Rain Shadow

April 5, 2023 by
Maytte Rivera

A rain shadow is an area on a side of a mountain that experiences reduced rainfall and dry conditions.  This dry area, on the side opposite to the wind, is called the leeward side.  Take for example Columbia Valley in Washington State.  The cold air flowing inland from the Pacific Ocean towards the Cascade Mountains forms clouds that are full of rain, keeping the west side of the mountains wet and cool.  Once these clouds reach the mountain peak and start descending, the air warms up and the rain clouds dissipate, creating a rain shadow on the east side of the mountain, where the Columbia Valley viticultural area is located. Apart from Columbia Valley, there are three regions that experience these conditions drastically: Central Otago is protected by the Southern New Zealand Alps, Alsace by the Vosges Mountains in France, and Mendoza by the Argentinian Andes. 

Most wine growing areas in rain shadows have warm summer days with very cool nights, resulting in wines with ripe fruit aromas and balanced acidity.  Travel to these areas with a bottle of Pierre Sparr Cremant from Alsace, The Convert Red Blend from Columbia Valley or Altos Las Hormigas Reserva from Mendoza.  Cheers!

Author: Maytte Rivera

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