Snake River Valley AVA

ava_snake-riverLocation: The Snake River Valley is an AVA that spans from northeastern Oregon into southwestern Idaho. The total area is approximately 8,000 square miles.

Wine history: Approved in April 2007, Snake River Valley AVA is thinly populated with wineries and vineyards in Oregon, yet it features the largest density of vineyards and wineries in Idaho. The area encompasses more than 8,000 square miles at latitudes comparable to many famous wine regions around the world (43°- 46°). Formed more than four million years ago, the Snake River Valley overlays the ancient Lake Idaho bed, which creates its natural boundaries.

Climate: From a purely geographical standpoint, the Snake River Valley offers ideal growing conditions. Wine grapes thrive in this distinctly four-season climate. The characteristic cold winters, which might at first seem a disadvantage, are in fact quite conducive, allowing vines to go dormant, to rest and conserve important carbohydrates for the coming season, while ridding the plants of bugs and discouraging disease. The region’s summer combination of cold nights and warm days serves to balance grape acids and sugars favorably. In the 30-40 degree F diurnal temperature variations typical of this higher elevation – swings from 1 to 65 degrees are common – sugars remain high, nurtured during the long days by the abundant sunshine, while acids are maintained at favorable levels by comparatively cool evenings. These natural acids, important for the wines’ taste and longevity, can be difficult to maintain in, for example, the warmer California climate. Adequate sugar, on the other hand, is often the obstacle in Oregon, where early rains absorbed by the grapes and vines in the final stages of ripening dilute the fruits’ natural levels of sugar. Because such potentially ruinous precipitation is also responsible for assorted other agricultural woes, including mold and rot, the Snake River Valley’s lack of rainfall is considered a plus; here, water is one element that can be controlled by the grower through irrigation, according to calculated timing.

Soils: The Snake River Valley is a distinctive grape growing region whose ancient volcanic sediment has bestowed fertile, well-draining soils that give growers better control throughout the grape-growing process. More importantly, this soil contributes to a unique terroir that, in the hands of talented winemakers, consistently delivers premium wines that are as memorable as they are delicious.

Topography: Located on the same latitude as Oregon’s Umpqua Valley AVA, the Snake River Valley has a more drastic diurnal temperature variation than other appellations in the Pacific Northwest due to the high elevation of most of the region’s vineyards. At elevations of 2,500 feet (760 m) to 3,000 feet (910 m) above sea level, the region is also more than 400 miles (640 km) from the tempering effects of the Pacific Ocean.