Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Naked Terroir in Washington state

To see the scale of The Benches Vineyard (once called Wallula for Wallula Gap), check out the white cars, blue porta potty and–if you have great eyes–people working at the bottom of the center vineyard. Also check out the basalt rock under the dirt–quiz on that later.
This is the same view as above, but zoomed back a bit. Can you see the white cars toward the center right? Then check out the lower vineyard that seems to angle into the Columbia River.
This is a closer view of the lower vineyard.You can really see the basalt in this view.A zoomed back vies of the entire terroir of The Benches Vineyard, with some vines seemingly hanging off the cliffs above the Columbia River.

This is one of the most amazing vineyards I've experienced. The Benches Vineyard on the cliff edge of the Columbia River about 1 hour dusty-road drive from Pasco, Washington. The place is geology exposed raw. See those basalt outcroppings in the detail photos, they are the result of the greatest volcanic event ever on the face of the earth. I read that in some places, the basalt is 2 km deep–which translates to more than 15 American football fields on end.

Then, if that weren't enough, some 15,000 years ago came the Missoula floods. Water more than two American-football-fields-on-end high came gushing through this narrow gap at
some 10 million cubic meters per second. That's about 200 oil tanker ships worth per second. I would not be surfing that wave. And those floods happened maybe 40 times.

These benches start at an elevation of 1400 feet and step down 1000 feet to the shore of the Columbia River, providing micro climates at the different elevations (and soils). Thus 15 different grape varieties can be planted. At the top are the cooler white varieties like Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Midway are the warmer climate grapes like Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. At the lowest and hottest levels are Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache and Malbec. Other more exotic varieties like Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Mourvedre, Dolcetto, Carignane, Barbera and Marsanne are planted in small quantities on various slopes of the vineyard.

Now, that's raw terroir.

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