Three vineyard sites, Desert Wind Vineyard, Sacagawea Vineyard and Estate Vineyard, provide the fruit for Desert Wind wines. The Estate Vineyard surrounds the Desert Wind facility in the Yakima Valley. The other vineyards lie at the foot of the Saddle Mountains in the Wahluke Slope AVA, a sub-appellation of Eastern Washington's Columbia Valley known for its fierce summer conditions.
The climate here is extreme, and it is not uncommon for summer temperatures to reach 110°F. Winter days may be as cold as 14°F. With an annual rainfall of only 7-8 inches, the vines require irrigation during the hot summer months. The soil is rocky and shallow with excellent drainage.
The Desert Wind Vineyard site was planted in 1993. Today, the vineyard totals 423 planted acres, with large blocks of Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. The vineyard also contains smaller plantings of Viognier, Semillon, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Barbera, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo, Mourvedre and Carmenere. The vineyard is planted using 9 x 6 vine spacing with 806 plants per acre.
Desert Wind Vineyard lies on the Wahluke Slope and ranges in elevation from approximately 800 - 1,000 feet. Its rocky soil is covered by shallow topsoil; the unique soil makeup places extra stress on the vines, forcing them to funnel energy into fruit production instead of excessive vegetation. The fruit from this vineyard is highly pigmented with firm tannins that lend structure to the resulting wines.
Several Northwest wineries purchase fruit from Desert Wind Vineyard for their own winemaking; they often refer to this site as "Fries Vineyard" on their labels.
Located a short distance from Desert Wind Vineyard, the Sacagawea Vineyard lies at approximately 600 feet elevation. It is planted using 9 x 5 spacing and includes approximately 20 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 acres of Syrah, and four acres each of Barbera, Sangiovese and Riesling. The vineyard was planted in 2000 by the Fries family and produces around 210 tons of fruit annually.
The Sacagawea Vineyard site has sandy soil, providing excellent drainage for the vines. Its east-west orientation is unusual for the area, but lessens the impact of wind on the grape canopy, resulting in less cane stunting.
This vineyard produces fruit with softer, fruitier flavors than that from Desert Wind Vineyard, where the fruit tends to be more structured. The combination of these two vineyard sites provides the winemaking team with a wide variety of fruit for crafting Desert Wind wines.
Located at approximately 560 feet elevation, the Estate Vineyard is planted to small quantities of Portuguese red wine varieties: Touriga Nacional, Souzão, and Tinto Cão. With its head-trained, densely spaced vines, a layer of heat-retaining basalt, and selection of unusual varieties, the Estate Vineyard represents a style of farming more common in Europe than Eastern Washington.
Planted in 2007, this vineyard was originally intended to serve both a decorative and experimental function; to our delight we discovered it also produced excellent fruit with flavor profiles unlike those from our larger Wahluke Slope vineyard sites. The basalt stones allow the soil to retain moisture and negate the need for tilling the soil while radiating additional heat when the temperatures dip at night.
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