Chinook Yakima Valley Wines
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“Gentle June breezes, hinting of hot, dry days to come, float seductive scents through Yakima Valley. And at Chinook Wines.… the tang of sage-brush from Horse Heaven Hills is also in the air, along with the musky perfume of young wine grapes.”

Linda Lau Anusasananan
Sunset Magazine

The Vineyards

Chinook’s Estate Vineyard

Chinook’s Cabernet Franc estate vineyard is planted in two blocks surrounding the winery buildings. As a trained viticulturist with remarkable instinct, Clay chose the variety based on compatibility with their site. Notoriously difficult to grow, Cabernet Franc presents Clay with both challenges and tremendous opportunity. The goal is to nurture fruit that is well suited to Chinook’s winemaking style, all the while making decisions that will ensure the long-term health of the vineyard. With the site and variety well suited to each other, strict vineyard practices with minimal intervention are successfully employed and the efforts are rewarded each vintage.

Planted: 1990
Elevation: 680 ft.
Soils: Scooteney Silt Loam, Gravelly Subsoil
Spacing: 4'x8' with VSP Trellis
AVA: Yakima Valley

The Current Weather at Chinook's Estate Vineyard

While each year brings a unique combination of events, both the vineyard and grower follow the same fundamental cycle each season...

Pruning, which takes place while the vines are still dormant and after the threat of winter bud damage, lays the groundwork for a harvest that is still months away. Chinook’s vineyard employs “cordon trained spur pruning.” Using this method, most of the canes from the previous year’s growth are pruned away leaving a number of short spurs of one-year-old wood. Each spur has 3-4 nodes (buds), which following budbreak will generate shoots, harden-off into canes and in turn produce fruit and next year’s bud-wood.

Budbreak is one of the first signs of rapid change in the vineyard. As the spring sun warms the soil, sap begins to run, buds swell and soon small downy leaves emerge.

Flowering may not be a visually stunning event, but each tiny blossom that self-pollinates will become one berry. As with each stage of development, rain, wind or cold weather has the potential to negatively influence fruit set. 

Shoot thinning and suckering is used to eliminate unwanted growth from the trunk and cordons. Removing select shoots acts to open the canopy allowing additional airflow and light penetration, as well as giving the plant less growth on which to focus limited energy. The carefully selected shoots that remain will develop into canes that will carry and ripen fruit.

Veraison signifies the change from berry growth to berry ripening. Clusters soften and begin to take on the color characteristic of their variety. During this time they also grow in volume, weight and brix (a measurement of sugar).

Harvest is the time when a year’s worth of patience, hard-work, assistance from Mother Nature and a little luck will result in a superior harvest. Following veraison, acid declines and sugar levels climb. It is during this time that Clay and Kay spend extra time monitoring changes to Brix (°Bx), pH, TA, visual appearance and overall flavor. When the time is right, the fruit is hand harvested and carefully sorted.

A quiet time in the Yakima Valley as the vines lie dormant. During these months we vigilantly monitor the weather to determine how it might influence the timing or practice of pruning,  check for winter damage, make basic trellis repairs and prepare for the coming year.