Sun, Ice, Soil, & Water
Red mountain is a place of extremes, dating back to the prehistoric era. Here are a few things that make this place special:
The Plants' Power Plant
Plants need energy, just like animals do. That energy comes in the form of sunlight, which happens to be an abundant resource on Red Mountain. With our unusually clear skies and northerly latitude, we average more than 17 hours of sunlight a day - two more than Napa Valley.
Grape vines are very susceptible to temperature changes on a day-to-day basis. In the summer, grapes ripen at temperatures below the mid-90s. As the temperature continues to rise above that threshold, sugar development is arrested. Evaporation from the plant's leaves (called transpiration) grows at an exponential rate until the plant is unable to keep up with the loss of water. This triggers the vine to start metabolizing the acids in the grapes as a survival mechanism. Grapes grown in other areas of the world are oftentimes unable to compensate properly because the temperatures remain too high over a 24-hour cycle.
Red Mountain, on the other hand, is able to reduce the acid loss that occurs due to rapid transpiration. Our peak temperatures occur around 4 p.m. and cool off rapidly during the night, oftentimes resulting in a 40-50 degree swing between peak temperatures. As a result of this temperature swing (called diurnal shift), Red Mountain grapes are high in both sugar and acidity, an exceedingly rare and desirable trait for wine production.
(or lack thereof)
If grape vines are allowed a large amount of water they will concentrate growth on leaves and branches, and the fruit makes for puny wine. On Red Mountain, we average only around five inches of rain a year. This allows grape growers to precisely control the amount of water that grapes receive via irrigation, resulting in well-ripened and robust fruit harvests.
Wake Me When It's Spring
Grape vines that grow on Red Mountain are subject to bitterly cold winters. This allows the vines to go dormant, completing a natural yearly cycle that oftentimes doesn't happen in warmer climates.
Loess is More
Red Mountain was an island during Ice Age flooding. This tremendous natural force scoured the land, leaving only a barren basalt moonscape. Prevailing winds from the south east deposited super-fine granite-based silt and dust particles, called sandy loess (pronounced “less”), on top of the rock. The resulting eolian soils are fine grained, well-drained, and perfect for growing grapes with minimal disease and pest pressure.
“Red Moutain has established itself as not only Washington’s premier wine-growing region, but one of the finest in the world.”