Hailstones fall on Yakima Valley vineyards

By on June 30, 2013

Two hailstorms leave behind some damage in clusters of Touriga Nacional on Saturday, June 29, 2013, at Desert Wind Winery in Prosser, Wash. (Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Two hailstorms leave behind some damage in clusters of Touriga Nacional on Saturday, June 29, 2013, at Desert Wind Winery in Prosser, Wash. (Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

PROSSER, Wash. – A pair of hailstorms pelted parts of eastern Washington on Saturday morning, but little damage was seen was reported in Yakima Valley vineyards.

“It was the biggest hail that I’ve seen,” said Greg Fries, director of winemaking and vineyards for Desert Wind Winery in Prosser and Duck Pond Cellars in Dundee, Ore.

After dawn Saturday, storm cells more than a two hours apart dropped hail in the valley.

Wade Wolfe of nearby Thurston Wolfe Winery, hasn’t found any damage in the Hogue Ranch vineyards near Washington State University’s research station.

“I walked through them yesterday after the hail and again this morning,” Wolfe told Great Northwest Wine via email. “We too got hail at approximately 5:30 a.m. (pea size) and 8 a.m. (marble size) on Saturday, but it was short lasting (5 minutes?) and not very hard.”

Dick Boushey of Boushey Vineyards near Grandview, reported, “We had a little hail on Saturday morning, but there was no damage to grapes. I was told of golf ball size hail north of Sunnyside, but I do not know the extent of damage to grapes or tree fruit.”

Clusters of Touriga Nacional grapes suffer a small percentage of damage Saturday, June 29, 2013, at Desert Wind Winery in Prosser, Wash. (Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Clusters of Touriga Nacional grapes suffer a small percentage of damage Saturday, June 29, 2013, at Desert Wind Winery in Prosser, Wash. (Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Fries found some damage to berries in his young but established Touriga Nacional vines just to the west of Desert Wind’s tasting room, restaurant and boutique hotel. The complex is adjacent to the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center, which is under construction.

The Touriga Nacional factors into Desert Wind’s limited Port-style program.

“You can see where the hail hit and split the berries, and those will eventually turn into raisins,” Fries said. “Those vines are head-trellised, like you see sometimes in California.”

That trellising system leaves a small percentage of clusters exposed, and a few of the grapes on the top of those clusters were bruised or sliced by the hailstones.

Wolfe said there was considerable hail damage earlier in June near Grandview, and Boushey confirmed that.

“My apples have sustained substantial damage from a previous hailstorm several weeks ago,” Boushey said.

About Eric Degerman

Eric Degerman is the president and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. He is a journalist with more than 30 years of daily newspaper experience and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest with Andy Perdue and served as its managing editor for 15 years. He is a frequent wine judge along the West Coast and contributor to Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine, the region's longest-running golf publication.

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