This winter has been one the Treasure Valley will not quickly forget. It’s been decades since we’ve seen this kind of snowfall and low temperatures. So besides having to shovel our driveways on a daily basis and keep a healthy stock of snow-melt in the garage, we have also been thinking about how this cold spell will affect Idaho’s 2017 grape production.
When a vine is hit by a cold snap, what really suffers are its dormant buds, which are what develop into fruit in the spring. The buds that develop into fruit are bundled up together inside an external, scaly, protective layer.
The 45th parallel north--that magical latitude shared by the most prestigious wine regions in the world, including Bordeaux country in France and the city of Piedmont in Italy--runs right through Idaho. (Maybe you’ve been to the little kiosk outside of New Meadows that marks its precise location.) While the overall climate is impacted by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, variations in sea level, and atmospheric conditions, the Snake River Valley receives a markedly similar amount of sunlight per day and per season as these longstanding fixtures in the wine industry.
In other words, Idaho is a great place to make wine, and the state is host to an increasingly renowned wine country. But there’s a lot more to producing fruits suitable for the bottle than sitting halfway between the equator and a North or South pole, and the capacity for a vine to grow is hardly an indicator of an award-winning vintage. Broadly speaking, a complex system and network of soil, water, and temperature interacts to render fruits worthy of being bottled, and location is just the start
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