Growing Wine Grapes in the Puget Sound

By Steve Snyder,
Hollywood Hill Vineyards
 


(Last updated: 10/16/2007 )

The Puget sound is ideally situated for growing premium wine grapes. Our area is a classic maritime climate with wet, mild winters and bone dry summers. Temperatures are moderated by the ocean and the Puget Sound so we don't have the extreme swings that Eastern Washington has. We are further north than most of the growing regions in Europe, giving us very long growing days during the summer, therefore helping us to ripen our grapes successfully every year. Because of the abundant sunshine and relatively cool temperatures, Puget Sound grapes attain a purity of varietal flavors found almost nowhere else in the world. 

Climate

The Puget Sound AVA is a part of cool climate growing region that stretches from southern British Columbia to Eugene, Oregon. On average, SeaTac Airport has about 2050 Growing Degree Days (over the last 57 years) and 37" of rain annually. In the Puget Sound, this is good benchmark to start from since it seems to fall in between the warmer southern areas and the cooler northern ones and rainfall is also in the middle. There will be variations in your local microclimate that will dictate what you can grow. A good comparison in Europe to the Puget Sound might be the Loire valley, near Nantes (Muscadet), the Northern Rhine valley in Germany, Champagne or Chablis.

Comparison of Cool Climate growing Regions

District Degree Days* Grapes Grown
Chablis 1710 Chardonnay
Champagne 1890 Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir
Loire 1710-1980 Melon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chasselas, Cab Franc
Ahr 1620-1980 Pinot Noir, Riesling, Muller-Thurgau
Nahe 1980-2160 Muller-Thurgau, Riesling, Sylvaner
Alsace 2210 Chasselas, Sylvaner, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Riesling, Auxerrois, Pinot Noir
Cote d'Or 2120 Pinot Noir, Chardonnay
Medoc 2520 Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc
Puget Sound 1700-2200 Madeleine Angevine, Siegerrebe, Muller-Thurgau, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley 2200-2500 Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling

*From "The Production of Grapes and Wine in Cool Climates", by Jackson and Schuster, except the Washington and Oregon sites. Puget Sound and Willamette Valley are from the Western Region Climate Center http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/.

Generally, the further from the Puget Sound water, the warmer you will be. But, if you go too far up into the foothills, the rainfall totals become unacceptable. Average yearly rainfall should be less than 50 inches per year. The San Juan Islands are very cool, but are also very dry and have an extended growing season. Only the earliest ripening grapes should be grown there. The Seattle area is warm enough to ripen Pinot Noir. The warmest areas to ripen grapes are in the Puyallup Valley and south of Olympia near Centralia and Chehalis. Woodinville is proving to be a warm location. There has been some recent interest in the Skagit valley due to it's nice South facing slopes and outcroppings of limestone near Concrete, but care must be taken not to go to far inland or too high in elevation or you will run into too much rain and too much frost.

There is a good map of the various local climates at: http://www.raintreenursery.com/map_PNW.html

There is a very good website that you can use to find what the specific climate in your area is:
Western Regional Climate Center

Rain

There is a general misconception that the Puget Sound is rainy and gray throughout the year. This is not true, since the Puget Sound recieves less rain annually than many other well known grape growing regions, and we get less than most during the most important growing time of the year (April-October). Rainfall averages for the Puget Sound range anywhere from 16" in Sequim, to 66" in Concrete. Keep in mind that less rainfall doesn't always mean a better place to grow grapes. Generally, it's much cooler in the areas that have less rain than those that have more.

Here is a comparison of seven well known growing regions against Seattle.  You will see Seattle gets less rain during the growing season than all of these well known cool climate growing regions - less rain = less disease - and more sunlight.

Rainfall in millimeters

April May June July August September October Total
Loire 47 53 50 42 41 41 74 348
Chablis 51 59 71 63 58 53 69 424
Bordeaux 67 65 60 52 47 55 81 427
Burgundy 50 55 69 62 61 54 78 429
Nantes 56 56 50 53 50 50 89 404
Champagne 47 54 53 67 58 42 67 388
Rheingau 36 41 53 53 53 46 51 333
Seattle 58 46 36 15 18 43 74 290

From "Viticulture and Environment", John Gladstones, Winetitles, 1992

Sunshine

As mentioned above, the Puget Sound region is supposedly a gray, rainy climate, but it's not really. Let have a look at how Western Washington compares to other well known growing regions when it comes to sunshine. You'll see that Seattle gets more sunshine during the growing season than the other growing areas, except Nantes. All this sunshine, combined with the lack of rain during the growing season is probably the main reason why we can ripen some of the later ripening grapes mentioned below.

April May June July August September October Total
Loire 176 215 228 240 223 180 127 1389
Chablis 175 200 223 236 228 184 125 1371
Bordeaux 185 205 227 257 250 205 143 1472
Burgundy 175 212 241 258 242 192 129 1449
Nantes 200 226 250 277 259 201 147 1560
Champagne 175 217 224 228 197 178 118 1337
Rheingau 177 226 228 233 214 159 96 1333
Seattle 204 236 255 298 267 177 121 1558

From "Viticulture and Environment", John Gladstones, Winetitles, 1992

Site Selection

As with most northern hemisphere vineyards, a southern or southwestern slope is best. Good free draining soil is a must have. There shouldn't be shading from trees. The Puget Sound region traditionally goes into drought conditions most summers and drip irrigation can be useful to help start new vines and to help older vines cope in really dry years. Usually we have enough rain in the water table to sustain growth throughout the summer. Sunshine is not a problem during the growing season as we encounter almost no cloud cover for most of the summer. The further from the water, the warmer it will be.

Growing Strategies

Some grapes will ripen every year in this climate without any assistance, but some of the later grapes, such as Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay can use a little help some years. We are now recommending on the later ripening grapes you should:

Rootstocks

There should be a short discussion about rootstocks. Grape rootstocks are what most commercial growers use. Rootstocks serve a couple of purposes. Firstly, they protect the roots of the vine against a variety of problems, but the main reason is to protect them against Phylloxera. Just like with apple trees, grape rootstocks can impart other traits on the vine namely to invigorate/devigorate the vine or to speed up or slow down ripening. Most of the grapes in the Puget Sound are grown on their own roots, and for the backyard grower this is usually good enough. For any serious commercial grower, using rootstocks is almost a necessity. If the right rootstock is chosen for your location, you can speed up ripening and devigorate your vines. With Pinot Noir on rootstock, you can easily see a percentage or two increase in sugar, while TA is decreased. There is a downside to using them. Cuttings of a wine grape are essential free, while 1 year old vines on rootstock currently run about $3 per vine. Also, most vines on rootstock will need some type of irrigation to get them started the first couple of years and you will see a smaller crop than if you plant vines on their own roots.

Some of the better known rootstocks that are being used in our region are 101-14 mgt, 3309c, 420a and Riparia Gloire.

Grape Varieties

The most widely planted grapes in the Puget Sound region are Madeleine Angevine, Siegerrebe, Muller-Thurgau, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. There are smaller plantings of Melon, Chasselas, Regent and Chardonnay. The future should bring more red varieties that are being tested at Mt. Vernon and other sites.

There are three lists below. The first is of grapes that we know can grow in the Puget Sound area. The second is a list of grapes  should grow in our climate and growers are experimenting with them. The third list is of other grapes that should do well in our climate, but either no one has planted them here or not enough knowledge has been gained to make any assumptions.

The WSU Mt. Vernon research station has many grape varieties on trial. You can see more information about those grape trials at this link: Mt. Vernon Research Station

Here is a link to the description of the Puget Sound AVA

If you would like to buy some of these grape vines from local growers, click here: Vines

In the Potential Unknown section: this not meant to be a comprehensive list of all grapes that could grow here, but a list of some of what we know would possibly grow here.

Here is a chart that shows ripening period classifications:


This list is in alphabetic order.


Currently Planted

Chardonnay (White)

This is the classic grape of the Burgundy and Champagne regions. It is not known outside of Burgundy to pick Chardonnay later than Pinot Noir. Since we can grow Pinot Noir successfully, it bodes well for us to grow Chardonnay. The new Dijon clones (76, 95, 96, etc.) on the proper rootstock (101-14, 3309) should ripen Chardonnay at the same time as Pinot Noir, around the 2nd week in October in warmer sites. If clones from Champagne or Chablis could be sourced, we could easily ripen them here most years. In our climate, our Chardonnays would most likely resemble those from Chablis, slightly higher in acid, but less alcohol. Also, our climate is ideally suited to growing Chardonnay as a sparkling wine. Commercial sized plantings have been going in and there has been some success in recent years. Only recommended for the warmest locations and on rootstock.

Chasselas (White)  

AKA: Chasselas D'ore. An old French white wine/table grape. Widely grown in France, but mostly for eating grapes nowadays. It is widely grown in the Alsace area of France, but it largest plantings are probably in Switzerland. Skillfully grown Chasselas can yield good quantities of neutral, soft white wine. There is only one vineyard planted in the Puget Sound region and it is on Vashon Island. It ripens most years under less than ideal conditions, but in warmer years makes and excellent wine. More experimentation should be conducted on this grape with rootstocks and proper training to bring out the best.

Gewurztraminer (White)

Another classic French/German white wine grape. Originated in Germany. This vine produces grapes which create a delicious, fruity, full-bodied wine with a spicy bouquet and taste. It is a fairly light cropper. Ripens after Pinot Noir. The vine has unruly growth and it is a fairly late ripening here, so it can only be recommended for the very warmest sites and those who want to tackle this vigorous vine.

Leon Millot (Red) (Hybrid)

Early ripening French-American hybrid. Millot is more vigorous than Foch, is earlier ripening and bears a heavier crop. Produces a Burgundy-like still wine that can be very dark. In our climate it does not have the "hybrid" flavor of other hybrids. Unruly growth. Long internodes. Can make very good wine in this area. Will ripen at almost any site in the Puget Sound. Recent crops suggest that Leon Millot will ripen to much higher levels of brix than Pinot Noir and be picked up to two weeks earlier. 

Madeleine Angevine (White)

A lesser known French vinifera wine grape. It has been grown successfully as a wine grape in the Puget Sound for more than 25 years. It ripens early, in the last week of September. It produces large crops of yellow/green berries (3-4 tons/acre). It makes an attractive fruity wine with a delicate flowery nose, reminiscent of an Alsatian Pinot Blanc. It is very vigorous. Has thin skins and susceptible to Botrytis in wet years. Makes and excellent dry wine and can be late harvested for a dessert wine in warm yeats. Can ripen in most sites in the Puget Sound.

Madeleine Sylvaner (White)

Very early ripening even in the Puget Sound. Can be too early in hot locations. Produces large clusters of fruit. Has a pleasant flavor with some floral notes. Since it is so early, it is often the victim of birds and wasp attacks. Susceptible to bunch rot. Best suited for the coolest sites.

Marechal Foch (Red) (Hybrid)

Early ripening French-American hybrid. Produces large amounts of Gamay Noir like clusters. Produces Burgundy style wine without the finesse or elegance. Can be overly vigorous so crop reduction is necessary. Good disease resistance. Ripens mid season here.

Muller-Thurgau (White)

Fairly old crossing of Riesling x Chasselas. The most widely planted grape in Germany. A good reliable and generous cropper. Crop must be kept in check because it can easily over crop and lose character. Susceptible to powdery mildew. Grapes ripen the 1st week in October in most years in the mid Sound area. The wine is very pleasant, with a muscatel flavor, with some style and harmonious quality. Wines can taste very similar to Riesling in this climate. Recommended for warmer sites the Puget Sound area.

Pinot Gris (White)

The classic white grape of Alsace and Italy (Pinot Grigio) and Germany (Rulander). A genetic mutation of the Pinot Noir vine. Moderate vigor, a fairly light cropper, bearing small bunches of greyish-mauve grapes. Ripens a few days later than Pinot Noir here (around mid October). Makes a nice complex dry white wine. Recommended to plant on rootstock. Only recommended for the warmest sites.

Pinot Noir (Red) 

Classic red Burgundy grape. So far this is the only vinifera red grape with any history in the Puget Sound AVA. Late ripening in mid October. Low yielding. Extremely vigorous, unruly growth. Currently, the only clone grown on a commercial scale in the Puget Sound is the Pommard (UCD 4) clone. Experimentation with some of the new Dijon clones (113, 115, 667,777) on restrictive rootstock has yielded good results. Higher sugars and lower acids than Pinot Noir on it's own roots. Not enough has been harvested of the Dijon clones to comment on quality in the Puget Sound, but in most other places that have planted Dijon clones, quality has always been higher. Rootstocks recommended. Must have the warmest location.

Regent (Red) (Hybrid?)

This grape has moved to a production status with a few acres planted in Western Washington. This is a recent German crossing of Diana (Mueller thurgau X Silvaner) x Chambourcin. This is a controversial grape in Europe where the Germans have declared it Vitis Vinifera because the content of American grape genes are so low. Bred mainly for the German Organic wine industry. It has been said that Regent doesn't need to be sprayed during the growing season and is extremely resistant to all diseases. Supposed to ripen at least a week ahead of Pinot Noir. Recent vintages have shown that Regent will ripen with 1-2 brix more sugar and lower acids than some  Pinot Noir clones. Reference books claim it has a "Rhone" like flavor. Recent tastings from the 2007 vintage have shown Regent can make a fine, age worthy wine that is very dark and full bodied with lots of intense fruit flavors. Should take to oak well. Disease resistance is exceptionally high. 2007 was a very challenging year and several plantings of Regent showed almost no sign of mildew without spraying.

Siegerrebe (White)

A German Madeleine Angevine X Gewurztraminer cross. Has good vigor, dark leaves and ripens very early in our climate, around mid September in warmer locations. The grapes are known to attain very high sugar content, but at the cost of losing acidity. Can make a very good dry/off-dry dinner wine, but really shines when made into a late harvest dessert wine. Has full Gewurztraminer-like bouquet. Good for cooler sites due to it's earliness.

Ripening Order

From earliest to latest, generally from mid September to mid October
 

  1. Madeleine Sylvaner (Early September)
  2. Siegerrebe
  3. Madeleine Angevine
  4. Leon Millot
  5. Marechal Foch
  6. Muller-Thurgau
  7. Pinot Noir
  8. Chardonnay
  9. Pinot Gris
  10. Gewurztraminer (Late October)

These grapes have the potential to grow successfully in our climate due to the similarity of their climate of the native locations.  Experimentation with these varieties is recommended before large plantings are undertaken. 

Many of these grape have not made it to the States yet and may only be available in Canada or Europe.

Experimental Vines

All of these vines have been planted in the Puget Sound AVA and there have been some results to report.

Agria (Red)

From Hungary. Vinifera. Very early ripening grape. Very dark grapes with dark juice. The vine is slow growing with a small crop. Low acidity. Sets a large crop. Leaves turn very dark purple at the end of the season. Ripens early with low acids.  Recent tastings from the 2002 showed a good potential to age and make a fine wine. A good choice for continued experimentation in our climate.

Auxerrois (White)

Classic French white grape from the Alsace region. Low acidity. When yields are limited, it can produce a very rich wines. Buds late, ripens early. It has ripened well ahead of Pinot Noir in the past couple of years. Continued experimentation is advised.

Chasselas (White)

Popular grape in Switzerland. Makes a fairly neutral wine. Ripens slightly earlier than Muller-Thurgau. Some vines are grown in the Puget Sound, but not on a large scale. Vashon Island Winery maintains a small vineyard of Chasselas and the wines have been excellent. Further experimentation is warranted.

Dornfelder (Red)

A recent German crossing of Helfensteiner x Heroldrebe. The wine is notable for it's depth of color, tannins, good acidity and aromatic fruit. Probably will ripen the same time as Pinot Noir. High Yielding. Examples from Germany have been very good. Fruit from the last couple of years has yielded dark, rich wines. Further experimentation is warranted.

Dunkelfelder (Red)

German Teinturier. Early ripening. Very dark red juice. Wines from the Puget Sound grapes have been inky, tannic and full bodied. Could be used for boosting the color of other red wines or fermented on it's own. Will probably take to oak well.

Ehrenfelser (White)

Recent German cross of Riesling x Silvaner. Ripens earlier than Riesling and is more productive. Can produce excellent wines to compete with Riesling, but is falling out of favor in Germany and being replaced by Kerner. Recent plantings at Cloud Mountain Farms and in Woodinville show that it might ripen successfully in our climate.

Garanoir (Red)

A recent Swiss crossing of Gamay X Reichensteiner. Supposedly matures approximately 10 days before Pinot Noir, shows a very good resistance to the botrytis. Can put on a very heavy crop. It is generating a lot of interest in Switzerland, but not much else is known about it. Wines from Garanoir in the Puget Sound have been similar to Pinot Noir with higher brix and lower acids, velvety with some spiciness.

Gamay Noir (Red)

The classic red grape of the Beaujolais region. Bud early, flowers and supposedly ripens early. Can produce heavy crops unless reduced. Relatively high acidity. Ripens with lower sugars. Makes very dark wines. Crops heavily. Recent experiments in the Puget Sound suggest that it might not ripen reliably here. 

Gamaret (Red)

The cousin to Garanoir. Created from the same crossing of Gamay X Reichensteiner. Supposedly ripens at the same time as Pinot or a little earlier, but from available descriptions, tastes almost the same as Garanoir. Heavy cropper.

Melon de Bourgogne (White)

Grape that is primarily grown in the west end of the Loire valley (Muscadet). Makes a dry tart wine of high quality there. There are plantings of it in Oregon and could possibly do well here. There is a sizeable planting on Bainbridge Island and there will be tangible results in a couple of years.

Phoenix (White Hybrid)

German promising release (1994) with synonym name Geilweilerhof GA 49-22. Has direct parentage of Bacchus x Villard Blanc. Good winter hardiness. SO4 or 5C are recommended rootstocks. Mid-early bud break. Vigorous growth, with early-middle veraison. Resistant to phylloxera, chlorosis. Sensitive to the Mildew diseases, a pre-flowering spray being recommended. Early to mid-season fruit maturity. Wines have aroma with somewhat pronounced Muscat tone and have taste similar to Bacchus wine. The wines mature rapidly and should be bottled early for drinking young. Reported as a white-wine creating variety cross being planted in the Niagara region of Ontario, Canada and, recently, in England.  Currently being tested at Mt. Vernon Research Station.

Pinot Blanc (White)

Another classic white grape from Alsace, France. Very similar looking to Chardonnay. Low in vigor and productivity. Can crop fairly highly and maintain sugar content. Makes full bodied wines similar to Chardonnay. Ripens earlier than Chardonnay. Should only be tried on the warmest sites. It is currently being grown in Oregon with good results.

Pinot Meunier (Red)

Primarily grown in the Champagne region of France and made into sparkling white wine. For our interest here in the Puget Sound, this grape could be used as a sparkling wine or a still red wine. Closely related to Pinot Noir and has many of the same characteristics. It buds later and ripens earlier (supposedly a week earlier) than Pinot Noir. The leaves have a white fuzziness that resembles flour. Acid levels are lower, but alcohol levels are not. Meunier is lower in color than Pinot Noir, but seems to more aromatic. Commercial examples of both sparkling and still wines are being made in Oregon with good results.

Pinot Precoce (Fruhburgunder) (Red)

Primarily grown in Germany but not widespread. Supposedly ripen two weeks before Blauer Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir). In Germany it makes a light bodied and colored red wine. An old mutation or clone of Pinot Noir. Grapes grown at the Mt. Vernon Research Center have ripen almost two weeks earlier than Pinot Noir. The wine is of high quality.Further experimentation is warranted.

Riesling (White)

Classic German white vinifera grape. Supposedly too late for our climate, but most material has come from California where it has been bred to mature later in their warm climate. Supposedly, there are up to 60 clones of Riesling that German growers can choose from. If an early ripening clone can be sourced, it is possible that it could ripen here in only the best locations and on rootstock .

Sauvignon Blanc (White)

Classic white-wine producer variety commonly planted in the Bordeaux and eastern Loire regions of France. Shows vigorous growth and is late maturing.  All versions of the cÚpage show a tendency towards a grassy, herbaceous flavor in the wine, often referred to as "gooseberry" by professional tasters, when the grapes are grown in temperate regions. Recent testing in Woodinville and Everson show that under the right conditions, SB can fully ripen with exceptional fruit flavors. There needs to be a large planting of the grape before a final assessment can be determined. Needs to be planted on rootstock and in the warmest locations.

St. Laurent  (Red)

This is another Austrian specialty. It's origin is thought to be from France, but it is no longer grown there. It shares many common traits with Pinot Noir and is thought to be related to it. So far the juice from St. Laurent is darker than Pinot Noir. Commercial examples from Austria have mostly been at least as dark as most Pinot Noirs. It is supposed to ripen 7-10 days ahead of Pinot Noir, but we have not seen that it ripens any earlier so far. It has thicker skins than Pinot Noir, helping to keep the rot away. It is very early budding and frost can be a problem. Commercial examples from Austria and Germany have been excellent. Recent tastings from Puget Sound grapes have shown that St. Laurent can reliably ripen here with slightly more sugar and lower acids than Pinot Noir, with a darker, full bodied wine. More plantings are warranted.

Zweigelt (Red)

A recent Austrian cross (Lemberger x St. Laurent). Extremely vigorous. Big dark-green glossy leaves. Flowers late, but appears to catch up in the later part of the summer. A big cropper of large loose bunches of dark black grapes. Crops must be kept low. Supposedly ripens a couple of days before Pinot Noir, so a warmer site is needed. Commercial examples from Austria and Canada have been very good. There has been some success in experimental plantings around the Puget Sound.

Potential Unknown

There is a plethora of grapes that should ripen in our climate. This is just a partial listThese grapes should do well in our climate, but there has been limited or no plantings of these grapes in the Puget Sound. Proceed with caution if you have one of the varieties. They may or may not ripen reliably here and the quality of the wine might not match the varieties with which there are many years of experience.

Bacchus (White)

German crossing of Riesling x Silvaner and Muller-Thurgau. Will ripen at the same time as Muller-Thurgau. Can produce relatively full bodied and aromatic wines. Supposedly a superior grape to Muller-Thurgau.

Baco Noir  (Red) (Hybrid)

This grape is a hybrid of Folle Blanche x Vitis Riparia. A vine of great vigor, so large spacings would be needed. Almost immune from mildew and botrytis. Heavy cropper. Early ripening. Very fast grower with large leaves. Can easily crack after heavy rains causing Botrytis to set in. Can produce smoky flavored  wines with no hint of foxiness.

Blauburger  (Red)

Austrian red wine grape made from a crossing of Portugieser x Lemberger. Blauburger is a strong, intense, almost black color and has a velvety and lively taste. Some say it produces a relatively undistiguished light red wine.

Faber (White)

A fairly recent cross of Pinot Blanc x Muller Thurgau. Can ripen in sites that are too cool for Riesling. Hardy against frost. Ripens earlier than Muller-Thurgau. Can have high acid levels. Wines are not intensely flavored.

Kerner (White)

Another recent German cross or Trollinger x Riesling. Shows good frost resistance, adequate vigor. Late budding and good frost resistance. Large white berries produce a wine that is almost like a Riesling. Supposedly ripens later than Muller-Thurgau or about the same time as Silvaner. Can get 10%-20% higher sugar and acidity than Muller-Thurgau on the same site. Recent tests at Mt. Vernon show this variety might not ripen here in the Puget Sound.

Optima (White)

Recent German crossing of (Silvaner x Riesling) x Muller Thurgau. Very early ripening, 10 days earlier than Muller-Thurgau. Thin skinned. Can achieve high sugar content. Wines are considered to be undistinguished. Very susceptiple to Botrytis.

Ortega (White)

Recent German crossing of Muller Thurgau x Riesling. Grapes ripen very early, attain high sugar levels with low acidity. Does not have good disease resistance. Is currently grown in maritime British Columbia and makes a decent wine. Can be used to make late harvest wines.

Perle (White)

Recent German crossing of Gewurztraminer x Muller Thurgau. Share some of the same coloring in the grape as Gewurztraminer, but lighter. Not very vigorous. Moderate crops. Buds out late. Ripens very early. Wines are supposed to be mild, light and flowery.

Portugieser (Red)

Grown in Austria and Germany and has no relationship with Portugal. Heavy cropping red. Fairly late ripening. Purported to make very ordinary red wines.

Regner (White)

Modern German cross of Siedentraube x Gamay. Budbreak is early. Harvest is a few days after Muller Thurgau. Sets fruit well in poor springs. Can reach very high sugar levels. Has been grown in England succesfully, so it should work here.

Reichensteiner (White)

Modern German crossing of Muller-Thurgau x (Madeleine Angevine x Calabresser Frohlich). Growth is moderate to strong. Loose bunches so it is less prone to rot. The wine is neutral, of the Muller-Thrugau style. Ripens with Muller-Thurgau.

Scheurebe (White)

Early 20th century German crossing of Silvaner x Riesling. It is a heavy cropper and ripens after Muller-Thurgau. The wine is said to be be of considerable quality.

Schonburger (White)

A German crossing of Pinot Noir x (Chassela x Muscat Hamburg) now more grown in England than Germany. It's berries are pink, but is made into a white wine. It is perfume is supposedly heavy and somewhat like Muscat. Again, if they can ripen it in England, it should work here. Mike Lempriere is growing small amount of this at his vineyard at Perennial Vintners on Bainbridge island.

Silvaner (White)

Grown in the Alsace region of France, Germany and Central Europe. Suited to temperate zones, the vine is high-yielding and the grape produces an "easy" white wine with lightly spicy, floral flavors and mild intensity. Probably ripens later than Muller-Thurgau and only of mild interest in the Puget Sound.

Wurzer (White)

Another recent German crossing of Gewurztraminer x Muller Thurgau. Early ripening, well before Muller-Thurgau. Less intense than Siegerrebe. Heavy cropper. Has the potential to do well in this area.

Recommendations

Here are the grape varieties that we recommend for local growers:

Backyard Grower

If you are a backyard grower with limited space and want easy to care for vines, we recommend planting Regent. If you are in a very cool area, then plant Leon Millot, but it will need more room to grow than Regent. With both of these vines, you can keep spraying to a minimum or no spraying at all. They are resistant to many of the maladies of the rest of the grapes, yet they still make quality wines. They ripen early in all locations and make robust red wines. You will need between 15-20 vines to make 5 gallons of wine.

If you want to plant a white grape, there are no hybrids in the Puget Sound yet that fill the niche like Regent and Leon Millot. There is a grape called Phoenix that was bred at the same time as Regent, but it has not made it to the general public yet. Having said that, if you want the extra work (read: spraying) of the vinifera white grapes then we are recommending that you plant Siegerrebe or Madeleine Angevine. Both are fairly easy to grow and can set a large crop and ripen in almost all locations in the Puget Sound.

Commerical Growers

For commercial growers there are many more decision to make. These include: suitability to location, market forces, availability in large quantities, availability of grafted vines, etc... Almost all of the varieties listed above will make excellent wines in our climate, but there are a couple of issues to contend with. First is availability of these vines (grafted on rootstock) in large numbers for a commercial vineyard. If you have the heat to grow Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, you are in luck because you can buy high quality, disease free vines on a variety of rootstocks and in many different clones from several growers from California, Oregon and Washington.

Many of the other grapes mentioned in the Varieties section above are not yet available in commercial quantities and name recognition to the general public is very low. There are two nurseries (Sakuma Bros. and Cloud Mountain) that are making custom grafted vines with varieties such as: Agria, Zweigelt, St. Laurent, Regent, Dornfelder, Dunkelfelder. There is also fairly wide distribution of Madeleine Sylvaner, Siegerrebe, Madeleine Angevine, Muller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir already planted to take cuttings from if you wish to grow without the benefit of rootstock.

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