Low Idaho wine grape yield, but unique in flavor

A harsh winter took its toll on the vines.

CANYON COUNTY - Williamson Orchards have been producing fruit in the Treasure Valley for more than a century and in 1998 the Williamson family planted their first vines.

In the nearly two decades of producing wine grapes, Mike Williamson part owner at Williamson Vineyards, has never had a season like 2017.

"We have never seen a year quite like 2017 in terms of reduction and the amount of damage," says Williamson.

With temperatures dipping below minus 20, Williamson had to cut many vines off near the root after the snow melted in March.

As a result, out of the nine red and white varieties he produces, only the Riesling grape variety produced this year.

"We produced enough to take care of our needs, normally we supply our grapes to eight different wineries, which they were impacted by that as well. We were able to supply enough to sort of get by this year," says Williamson.

What Williamson was able to supply, he says will be unique.

He explains how vine buds sprout in three different clusters, primary, secondary and tertiary.

"I think it will mean probably more crisper flavors and it will be exciting bottles that say 2017 from Idaho, at least southern Idaho Snake River Valley, will be an interesting wine to watch," predicts Williamson.

He says while other local vineyards also experienced record low yields, some were able to produce a Petite Verdot, a red variety.

"The reds, I could see red varieties being influenced particularly more so because of the acid levels that are going to be present. As a grape ripens the acid levels go down and the sugar levels go up," explains Williamson.

This 2017 season is in stark contrast to 2016's harvest, which Williamson says production was at a record high and helped offset this year's inventory.

He attributes the plentiful 2016 yield to a moderate summer without high temperature spikes and a slower start to winter, which is what he is seeing for the 2018 harvest.

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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