An unusually cool spring has kept wine grapes on the vine longer than usual and has Yakima Valley vintners facing a vexing choice.

On one hand, the longer that grapes hang from their vines, the more flavor they acquire. On the other, the longer that harvest is delayed, the greater risk of a frost ruining the unpicked grapes.

Harvest has been underway in some Yakima Valley vineyards already, but in general the crop is two to three weeks later than usual.

Paul Beveridge, vintner for Wilridge Vineyard, Winery and Distillery, said this year’s grapes stand to be some of the best his vineyard has seen.

“If we don’t get an early freeze, it will be an epic vintage, an outstanding vintage. But if we get an early freeze, we’ll have to make a lot of rosé,” Beveridge said.

Beveridge said vineyards in warmer parts of Yakima County suffered damage to some of their crops due to the cold spring. The temperature rose just enough for grapevines to emerge from their dormant state before later frosts damaged them.

In cooler areas such as Naches, vines stayed dormant long enough to avoid damage.

Other winemakers, including Allison VanArnam, owner of VanArnam Vineyards, echoed Beveridge’s thoughts.

“Things were a little different this year due to the abnormally cool spring and some heat this summer. We’re probably a week or two later than previous years but the fruit looks amazing. It’s full, we haven’t had heat damage. Quality-wise, we’re looking forward to an amazing harvest,” VanArnam said.

Though temperatures at night are starting to dip into the high 40s, forecasts for the next week are showing nothing but sunny skies and daytime temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s.

Santiago Ochoa’s reporting for the Yakima Herald-Republic is possible with support from Report for America and community members through the Yakima Valley Community Fund. For information on republishing, email news@yakimaherald.com.

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