a covered wagon pulled by a vineyard tractor all the way up to the vineyard chapel with 360 degree views as well as tours through the syrah, cabernet franc and sangiovese vineyards.

DuBrul Vineyard – July 14
Rooted in the family – Guests will enjoy an intimate tour of this highly acclaimed vineyard and taste
through some of Cote Bonneville's exclusive wines. Vineyard owners Hugh and Kathy Shiels have striven to produce grapes that express the unique terroir that is DuBrul. See firsthand the mineral deposits, extensive irrigation practice and why steep rocky soils are so important to growing exceptional grapes in the Yakima Valley.

Upland Vineyards – July 21
Cultivated in Tradition – The Upland tour includes an opportunity to see the original vines that were first planted in 1917. This tour showcases the progression from planting the vine to producing grapes, harvest winemaking and the aging process.  Explore Washington's 10th AVA - Snipes Mountain.

Boushey Vineyards – July 28
Steeped in Syrah – Tour the vineyard with Dick Boushey, the father of syrah, as he discusses the idiosyncrasies of how syrah grows and the various conditions that change the taste of the grapes grown on different hillsides, in various soils and more. Boushey grapes create the most critically acclaimed wines in the state and are a key player in the success of Washington wines. His strong influence and historical significance on the Washington winemaking business is also explored.


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