Glacial Lake Missoula
Our winery is named for Glacial Lake Missoula, an Ice-Age lake whose titanic floods scoured Eastern Washington’s desolate basalt plateau, and deposited rich alluvial deposits in almost all of the Northwest’s great wine regions. An estimated 500 cubic miles of water impounded in the lake, by a glacial ice-dam where present day Lake Pend Orielle is, was released when the ice-dam catastrophically failed. The flow of water was equivalent to ten times the flow of all the world’s rivers. On our travels scouting vineyards in Eastern Washington, we noticed many bizarre features to the landscape, which we were at a loss to explain - until we learned about the floods, discovered by the great geologist, J Harlen Bretz, in 1927.
Another geologist, J.T. Pardee, had discovered in 1910, that a massive lake had filled the mountains of Western Montana, finding ancient shorelines high in these mountains. This massive pre-historic lake was the logical source of the flood waters that scoured Bretz’s channelled scablands. A textbook example of science by consensus, the main contingent of geologists rejected Bretz's hypothesis for violating their dogma called "uniformitarianism". This dictated that geological changes were always gradual and slow. This dogma arose from the necessity to distance modern geology from stories like Noah's flood, itself part of the previous scientific dogma of "catastrophism". For violating the uniformitarian dogma, both scientists were ridiculed and their work largely ignored. Many decades later, a new generation of geologists, led by Victor R. Baker, vindicated Bretz's and Pardee's work. The moral of this absurd chapter in science is that evidence must guide theory and that science is never settled.
The ice-dam that created Glacial Lake Missoula was a leading-edge of the massive ice sheet that covered almost the entire continent north of the present day Canada-USA border. This massive ice sheet and others like it all melted in only 3000 years, when temperatures were much warmer than today, raising sea levels 100 meters, and leaving the continent as we know it at around 8,000 B.C. Glacial Lake Missoula re-formed and flooded over eighty times.