Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Crushing Northwest Wine Grapes: Hot Summer Makes For Strong Juice

Anna King
Jim Holmes, of Ciel du Cheval Vineyard on Red Mountain, says this year's grapes don't show signs of disease, mold, bird damage.

As autumn’s golden light bathes the Northwest, wineries across the region are harvesting, crushing grapes and making wine full bore. This year’s fruit looks petite and powerful.

Jim Holmes, owner of the Ciel du Cheval Vineyard on Red Mountain in southeast Washington, is one of the godfathers of the state’s wine industry. He says this year's grapes don't show signs of disease, mold or bird damage. 

Credit Anna King
Maria Natividad is one of the fastest pickers here in the '94 sarah at Ciel du Cheval Vineyard on Red Mountain outside of Benton City, Washington.

"They’re like an artist drew them on the vine. It’s that kind of year," he said.

Holmes says this was a very hot year — much hotter than even 1998.

“Three years ago, we worried that the grapes would not get ripe, it was so cold,” Holmes said. “This is a very hot year. The issue was: ‘Would it get too hot? Would the grapes sunburn? Would they raisin up? Could we live with that kind of heat?’ And we did.”

That hot weather means the grapes are smaller this year. And that means there will be a bigger skin-to-juice ratio when pressing out wine. It means winemakers will have to make sure a glass of 2014 isn't too dry, but the payoff could be huge in color and increasing recognition from the worldwide industry.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.