(This is Part III of a three part series). We're continuing to explore the terroir of the Grand Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA), with a particular focus on Canyon Wind Cellars. Written by a panel of experts, this in-depth article provides a great deal of insight into the climate and soil conditions around Grand Junction and Palisade.
Under the headline, "Cultivating Wine Grapes at High Elevation," the authors wrote:
"Canyon Wind, with its good subsurface cobblestone drainage, is less prone to soil salinity buildup than other soils in the area. Like many other area grape growers, Christianson moved away from traditional flood irrigation to drip and sprinkler irrigation, thereby reducing total salts brought in by irrigation. Canyon Wind Cellars, like most Colorado vineyards, has no means of winter irrigation, which can lead to some winter damage due to vine desiccation. Mild winter temperatures created by the canyon winds are crucial for this location."
"Composting practices incorporate mulching with recycled pellets Christianson purchases from the Mesa County Composting Facility. Given the extremely low pest and disease pressure resulting from Colorado’s low humidity, Christianson sprays to prevent powdery mildew only when absolutely necessary, following Dr. Horst Caspari’s adaptations to the Gubler-Thomas model for the Grand Valley climate. He starts with a powdery mildew spray that stops any outbreak in most instances. When another application is necessary, he rigorously rotates products to prevent resistance buildup or immunity."
"The Grand Valley AVA is one of two AVAs within the State of Colorado, the other being the West Elks, along the North Fork of the Gunnison River around the towns of Paonia and Hotchkiss. Although it represents about two-thirds of Colorado’s approximately 1,000 planted acres, the Grand Valley produces about 85% or more of the grapes grown in Colorado. That is due to more frequent crop losses in other, less hospitable parts of the state. Mesa County, which contains the Grand Valley AVA, averages 2.7 tons per acre of grapes. The statewide average for Colorado is 2.5 tons per acre in most years. Christianson reports yielding an average from his vineyards at 3.5 tons per acre, ranging as high as an occasional 6.5 tons per acre of Sauvignon Blanc and other grape varieties. Annual estate production is 5,000 cases with a goal of 7,500 cases."
This article was written by Doug Caskey, head of the Colorado Wine Industry & Development Board, joined Norm Christianson (Canyon Wind Cellars/vineyard owner), and Dr. Horst Caspari, state viticulturist with Colorado State University at the Orchard Mesa Research Station in Grand Junction, to contribute to the November/December 2008 issue of Practical Winery & Vineyard. Dr. Steve Menke, state enologist with Colorado State University, added and corrected the article.
To view the full story, go the Wine Board's press page and download a .PDF file, or simply click here.