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Title: Physiographic factors defining the Snake River Valley AVA; beyond "Vin de Idaho"

item Wilkens, David - Boise State University
item Gillerman, Virginia - University Of Idaho
item Shellie, Krista
item Bitner, Ron - Bitner Vineyards
item Jones, Gregory - Oregon State University

Submitted to: Association of American Geographers
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/1/2010
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Beginning in 1971 with the first plantings of wine grapes, the wine and wine grape industry in southwest Idaho have grown to become significant contributors to the state economy with an annual impact of $75 million. With around 1600 acres under cultivation in 50 vineyards producing at least 24 varietals (as of 2007), wine grapes are the state's second largest fruit crop in acreage, with the majority of the crop being produced in the western Snake River Plain of southwestern Idaho and eastern Oregon. In April, 2007, a 21,400 sq. km area in this region was designated the Snake River Valley AVA. This paper explores the physiographic factors - soils, geology and geomorphology, and climate - that define the terroir of this region. Soil characteristics are not significantly differentiated among the vineyards, consisting of extremely well drained, calcareous-alkaline silty to sandy loam subgroups of aridisols and entisols. The soils reflect the parent lithology underlying them (Plio-Pleistocene terrace gravels, Miocene-Pleistocene basalt) in addition to Bonneville Flood deposits and loess blown in from outside. Incised remnant fluvial terraces separating the Boise River and Snake River drainages provide the relief, cold air drainage, and aspect that contribute to individual vineyard site characteristics and subsequently grape cultivar selection. The high elevations in the AVA (660 m to 1040 m a.s.l.) and continental interior location result in very cold winters (one month below 0°C) and relatively short but hot summers over a short growing season under a semiarid climate.