The common misconception about the climate of the Puget Sound AVA, Washington State’s lone appellation west of the Cascade Mountains, is that growers must contend with rainforest-like conditions. In fact, some of the earliest vineyards in the state were planted here over a century ago.
The AVA boundaries are in part defined by areas receiving “60 inches or less ” annual precipitation, but most vineyards only see between 30-40 inches. More important is that most of the annual rainfall occurs between November and April, far outside the growing season. In fact, summers in western Washington approach drought conditions in many years, and vineyard irrigation is not uncommon.
There are but 80 acres planted, widely scattered throughout the region, which includes mainland, island and Olympic peninsula sites. Puget Sound growers focus their efforts on producing and promoting varieties found in few other places in North America — early-ripening varieties such as Madeleine Angevine, Siegerrebe, Muller Thurgau and a bit of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. At this northerly latitude, the vines may benefit from longer days, and these crisp white wines pair well with the salmon, crab and oysters harvested nearby.
Most of the wineries that produce Puget Sound wines (many located in western Washington do not) supplement their production with grapes sourced from the Columbia Valley. But it is the locally grown varieties that define the region and will be of interest to those seeking to understand the region’s unique terroir.
~ Paul Gregutt
In the southern Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Georgia vineyards are small and few, yet the establishment of the Upper Hiwassee Highlands could bring much more.