Chardonnay: Nuances in expressing site – an example from the Yakima Valley

Chardonnay on Roskamp Vineyard

Chardonnay is one of the world’s most popular grapes.  A noble grape, its parents are Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc. We first see mention of it in the 16th century in Burgundy.

You can find it grown all over the globe.  From its home in Burgundy to Australia’s Hunter Valley.  You find it in Italy, South Africa, Spain, Chile, Argentina, California, Oregon, Washington…Yes, Washington.  We will get to that later.

The Different Styles of Chardonnay

These different regions bring in some of the differences in the wines.  With wine grapes, flavors and aromas come from the variety, the location where it is grown (climate and soil) and then the winemaking. Chardonnay is incredibly adaptable.

Chardonnay can have aromas and flavors of yellow apple, citrus, tropical fruit, butter, vanilla, chalk, lime, white flowers, or stone fruit.  Warm climates give you tropical notes, cool climates more citrus and pear. 

The wine makers hand…

Here there are many variables.  It can be as simple as when the winemaker chooses to pick, what the sugar levels are at.  Then you can ferment in stainless or in wood.  You can allow the wine to go through malolactic fermentation or not, you can age on the lees, you can filter or not filter….so many options that will affect the taste of the wine. 

A tale of two Chardonnays

With all these variables that can affect the outcome of a bottle of Chardonnay, what if you eliminate a few.  Would the wines then taste the same?  We had a chance to investigate the nuances of Chardonnay with two vineyards in Yakima Valley.  These vineyards sit in 2 different AVAs within the larger Yakima Valley AVA.  DuBrul Vineyard in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA and Roskamp Vineyard in the Snipes Mountain AVA.  While they are in two separate AVAs, if you were a crow you would have a 6 to 7-mile flight to get between the two vineyards. Standing in one vineyard, on a clear day, you can easily see the other.

Last year we visited with two winemakers we had met there before.  Co Dinn of Co Dinn Cellars and Kerry Shiels of Cote Bonneville.  The two both make Chardonnay from these vineyards that look across the Yakima Valley at each other.

Map Yakima Valley 2019 courtesy of WineYakimaValley.org
Map Yakima Valley 2019 courtesy of WineYakimaValley.org

Co Dinn Chardonnay Roskamp Vineyard Snipes Mountain AVA

Co pointing out DuBrul vineyard to the North

Co Dinn makes his Chardonnay from the Roskamp Vineyard on the Snipes Mountain AVA. Snipes Mountain sits in the middle of the Yakima Valley, an anticline in the Yakima fold belt. The north side is a gentle slope, while the south side is steep, with basement rock exposed.

His Chardonnay sits on the north slope.  While that might be odd in most regions, you have much longer days in the growing season here and they rarely have trouble getting fruit to ripen.  Keeping the Chardonnay on the north slope gives it the morning sun and keeps it protected from the afternoon heat. They have 3 blocks of Chardonnay here at Roskamp, the one Co pulls from is the most protected.  It is planted to the Dijon clones 76 & 96 in a field blend. 

These grapes, thanks to the sandy soil in Washington are own rooted. They keep the west side shaded and expose the east side.  The vines need more protection from the southwest heat and wind. Soils here on the gentler north slope are deeper, you can see the difference in vigor between these vines and the syrah vines growing closer to the south side.

Co makes his wines in a very traditional way.  His chardonnay is barrel fermented with full malolactic fermentation and ages 17 months on the lees.  His goal?  To really showcase the site.

“I believe that the ultimate expression of a wine is to capture the character of the site.  You can make beautiful wines by blending but you lose specificity.  I’ve decided to find these special places and to express them.  For example, this place is very unique and so are the wines.”

Co Dinn, July 2019
The view of Rattlesnack Hills and DuBrul Vineyard from Roskamp Vineyard

Co points out DuBrul Vineyard across the valley to the North.  The vineyard there is southwest facing.  Theirs is the older clone. 

Kerry Shiels, DuBrul Vineyard, Rattlesnake Hills AVA

Dubrul Vineyard with Kerry Shiels
Talking with Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville in her DuBrul Vineyard in Yakima

A few days later, we spent the morning with Kerry Shiels at DuBrul Vineyard. This site sits on a basalt upthrust.  They have a south facing slope with a cutout that allows for southwest and southeast aspects. They sit high in the foothills of the Rattlesnake Mountains.  This unique vineyard with its aspects grows quite a range, from Cabernet Sauvignon to Chardonnay to Riesling!

Mount Adams, West of the Yakima Valley

The morning we visited the Mountains were out. When you looked to the West you could see Mount Adams to the south and further north in the distance Mt. Rainier.

We spent some time in the cool chardonnay vineyard.  This was early July, and they would not pick the Chard until the beginning of September. 

Kerry also does her Chardonnay in a classic style with a barrel ferment, full secondary, full malolactic.  They keep it on the lees, and it spends about a year and a half in barrel.

“I have a friend who doesn’t like Chardonnay, she says “your chardonnay is good, I recognize the quality, it’s not my favorite grape. Which is fine, but it’s good enough that she says “If I’m going to drink Chardonnay, I’ll drink yours. But I’d rather drink coke”.  If you like Burgundian styled classical age-worthy complex balanced Chardonnay, then you are going to like our Chardonnay.”

Kerry Shiels, July 2019

We look across to the South to Snipes Mountain and Roskamp vineyard.  

“I think it’s really interesting how different that Chard taste from this Chard.

I mean they are different clones, but also the soil is different.  Snipes is its own, geologically it’s totally distinct from this.  It’s fun to see that sense of place.

Kerry Shiels, July 2019

Similarities and Differences

So how did our side by side tasting go?  It was interesting.  Let’s run down the similarities and differences again.

Cote Bonneville 2015 DuBrul Vineyard Chardonnay and Co Dinn 2015 Roskamp Vineyard Chardonnay

Both were barrel fermented, with 17 to 18 months on the lees.  They were both unfined and unfiltered and from the same 2015 vintage. Both come from the Yakima Valley, from vineyards just 6 to 7 miles apart.  They were both made by winemakers with similar styles, both wanting to showcase the site.

They were Chardonnays from different clones, from 2 different AVAs (regardless of how near they are), the aspects were different with the Roskamp Chardonnay on the gentle North slope and the DuBrul on a South west facing slope. The soils and the microclimates (most definitely the microclimates) are different.  Lastly, quite honestly, I don’t know what yeast they each used.

Tasting & Comparing

The Co Dinn Roskamp Chardonnay was plush and creamy with baking spice, whereas the Cote Bonneville was leaner and more elegant with not quite ripe pear notes and a lovely mineral note.

How much of this was the soil, the different aspect, perhaps the picking date?  I don’t know, I just find it wonderful and amazing that two wines made from grapes in vineyards that look out on to each other, can be so subtly different.

I’m going to also mention that these are probably two of the finer Chardonnay’s that you will find in the Yakima Valley and they don’t come cheap.  In fact, the Cote Bonneville may no longer be available. Pick up the latest vintage.  They pride themselves on consistency and it is bound to be good.

The Wines and where to find them

Both of these wineries can be found in Sunnyside Washington, at about the mid point of the Yakima Valley. Both has beautiful historic buildings for tasting rooms and are well worth the trip. But, in these days, when travel is not so easy…you can order them online.

2015 Chardonnay Cote Bonneville SRP $50

Cote Bonneville, Tasting Room Sunnyside Washington
Cote Bonneville, Tasting Room Sunnyside Washington

https://www.cotebonneville.com

2015 Co Dinn Chardonnay Roskamp Vineyard SRP $45

Co dinn Cellars Tasting Room
Co dinn Cellars Tasting Room

https://codinncellars.com/

Other resources on Chardonnay and the Yakima Valley

More on this region from Crushed Grape Chronicles

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Robin Renken CSW (photo credit RuBen Permel)

Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.

When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.

How to measure a year – 2019, specifically..

Calendar

Years….they used to take forever! No longer. Now they often seem to speed by in a blur. The coming of the New Year makes me nostalgic. I sit warm, happy with a full belly and I remember that this is not to be taken for granted. Time for a little reflection and gratitude.

I head to social media to reflect on the year. Remember the days when we had journals or diaries or a box of photos? Well, technology has allowed us to share those memorable moments, both big and small.

Instagram is my go to photo journal. So I’m sifting through to give you an idea of my year…holy crap there are alot of wine photos! LOL!

The Quiet Time

My photo essay of the beginning of my year…snow, studying, a Valentines Day on the ice, new Ramen places, hiking at Mount Charleston, beautiful sunsets, reading by the ocean in Carlsbad, high tea with friends, the super bloom in San Diego, a blind tasting event and of course, Loki. Okay…that gets us through the quiet months.

Double click on any of the photos for a larger picture and perhaps a bit more information.

The Scenic Route

We did our typical drive a million miles summer vacation. This year it was named “The Scenic Route”. It took us from Vegas to Tahoe, to Mount Shasta, to Southern Oregon, through the Columbia Gorge to the Yakima Valley, Walla Walla and then back through the Willamette, down to the Applegate Valley and finally to Yosemite before traveling home. We met incredible winemakers, saw beautiful scenery and vineyards and while we shared the overall story of our trip this year, you can look forward to many more in depth pieces on the places we visited this year.

Studying

Then we rested…that should be what I write next. But no. This was crunch time for me. I had been studying all year to take my test to become a Certified Specialist of Wine. After a 13 week course and then months of additional study I hoped I was ready. I was…

#OurAussieWineAdventure

Now was it time to rest? Nope. We were off to the Wine Media Conference in October. Social media got to see much of our trip…there are still interviews and articles to be written in the new year. Here is a glimpse of our travels through New South Wales Australia. We dubbed it #OurAussieWineAdventure.

So, exhausted and exhilarated, we returned. At this point the holiday’s approached and our 2nd Annual 12 Days of wine celebration was at hand.

12 Days of Wine

Here is a link to that page. 12 Days of Wine 2019. You’ll find fun video reveals and details about each of the wines there.

Now we’ve come to the end of the year. It was a full year. We have writing to do video’s to create and tons of content to share with you. And…there will be new adventures. For right now…I’m going to relax and then day dream about what the New Year might hold.

Want more details on some of these great spots?

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12 Days of Wine – Day 4 Côte Bonneville

DuBrul Vineyard is one of the older vineyards in the Yakima Valley. Hugh and Kathy Shiels purchased the property in 1991 and pulled out the orchards to plant vines. This is a family business and the winemaker is their daughter Kerry Shiels.

Last summer we spent a morning with Kerry first at their Sunnyside tasting room and then in the family’s DuBrul vineyard.

Cote Bonneville, Tasting Room Sunnyside Washington
Cote Bonneville, Tasting Room Sunnyside Washington

The tasting room is in the historic Grandview Train Depot, on the line that connected Walla Walla and Yakima. After it’s life as a train stop and before becoming a tasting room it was home to her father’s orthopedic practice.

Dubrul Vineyard with Kerry Shiels
DuBrul Vineyard with Kerry Shiels

The DuBrul vineyard is a bit of a drive up into the Rattlesnake Hills. The rolling terrain has multiple aspects allowing them to grow a variety of grapes types in the micro climates. We felt the micro climates just walking across the vineyard from one side to the other.

2018 DuBrul Vineyard Riesling Yakima Valley

Côte Bonnevile 2018 DuBrul Vineyard Riesling
Côte Bonneville 2018 DuBrul Vineyard Riesling

This is the oldest block on the DuBrul. I assume it predates their purchase of the property as it was planted in 1982. These almost 40 year old vines produce fruit that Côte Bonneville turns into spectacular wine a Spätlese style riesling that sits at low 10% abv. I must share with you the beautiful quote from Kerry on the back label.

On a rocky windswept plateau high above the Yakima Valley DuBrul Riesling vines struggle to survive. Among the oldest planted in Washington State, their small truncks bear witness to the severe growing conditions. Yet their tiny berries transform into wine glowing with intensity.

On the bottle – 2018 Côte Bonneville Riesling

When we spoke with Kerry, she was in the midst of her Summer of Riesling. They had taken a cruise on the Mosel with their wine club earlier in the year, tasting Mosel Rieslings side by side with those from DuBrul. I have no doubt, that as good as this wine was, the Rieslings from Côte Bonneville will continue to get even better. I like to explore wines, and rarely keep more than one bottle of a wine in the cellar. Life is too short to drink the same wine! I’ll make an exception here. This is a wine that I want to have around all the time. Oh…I guess we should get on to the…

Tasting

Côte Bonneville 2018 DuBrul Vineyard Riesling
Côte Bonneville 2018 DuBrul Vineyard Riesling

This wine has a light golden color. It’s a wine that I want to dab behind my ears. You get that classic petrol and then citrus and tart pear. It is rich with a bit of sweetness (it is spätlese in style after all). With the low alcohol it is quaffable, but you will find yourself wanting to savor this wine.

Pairing

Pad Thai with Tofu
Pad Thai with Tofu

Riesling with Thai food is classic right? We paired this with a lunch of Pad Thai. Lunch seemed appropriate. This wine is bottled sunlight and it felt appropriate to bask in the winter sun as it came through the window while we enjoyed this wine.

More on Côte Bonneville

We will be on to Day 5 tomorrow!

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The Scenic Route Part 7 – Du Brul to Hiyu

Cote Bonneville Dubrul Vineyard

Our time in Washington was nearing it’s end. Morning had us traveling from Walla Walla west to the Yakima Valley once again to visit with Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville. We met her for an interview at their tasting room in Sunnyside.

Côte Bonneville

Driving through the small town of Sunnyside you come upon a quaint restored building that was previously a train station. When Hugh and Kathy Shiels moved to the area, Hugh set up practice as an orthopedic surgeon. The renovated Train Station was his office for many years. It has now become their beautiful tasting room.

Cote Bonneville, Tasting Room Sunnyside Washington
Cote Bonneville, Tasting Room Sunnyside Washington

Kerry is a wealth of information on the area and the science behind the vineyard and wine making. Kerry has an engineering degree, which she put to use with Fiat in Italy, before returning to get a degree in Viticulture and Enology and then taking over as winemaker. She is smart and intense, a woman who made her way in the male dominated engineering field.

DuBrul Vineyard

We headed to their DuBrul vineyard before things warmed up too much. The drive up to the top was a little sketchy for our Kia hybrid, but we made it. The mountains were both out (Mt Adams and Mt. Ranier) as we reached the top of the vineyard to walk through the vines.

Own rooted vines

We talked about the aspect of this vineyard, which allows them to grow so many varieties well and discussed the difference with own rooted vines.

“It’s like reading Tolstoy in Russian”.

Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville and DuBrul Vineyard
Dubrul Vineyard with Kerry Shiels
DuBrul Vineyard with Kerry Shiels

This is certain to be a topic we hear more about and lamented over as phyloxera has been found in Washington and precautions will need to be taken. I will tell you that I find the difference in the character of the wines from own rooted stock undeniable and wonderful.

You can look forward to hearing much of our conversation in future posts. It was really a fascinating morning.

Co Dinn Cellars

We made a stop to visit Co at his tasting room at Co Dinn Cellars. Co also has a renovated historic building in Sunnyside. His winery and tasting room are in the old Water Works. It’s a gorgeous space.

  • Co dinn Cellars Tasting Room
  • Co dinn Cellars Tasting Room
  • Co dinn Cellars Tasting Room
  • Co dinn Cellars Tasting Room
  • Co dinn Cellars Tasting Room

He showed us around and took us through a tasting. We also had an amazing conversation on closures…more on that later.

We headed back to the Gorge and through Hood River then off to Hiyu on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge AVA.

Hiyu Wine Farm

Go to the website…the water colors will enchant you. I was sucked in immediately and knew that I needed to visit this place.

Hiyu is 30 acres of wine farm. There is a sense of wildness here. Nate Ready, a Master Sommelier and China Tresemer fell in love with the beauty of this region. This place is undeniably stunning, with it’s glorious views of Mt. Hood.

The idea didn’t begin with wine. They really wanted to cultivate a lifestyle. From 7 acres in 2010 it expanded to take in another 20 acres in 2015.

We arrived a bit early, and walked in to see if it was okay if we explored the property. There was a bit of chaos happening, the goats had just escaped and there was some scurrying to round them up.

Community within the staff

The farm has a staff that includes a handful of interns. Duties rotate weekly, so everyone gets to do each of the jobs. This insures that no one takes for granted the job someone else is doing. It has a little 60’s 70’s nostalgia feel to me. A little feel of a hippy commune, and I’m down for that.

  • Hiyu Beet Pairing
  • Hiyu Smockshop Band
  • Hiyu Smockshop Band
  • Hiyu Wines
  • Hiyu Goats
  • Hiyu Goats
  • Hiyu Goats
  • Hiyu Ducks
  • Hiyu Farm
  • Hiyu Farm
  • Hiyu Farm
  • Hiyu Vineyard

Gardens

The garden in front of the tasting room is an edible food forest. You will find Goji berries and rock herbs here seasonally. We headed up the hill to the garden. Wild and overgrown, the things that were complete for the season were taking their natural course, going to seed to prepare for the next season. There are flowers and herbs, annuals and perennials, artichokes, favas and cardoons.

Vineyard

From here we walked the vineyard and then up to the hill where the view of Mt. Hood is simply breath taking. Winter to spring the cows, pigs and chickens wander through the vines, grazing and fertilizing. There is an acre of pear trees left. They have a green house and make compost on site.

Falcon boxes protect the vineyard. And they have grafted field blends. They don’t hedge the vines here, allowing them to be a little more wild, and do just 1 pass with a scythe. Cinnamon is used to prevent powdery mildew.

Livestock & Animals

There are cows and guinea fowl. A 100 year old irrigation ditch feeds the pasture and gardens. We wound down by the pond and visited with the ducks and came around to the goats. Phoebe the matriarch stood on the fender of the horse trailer. They were fiesty, but contained once more.

There are hawthorn trees and over by the house there are currants. I was reminded of days as a child on mountain farms in West Virginia. Life is allowed to thrive and be wild and perhaps a bit messy.

Mt. Hood

The day ended with spectacular views of Mt. Hood. We leave you hear with a bit of spectacular nature.

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Yakima Valley Seminar

Owen Roe Winery in Yakima Valley Washington

We spent a glorious evening at Owen Roe Winery, tasting wines and meeting winemakers from all over the Yakima Valley.  Now it was time to get into the nitty gritty geeky stuff.

Wine Yakima Valley,  set us up with a morning seminar for a video flyover of the Yakima Valley with Co Dinn and Kerry Shiels to orient us on the layout of the valley.

Co Dinn and Kerry Shiels talk Yakima Valley Wine
Yakima Valley with Co Dinn and Kerry Shiels

Co Dinn

Co Dinn Cellars

I had met Co Dinn on the first evening in Yakima.  As the party was winding down, and the table emptying out, he came to my end of the table and introduced himself.  We spoke for quite awhile in the shadows, my shot of the wine I tasted with him, with attest to that.

Co has been a winemaker in Washington for over 20 years.  A UC Davis master’s grad, he worked in Napa and then came to Washington in 1996.  Since then he has worked with vineyards all over the state to make his wines.

He spent 12 years working with Côte Bonneville before diving into his own label Co Dinn Cellars, where he makes wines of the Yakima Valley and is devoted to learning everything about this areas soils and climates.  His knowledge is expansive as you will see as he speaks with us.

Kerry Shiels

Côte Bonneville

We mentioned that Co had spent time working with Côte Bonneville.  The Côte Bonneville estate vineyard is Du Brul Vineyard.  It was planted by Hugh and Kathy Shiels back in 1992 with the winery founded in 2001.  Kerry Shiels, daughter of Hugh and Kathy and the current winemaker at Côte Bonneville joined us for this conversation.

DuBrul Vineyard

Did I mention that Co was devoted to learning about the climates of the area.  Yes, that was plural climates.  When you talk about DuBrul vineyard, they have multiple microclimates within their 45 acre site. 

“In distance measured by hundreds of feet or less, we observe different growing conditions and tailor our farming practices to provide for the individual needs of the vine.

Quote courtesy the Cote Bonneville website https://www.cotebonneville.com/vineyard

This vineyard is recognized as one of the top in the state.

Part 1 – Overview and comparisons

In Part 1 below, we begin with Barbara Glover, the Executive Director of Wine Yakima Valley giving us an overview of the Yakima Valley AVA, it’s sub AVA’s and some of the surrounding area.  She then turns it over to Co Dinn. Co gives us a little perspective on the size of the wine region here compared to other regions. He and Kerry move on to a comparison of Washington to Burgundy and then moving on to talk about the soils and geology within this region.

Part 2 – Soil overview and Union Gap to DuBrul Vineyard

Part 2 continues with details on the soils and top soils.  They don’t have clay here, the soils here are gravel or sand.  As they don’t have clay, they don’t have phylloxera.  They are also in a rain shadow.  We zoom in and begin our flyover where Kerry details some of the vineyards that we will be driving by shortly on our way first to Elephant Mountain and then on to Walla Walla.

Kerry mentions the world class vineyard research happening here in the Yakima Valley.  She also tells us about the Red Willow Vineyard.  They focus on Syrah here and have a replica of the Chapel at Hermitage on the hill at the vineyard.  They also are looking deeply into the nuances of the different microclimates of the vines on different sides of their hill. Red Willow is a vineyard and at least 18 wineries source fruit from this iconic vineyard.  Our flyover takes us from Union Gap on the western end of the valley discussing areas and vineyards as we travel east.  We get to DuBrul Vineyard in Rattlesnake Hills AVA, where Kerry takes over speaking of their vineyard.

Kerry gives us a great quote from Bob Betz, Master of Wine

“Every grape would be red if it could.  Every grape would be cabernet if it could, and the best cabernet in the state of Washington is DuBrul Vineyard merlot.”

Part 3 – DuBrul to Red Mountain

 In Part 3 Co continues us east from DuBrul ending in Red Mountain.  This hill is an extension of Rattlesnake Ridge.  Red Mountain provides excellent structure and tannins and is used often in blends.  This is a southwest facing slope, not an entire mountain.  It is one of the warmest grape growing region in the state, so the cabernet grown there always ripens fully. 

We had a little time for questions which got into climate change. Kerry says the hillsides help to protect them according to most projections, but they are working on water management.  (She goes into some great details on why this is so)

Thanks to the Wine Media Conference https://www.winemediaconference.org/ (then known as the Wine Bloggers Conference) and Wine Yakima Valley https://wineyakimavalley.org/  for setting us the enjoyable and informative Pre-Conference tour.

Next up – Elephant Mountain Vineyard

From here we head out to Elephant Mountain Vineyard in the middle of the Yakima Valley

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Yakima Valley – Wine and beyond with Wine Yakima Valley’s Flavor Camp

Owen Roe Yakima Valley

We had an opportunity this past fall to travel to Washington to explore their wine scene as we attending the Wine Bloggers Conference (which has since been renamed the Wine Media Conference) held in Walla Walla Washington.

One of the great things about the conference is that they offer Pre and Post Conference Excursions.  These are press junket style for wine writers.  Michael and I were able to join the Yakima Valley Tour put together by Wine Yakima Valley.

We flew into Portland and then on to the Pasco Tri-Cities Airport in Washington.

After arriving early, we camped out in a comfy couch at the airport and gathered ourselves before the true start to our journey.  Soon enough we were greeted by the folks from Wine Yakima Valley and guided to the vans.  They handed us a snack tray with local snacks….

Daniels Artisan Snack Tray

Put together by Daniel’s Artisan, it included an Asiago from Ferndale WA, Pajarero Figs from Spain, Two Sisters honey sticks from Kennewick WA, and Croccantini crackers from Tukwila WA.

With sustenance in hand, we set out for Yakima.

The drive to Yakima

Yakima Wine MAp
Courtesy of Wine Yakima Valley

The drive from the airport to the Yakima Valley was pretty long!  Luckily, I was squished in the back seat with Cathie Schafer of Side Hustle Wino and Jennifer Whitcomb of Beyond the Corkscrew. Patrick, our driver, was full of great information on the area, but we couldn’t hear a thing in the way back, so we kept ourselves entertained, giggling quite a bit. Every now and then Thaddeus of the Minority Wine Report would relay what the driver was saying.  We watched the valley roll by, driving through the greater part of the valley, through Red Mountain, Prosser and Zillah and at last arrived at Owen Roe Winery on the far West end of the Yakima Valley.

Owen Roe Winery – the host for Flavor Camp

Owen Roe Winery In Yakima Valley's Union Gap
Owen Roe Winery In Yakima Valley’s Union Gap

Owen Roe Winery sits on the edge of the Yakima Valley AVA in Union Gap. The winery produces wines from within the Yakima Valley as well as from the a variety of vineyards and AVAs in the Willamette Valley. The winery itself is built on the Union Gap Estate Vineyard, but they also source fruit from other Yakima Valley vineyards, including; Dubrul, Elerding, Olsen, Outlook and Red Willow.

David O'Reilly co-owner Owen Roe Winery
David O’Reilly co-owner Owen Roe Winery

The winery is co-owned by David & Angelica O’Reilly and Ben & Julie Wolff. We were lucky enough to be here while the winery itself was busy and filled with fermentation bins. We were lucky as well to have co-Owner David O’Reilly there to greet us.

Yakima Valley Winemakers

Wines at Yakima Valley Flavor Camp
The line up of Yakima Valley wines for tasting at Flavor Camp

Wine was flowing…so much wine from so many wineries. I admit to being a bit overwhelmed. Trying to note each wine was not possible.  I tried to memorize labels to come back to later for more information.  Bottom line…I need another visit to this region to dig in. But let me fill you in on a few of the wines and people we were introduced to!

  • Cultura Wine from Zillah with Winemaker Sarah Fewel. She and her husband Tad lean toward the reds with Bordeaux style blends.
  • Côte Bonneville from Sunnyside with Winemaker Kerry Shiels, recognized as one of the states top wineries for years.
  • Hightower Cellars Red Mountain with Winemaker Kelly Hightower
  • Wit Cellars in Prosser. One of the newest wineries in the area opening last May.
  • Chandler Reach located in the Red Mountain AVA with an estate overlooking the Yakima River, they do Italian-style wines.
  • Kitzke Cellars of Candy Mountain
  • Upsidedown Wine with Winemaker Seth Kitzke (yes also the winemaker for Kitzke)
  • Gilbert Cellars Where winemaker Justin Neufeld makes ten wines from 7 varieties of grapes including Malbec, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Corvidae
  • Owen Roe with co-owner David O’Reilly (you’ll get to know more about them below)
  • Co Dinn Cellars with Winemaker Co Dinn (more from him in our 2nd day in the Yakima Valley)

Women in Wine in Yakima Valley

It’s Women’s History Month, so I’m going to take a moment to do a few shout outs to women in the Wine Industry from the wineries above. Sarah Fewel co-owns Cultura, Kerry Shiels is the winemaker at Côte Bonneville, Kelly Hightower is the co-winemaker at Hightower Cellars and Jacki Evans is the winemaker at Owen Roe.

A sneak peak inside Owen Roe Winery

While we were waiting, David O’Reilly with Owen Roe, invited a couple of us back into the winery. This is a working winery and they were busy with harvest.  But that tale is for another day. Soon, I promise, complete with video of our tour and filled with great information from David, who is a brilliant guide (and he’s great on camera!)

Flavor Camp

After the 2nd van arrived and people had wine in hand, Barbara Glover of Wine Yakima Valley welcomed us to Flavor Camp. Today, we would learn about the flavors of the Yakima Valley.  This is more than wine country, this is the apple growing capital of the country and the premier place for growing hops.  So today would be insights into all the flavors in these libations!

Shout out to Barbara Glover with Wine Yakima Valley for organizing a great event and reorganizing to make it even better on the fly!

Apples for Cider with Tieton Cider Works

Marcus Robert General Manager Tieton Cider Works Yakima Washington
Marcus Robert General Manager Tieton Cider Works Yakima Washington

We started with apples with Marcus Robert, General Manager of Tieton Cider Works, who spoke with us about the apples they grow for cider.

Grapes for Wine with Owen Roe

David O'Reilly co-owner Owen Roe Winery
David O’Reilly co-owner Owen Roe Winery

Then on to wine with David O’Reilly and a tour of the vineyard Owen Roe Vineyard here in Union Gap. We looked at the soils and elevation of the vineyard, feet in the dusty loess soils.

Hops for Beer with Hopsteiner

Nicholi Pitra, Hops Geneticist for Hopsteiner
Nicholi Pitra, Hops Geneticist for Hopsteiner

And finally on to hops, with Nicholi Pitra who is a Hops Geneticist for Hopsteiner. It was fascinating to learn about hops and get to smell the difference between the varieties.

(You will get in depth videos of each of these coming up soon!)

Dinner with a Sunset View of the Yakima Valley

The evening culminated with a sunset dinner, bottles everywhere along the table and winemakers walking about serving their wines and speaking with people. In addition there was amazing food from Crafted Yakima fresh from local farms. (Yes more flavors of the Yakima Valley)

I ended my evening with a great conversation with Co Dinn who lead our group the following morning. I promise more on that soon as we journeyed on to Elephant Mountain Vineyard.

Enjoy a little synopsis of this day and you can look forward to some in depth pieces coming up on the Flavor Camp, our winery tour with David O’Reilly and Day 2 with our trip to Elephant Mountain Vineyard.

Want more information on the Yakima Valley and it’s wines

If you want more information on the Yakima Valley and it’s wines, Wine Yakima Valley is the place to find it. You can find out about events, winery and tasting rooms, restaurants, lodging and they have a great blog with some terrific photos that will have you longing to visit the area.

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