The Scenic Route – Flash Tour 2019 Part 3 – Columbia Gorge to the Yakima Valley

Red Willow Vineyard In Yakima Washington from Within the Chapel

Day 4 – On to Washington Wine

Newburg OR to Bridal Veil, to Syncline Winery
Newburg OR to Bridal Veil, to Syncline Winery

We stayed in Newberg in the Willamette Valley on the night of our third day. Sadly while this area is heaven for wine, we did nothing but sleep. But sleeping here got us closer to our morning stop, the Columbia Gorge. It would also put us closer to the goal for the day, Washington Wine.

The hotel was silent as we quietly packed the care and headed out. I wanted to take in at least one waterfall on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge. It was relatively quiet as we made our way through Portland pre-morning traffic and drove into the Gorge in the early morning hours. After a quick look at the map, I chose Bridal Veil Falls as our morning stop.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls base in Oregon
Bridal Veil Falls

We arrived at 6:30 am and had the place mostly to ourselves. A quick hike to look out over the gorge rewarded us with vista views as the morning light started to dawn. The moisture in the air with the green trees felt lush and alive. We hiked down to the falls, on the steep switch back trail and spent some time just soaking in the woods, the water and the spectacular falls.

Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls

After this bit of peace and tranquility, it was back on the road. Our morning appointment was with James at Syncline, a winery located on the Washington side of the Gorge.

Traffic was a little busier as we crossed the gorge at White Salmon on the Hood River Bridge and got on Route 14. This was a big change from Route 84 on the Oregon side. Route 84 is low in the Gorge, running just above the river, you are blanketed in trees with views upon occasion. You find yourself looking up at the trees and cliffs. Route 14 is higher and the views are expansive.

We were also starting to see the landscape change, from lush evergreen forest to a more arid landscape.

Columbia Gorge AVA

The Columbia Gorge AVA was established in 2004. It sits 60 miles east of Portland and straddles the Columbia River Gorge including both Oregon and Washington. We will be back later to explore Hiyu on the Oregon side, but today we were heading to Syncline on the Washington side.

View of Mt. Hood from Syncline Vineyard in Washington's Columbia Gorge AVA
View of Mt. Hood from Syncline

Syncline – into Washington Wine

At Rowland Lake we turned left to get on Old Hwy 8 and eventually turned onto Balch Road which took us into Syncline.

Entrance to Syncline Winery in Washington's Columbia Gorge AVA

The front entrance is quiet and unobtrusive, with a simple elegant sign on the fence. The gate was open for us leading up a drive between the trees where you could see vineyard in the distance.

We pulled up and parked near the winery, past the house. The simple entrance felt deceiving now, as we looked at the elegant and beautiful garden with multiple small seating areas for wine tasting. We were to learn later that this garden was designed to be water smart. We found a spot to set up for our interview and were joined shortly by James Mantone, the owner/winemaker. He spoke to us on biodynamics, Shale Rock Vineyard, the climate here in this section of the Gorge and the other vineyards he sources from, before walking us up to take in the vineyard and it’s views. His Syrah has the best view of any of the grapes we have met so far.

We walked back down to the winery. Here we did a tasting through his Bloxom Vineyard Grüner, his Picpoul from Boushey Vineyards in the Yakima Valley, the 2017 Estate Gamay and the 2017 Syrah from Boushey Vineyard. We finished our tasting with a really wonderful treat, a Sparkling Grüner that they made just for their crew. (Thank you so much for sharing this with us James!).

  • Fermentation tanks at Syncline
  • Syncline Winery
  • Syncline Picpoul boushey Vineyard
  • Syncline Estate Gamay 2017
  • Syncline Gruner Veltliner 2018

Again it was hard to pull ourselves away, but we headed out, this time driving on to the East end of the Yakima Valley.

The Columbia Gorge to Yakima

Back in the car we headed further east on 14. We stopped to take in the expansive views of the gorge from time to time, watching the the landscape transition from lush and green with steep cliffs to more arid and brown with rolling hills and wind farms.

Horse Heaven Hills AVA

Leaving Syncline, we left the Columbia Gorge AVA and stepped into the Columbia Valley AVA. This AVA covers almost all of the wine growing regions in the state of Washington, with the exception of the Columbia Gorge AVA, Puget Sound AVA and Lewis and Clark AVA. As we drove further along 14 and then turned north on Rt 221, we were driving through the center of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. This AVA sits between the Yakima Valley and the Columbia Gorge. We didn’t stop at a winery here, but we tasted plenty of Horse Heaven Hills wines. The area has almost 30 vineyards, but only 5 tasting rooms. Washington State is the 2nd largest producer of premium wines in the United States and this AVA is home to some of the largest wine producers (think Columbia Crest and Chateau St. Michelle).

Yakima Valley AVA

We ended up on the east end of the Yakima Valley. Trust me, you will be hearing alot more about the Yakima Valley AVA from us. This AVA contains 3 nested AVAs, Rattlesnake Hills AVA, Snipes Mountain AVA and Red Mountain AVA. Today however, we were headed to just east of the Red Mountain AVA, to visit Kitzke Cellars and speak with Seth Kitzke.

Kitzke Cellars

Kitzke Cellars on Candy Ridge in the Yakima Valley AVA
Kitzke Cellars Candy Ridge Vineyard in the Yakima Valley AVA

As we pulled up passed the houses to the tasting room (which feels like it’s in a neighborhood), were greeted by Paul Kitzke, the owner and founder of Kitzke Cellars. He’s also Seth’s Dad and since we had just been in touch with Seth…it was news to him when we arrived cameras in hand. Seth was on his way in from another appointment and arrived shortly. In the meantime, we were warmly welcomed and brought in to the tasting room, out of the heat.

Seth Kitzke & I walking Kitzke's Candy Ridge Vineyard
Seth Kitzke & I walking Kitzke’s Candy Ridge Vineyard

We walked the estate vineyard with Seth and talked viticulture, soils and all kinds of geeky wine stuff. I could have spent all day chatting with Seth on all things wine. They are located right next to Candy Mountain, which is just south of Red Mountain. The process for Candy Mountain to become an AVA is almost ready for approval. The Proposed Rule is published and now has a 60 day period for comment.

Candy Mountain as seen from Kitzke's Candy Ridge Vineyard
Candy Mountain as seen from Kitzke’s Candy Ridge Vineyard

I pulled up a bit from the Kitzke blog about their Candy Ridge Vineyard…

Candy Ridge Vineyard may look like a backyard project on Candy Mountain in Richland Washington but (it’s) what’s right underneath your feet that makes it stand apart. Candy Ridge is built on a very small alluvial fan that was made when the Missoula Floods flowed right between Candy Mountain and Badger Mountain into Richland. Depositing large amounts of gravel, basalt, caliche, and granite in our soils. It is such a small area with expressive unique terroir that showcases depth and subtleties that aren’t overpowered by tannin.

Kitzke Cellars http://www.kitzkecellars.com/news/

As we walked the vineyard we talked about the caliche in the soil (more fascinating stuff to come).

Upsidedown Wine

Seth is also the winemaker for Upsidedown Wine, where he makes wines from all over Washington State striving to create wines with a true sense of place. They also give back with 20% of their net profits going to the charitable organizations they are partnered with.

Now we were off to the other end of the Yakima Valley for an sunset shoot at the iconic Red Willow Vineyard.

Red Willow Vineyard

The Chapel on the Chapel block at Red Willow Vineyard
The Chapel on the Chapel block at Red Willow Vineyard

Red Willow Vineyard is on the Western side of the Yakima Valley AVA, outside of Wapato. The address is Wapato, but it’s about 20 minutes due west of the town. These are long straight roads in a region that is all agriculture. We drove looking at Mt. Adams, whose base began to disappear behind the foothills as you get closer.

When we arrived at Red Willow we were warmly greeted by Jonathan Sauer as he waved goodnight to the vineyard crew, who were on their way home. Jonathan had graciously offered to let us shoot sunset on their vineyard near the Chapel Block, where their stone Chapel marks the skyline at the top of the hill.

He put us on the golf cart and we headed out into the vineyards past rows tagged with names familiar in this valley, Owen Roe, Betz, DeLille, Savage Grace… We stopped to look at the soil strata in a cutout section of the vineyard and he pointed out blocks and the notable items in the landscape. At one point we heard an ATV coming and his father Mike Sauer pulled up to join us. After a chat we continued to the top of the hill by the Chapel. We pulled a picnic table into the shade to sit and chat while Michael set up cameras for sunset. (You will get to enjoy our full interview with Mike and Jonathan later).

A little history of Red Willow Vineyard

There is so much history here. One of the oldest vineyards in the state and the furthest west vineyard in the Yakima Valley AVA, Mike Sauer started planting the Red Willow Vineyard in 1971. The beginnings of this vineyard were tied to Mike Sauer’s relationship with Dr. Walter Clore, who is known as the “Father of Washington Wine”, as well as with David Lake the head winemaker at Columbia Winery. (that’s alot of Washington wine history in one sentence).

I spent sunset watching the birds swooping down to catch bugs, listening while Mike and Jonathan shared stories of the history of this vineyard. We watched the sun set with this spectacular view from the Chapel over a unique bottle of Blanc de Cab Franc by Savage Grace and a bag of fresh Rainier cherries. I promise, I’ll share these stories with you later.

My heart kinda wanted to burst at such a glorious end to an amazing day. The Sauers are such wonderful generous people, it was a joy and honor to share an evening with them. We rode off into the sunset, in a small cloud of dust down the farm roads, full from a great day and ready for some sleep. It would be an early morning tomorrow, with a sunrise shoot at Wilridge Vineyard in Naches Heights AVA. Stick with us. We are just getting started!

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Oregon Wine Country

Join us on our exploration of Wine from across the Oregon Wine Region. Interviews with winemakers. Wine Festivals. Explore the AVA’s and discover the Terroir, The stories, The Wine, all across Oregon Wine Country beginning in the Willamette Valley. Follow us at Crushedgrapechronicles.com for your Oregon Wine Adventure.

WBC18 in Walla Walla the Sweeping Overview

Owen Roe Vineyard Shot

We returned from WBC18 with so much content on Washington Wines and beyond!  Tons of great photos and footage and stories from amazing people and wineries.  We will break it all down and give you the in-depth stories, but the week was so exciting I wanted to give you the sweeping overview (Complete with lots of photos!) of the stories you will see coming soon!

Michael drove to Portland, you can catch a little of his trip on #WBC18 Crushed Grape Chronicles Travel Log(Day 1) and #WBC18 Crushed Grape Chronicles Travel Log Day 2  We will pick up here where he left off.

So I did make it to the airport in Portland!  While Michael got a couple extra hours of sleep due to our cancelled and re-booked flight, I sadly did not.  Whatever, it’s vacation right?  Sleep is overrated.  We got on our tiny little flight to PASCO the Tri Cities airport that sits between Yakima and Walla Walla and were seated at the back of the plane.  We noticed the plane was pretty empty and inquired about re-seating.  The flight attendant informed us that we were seated to provide ballast.  LOL!

The flight, new friends and Wine!

As it turned out, there were other WBC attendees on the flight, so we made friends!  Jennifer of Beyond the Corkscrew sat with us and we enjoyed complimentary wine from Horizon Air from Sagelands Winery.  They are part of the Precept Wine Portfolio and say Sagelands “embodies Washington State’s wine making legacy by sourcing the finest grapes from the four corners of the Columbia Valley and handcrafting them into wines of outstanding quality and value”.  From what I can gather on their site, they are a larger winery sourcing grapes, but….I appreciated the bits on their winemaker and the vineyards they source from and their soils.  Feel free to use the link and check them out. Michael had the Cabernet, I had the Chardonnay and we toasted with Jennifer to a fine start to what would be a full weekend of wine!

Wine Yakima Valley

We spent a little bit of time at the airport, before our host from Wine Yakima Valley arrived to pick us up.  There was also a Red Mountain Tour leaving from the airport.  I will have a piece or two (or three) on this pre-conference tour.  Barbara with Wine Yakima Valley did a phenomenal job setting this all up.  So you get the overview!  They had snacks for the drive…

Yakima Valley Cheese Plate

Yakima Valley Cheese Plate

…it included some local products, a bit of a tussle to get them out of the plastic wrap but…and then we were off for the hour ten minute drive to Owen Roe Winery for Flavor Camp.  Patrick our driver regaled us with stories and details of the area along the way.

Owen Roe Winery

We arrived early at Owen Roe and were greeted with wine, I managed to get a winery tour with Owner David O’Reilly and then Flavor Camp!  Yeah, you’ll have to wait to hear about that.  The evening ended with Dinner with a spectacular view and many Yakima Valley wines, with Winemakers pouring.

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Elephant Mountain Vineyard

The next morning we were up for breakfast and a fly-over seminar, with Co Dinn of Co Dinn Cellars and Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville to give us the layout of the Yakima Valley so we could connect with the landmarks we were passing as we headed to Elephant Mountain Vineyard.  We met Joe Hattrup, who owns the vineyard., tasted some of the varieties fresh from harvest and then tasted an assortment of wines made from the grapes sourced from this vineyard.  Of course they kept us fed, today with a great Mexican food truck to enjoy with the wine and the astounding views.

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Walla Walla pre-conference wine education

We came in hot to Walla Walla, dashing from the van right into our first session which was with Dr. Loosen USA on riesling.  We had a moment to check in and then off to our second session on the Wines of Uruguay (which was really fascinating and delicious).

Cadaretta

Our dinner that night was at Cadaretta’s glass house.  This trip actually took us across the border into Oregon, as the Walla Walla AVA is a cross border AVA.  The views were amazing, dinner and the wines were delicious and Kris Middleton of Cadaretta was kind enough to take some time to speak with us.  (Yeah…more on that later)

And the conference begins!

The conference…well it’s really fast paced.  The Conference Opening ran right into the Introduction to the Walla Walla Valley (and more stories to come from the 4 women winemakers from name the winemakers with links to wineries who introduced us to the region), then a session on Wine Bloggers vs Wine Influencers which took us into lunch sponsored by Cascade Valley Wine Country

Agenda Board for Wine Writers Conference

Agenda Board for Wine Writers Conference

Michael and I then split, Michael did a wine discovery session with Rias Baixas and I did one with Consorzio Tutela Lugana DOC.  We met up again for the Keynote speaker and then went right into Live Red Wine Blogging.  What is Live Red Wine Blogging you ask?  It’s like speed dating for wine tasting and it’s chaos. You will get the rundown on that later or feel free to jump onto twitter and check out my notes that I did as we went along, the red tasting starts here.

Mystery Dinner

This is by far my favorite part of the conference, you get a colored tag at the top of the conference that is matched up to a group.  You all get in vans, buses, cars, limos….and they drive you somewhere.  You don’t know where you are going until you arrive.  We arrived at Doubleback Winery and were treated to an amazing dinner by Andrae’s Kitchen with wines from Doubleback Winery and Sleight of Hand Cellars. The winemakers joined us and spoke (we sat with Trey Busch winemaker for Sleight of Hand).  The atmosphere, food, wine and company were wonderful.

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Parties…

The conference is full of post evening parties, some sponsored by wineries, some just gatherings.  I attended one with Fullerton Wines (thanks Matt) and then another wine filled spectacle by the Drunken Cyclist where everyone brought a bottle to share.

Fullerton Pinot Noir

Fullerton Pinot Noir (they also have another brand called Three Otters)

Conference Day 2

The second day of the conference kicked off with the announcement of next years conference which will be held in New South Wales Australia!  Followed by breakout session on writing, media, video etc…

Lunch in Walla Walla

Lunch this day was sponsored by Visit Walla Walla and you signed up for lunch in a downtown tasting room.  We visited Gard Vintners where we sampled wines, enjoyed a box lunch as well as grapes from the vineyard and apples from the property.

Bubbles or Bodegas

Michael and I split up again, he attended a session with Bodegas LAN of Rioja and I did a tasting a pairing session with Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life, who I had an opportunity to chat with as I sat next to her the previous evening at dinner.  She set up a pairing seminar with Gloria Ferrer sparkling wines.  Informative, beautiful and delicious, this was a great way to spend an afternoon.

Cheese Please!

When you think of wine, you can’t help but also think of cheese!  Cheeses of Europe gets this and sponsored a session of cheese pairings hosted by the Cheese Twins Michael and Charlie Kalish (you might know them from Chopped or The Great Foodtruck Race.  Entertained and full of cheese we had a break before Lightning Talks and the Live White and Rosé tasting.

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The evening ended with the final dinner, where we met two winemakers Chris Loeliger of Truth Teller Winery and Tim Armstrong of Armstrong Family Winery .  And yes, we look forward to followup conversations with both of these gentlemen and bringing you the stories of their wineries.

The Gorge

We had also set up for a post conference excursion through the Columbia Gorge.  (This is where Michael parking at the Portland Airport comes in).  We traveled to the Columbia Gorge, stopping on the Eastern end at Maryhill Winery where Cassie and Amie had us all set up for a tour, tasting and lunch.  The views here are tremendous and we were really spoiled with the in-depth tour.  We will have plenty of video to share with you on this behind the scenes look.

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After Maryhill were driven west and south to the Oregon side of this AVA for a tasting, tour and dinner at Cathedral Ridge Winery.  This place has spectacular views of Mt. Hood.  We met owner Rob Bell (hmm…is he any relation to me?)

Finally they drove us back to Portland.  Where we picked up “Nuit” our plug-in hybrid Kia Niro and we were off to spend an evening luxuriating at the Hotel Monaco downtown.

The Adventure home

Our adventure continued!  We were up early to head to Voodoo Donuts!

The Oregon Coast and Applegate Valley

Then hit the road to the Oregon Coast.  It was foggy, but we could hear the ocean and explored some lovely seaside towns.

We drove the coast for a bit then headed inland to the Applegate Valley, hoping to catch some vineyard shots before sunset.  While we didn’t catch much, it was quickly made up for by the fabulous YURT we had booked!  Sunset View Yurt is amazing, great views, terrific people, a modern Victrola and a beautiful collection of music. We enjoyed a bottle of Johan Drueskall Pinot Gris which is an orange wine.  We packed this with us especially to enjoy on this evening, giggling over our Johan in a YURT and then soaked in the hot tub under the stars (well, clouds, but it was lovely anyway!).

The Redwoods

Our hosts Kathleen and Richard gave us tips on sites in the Redwoods and we headed southwest again to Jedediah Smith Park to visit the Stout Grove.  Redwood groves are sacred sites, it’s like walking in a Cathedral.  I really think they are Ents (any Tolkien fans out there?). Being among them you are forced to slow down. Their size and age put the universe into a bit better perspective.  After soaking up loads of energy here, we continued to the California Coast where the sun was out!  We traveled a bit of the coast, then back through the Redwood Forest and then finally to the freeway to get to Sacramento for our final evening of our trip.

Redwoods

Redwoods

Tahoe and the drive home

Our last morning had us up before dawn and heading to Lake Tahoe, soaking in the scenery and then on through the outskirts of Yosemite to Mono Lake, through park territory there and finally out into the desert and home to Las Vegas.

It was an epic trip and I can’t wait to get into all the details with you!

We did a little Primer on the area before we left, so feel free to dive into Washington Wines and beyond with #WBC18

So join us back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  as we continue sharing our amazing trip into Washington Wines and more!  And don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

Disclaimer:  Michael and I attended the WBC (Wine Bloggers Conference) as Citizen Bloggers at a discounted rate.  All opinions on the conference and related events are my own.

 

Maryhill Winery

Maryhill Winery Glass

Maryhill Winery hit my radar as we planned to head north for WBC18, which was to be held in Walla Walla.  We had looked at the pre and post tour offerings and settled on a post conference tour to the Columbia Gorge area.  Maryhill was to be our first stop.  Amie and Cassie of Maryhill reached out to me in advance and I was able to meet and speak with them briefly at the conference.  I saw the photos and tasted some of the wines, but I was not prepared for the view.

Maryhill Winery Courtesy of Washington Wine Board
Maryhill Winery Courtesy of Washington Wine Board


Maryhill Winery Tour

Maryhill is in the tiny town of Goldendale, Washington and sits on the north side of the Columbia River Gorge. The views are spectacular. The winery is relatively young having started in 2001.

The name Maryhill

The name “Maryhill” comes from the museum that is on the site.  If you are on the Columbia Gorge and see any of the history, you will hear the name Sam Hill.  This millionaire attourney made the creation of roads in this part of the country his goal.  He is recorded as saying “Good roads are more than my hobby; they are my religion” (from historylink.org)

Sam Hill was a philanthopist and in honor of his wife Mary, created the Maryhill Museum which houses a world-class art collection.  This museum is set overlooking the Gorge about 100 miles from Portland.

When Craig and Vicki Leuthold looked to create their winery, this site spoke to them. They approached the Museum about building a winery on the property. While that didn’t go through, they met the Gunkel family who had  a vineyard a permit to build a winery just 1 mile west of the museum, and were able to build their winery there.  (Wine Press Northwest Spring 2015)

This is a winery.  While you will find vineyards surrounding it, these vineyards are not owned by the winery. This is the Gunkel Family Vineyards which have been farmed by the Gunkel family for three generations.  As the vineyard is on site, and they work very closely with the Gunkel family, they refer to it as their “estate” vineyard. 

The Wines of Maryhill

The goal here is to showcase all the different regions within Washington and the wide variety of grapes.  They source from multiple AVAs and areas including Horse Heaven Hills AVA, lower Yakima Valley, Columbia Gorge AVA, Elephant Mountain in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA, Red Mountain AVA and the Walla Walla Valley.   They strive to create affordable and approachable wines.  We were visiting on a wine club pickup day and watched people exiting with hand trucks stacked with cases.

Maryhill Winery is one of Washington state’s largest wineries producing 80,000 cases annually. We partner with 12 growers and 23 unique vineyard locations in eight of Washington State’s 14 major American Viticultural Areas, making our family-owned winery a true representation of Washington’s winemaking prowess.

We invite you to visit one or both of our Washington state tasting rooms to sample additional varieties, enjoy stunning views and meet the people behind our award-winning wines. Maryhill’s winery and premier tasting room in Goldendale, Washington is located at the edge of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area just 90 minutes east of Portland. A true destination winery, we offer an outdoor terrace with panoramic views of Mt. Hood and the Columbia River, outdoor seating and live music (Memorial Day through September).

Source Maryhill Winery

It is worth the drive for the spectacular views that can be enjoyed with a glass of wine in hand.  Make a day of it and see some of the art at the Maryhill Museum just down the road.

MARYHILL WINERY &
AMPHITHEATER
9774 HWY 14
GOLDENDALE, WA 98620
509.773.1976
[email protected]

Check back with us here.  We will have more on our visit to Maryhill which took place during the end of harvest.  We were lucky enough to taste tank samples and see the entire facility.

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