Source: Good Fruit Grower
The federal government has designated a growing wine grape region on the border of Washington and Idaho as the Lewis-Clark Valley American Viticultural Area.
The appellation sits in a geographic region known as the “banana belt” for its high temperatures compared with surrounding areas.
Almost 150 years ago, farmers who had immigrated to the Unites States from France and Germany were successfully growing wine grapes in the region around Lewiston, Idaho, and Clarkston, Washington, until Prohibition halted production.
The industry there has been slower to return than in other parts of the Pacific Northwest, but today, the Lewis-Clark Valley is home to three bonded wineries and 16 vineyards growing more than 80 acres of grapes.
To those growing grapes and making wine there, it’s not just another grape growing region.
“My husband and I really could have gone anywhere, but we decided to plant our flag here in Lewiston on our family farm, not just because we have family here, but because we really believe this is a premier place to grow and make wine,” she said.
In announcing the designation, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau also modified the boundary of the existing Columbia Valley AVA to eliminate a partial overlap with the new Lewis–Clark Valley AVA.
What sets it apart
Jim and Dana Arnett, owners of Arnett Vineyard in Clarkston, grow roughly 2 1/2 acres of wine grapes in sandy loam, at an elevation of 840 feet at the center of the vineyard. Another 3 1/2 acres will be added to production next year.
Jim Arnett planted his first grapes in 1999, and in the years since has learned much about the varietals that like his site. Namely, reds. The whites are not happy there.
“It’s a little hot for them in the summer,” he said. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec shine, however. “It gets hotter than a blister in the daytime, then it will cool down into the 70s at night. So on the reds, if you do leaf thinning around the clusters, you get all that sun exposure. I’m pretty sure that gets it a whole lot of different character.”
Arnett sells grapes to Clearwater Canyon Cellars, which opened in 2004 and gets 75 percent of its grapes from vineyards in the Lewis-Clark Valley, including its own estate vineyard.
“The bottom of the Lewis-Clark Valley sits around 700 feet above sea level at the river, and the boundary of the AVA goes up to just shy of 2,000 feet,” Umiker said. “And within that, you have quite a bit of diversity, in terms of aspect and soil type, and I really enjoy the variation in flavors I get from working with grapes from vineyards in the valley.”
Recognizing the region as an appellation is huge for the growers there, she said. “For those of who have been making wine from grapes grown in the valley for years, we’re finally able to tell the world, or show the world on the bottle, what we’ve been doing,” she said. “It’s nice to finally give credit to growers on the bottle.” •
– by Shannon Dininny