Sarah Hedges Goedhart on her journey to winemaking and biodynamics

When we planned our trip to Washington, I was specifically looking for biodynamic vineyards. Biodynamics in wine is a subject I find fascinating and quite honestly, I find I really like speaking to the people who are into this practice. They feel like my kind of people. These people are passionate, care deeply about the planet, they are detail people who are not looking to cut corners just to make a profit. They believe strongly in doing things the right way.

Choosing Hedges Family Estate on Red Mountain

As I looked at the Red Mountain AVA, I searched for a vineyard that was using biodynamic practices. Hedges Family Estate was the only one that came up, so they were kind of a shoo-in. I continued to look into the property (and it’s stunning) and came across a video on their site, that was warm and a bit enchanting. Then I read a bit about Sarah Hedges Goedhart and her approach…and well that pushed it over the edge, I knew I wanted to speak with her.

Sarah’s journey to winemaking

We spoke with Sarah about the history of the winery. It’s come along way from the days when her father started buying and selling bulk juice. Back then, her 12 year old self had no interest in the business and no desire to live in eastern Washington. They came every summer from Seattle, where they lived and as she got older, she got into wine. But her true passion was to be a veterinarian. Her father insisted that she get a business degree. She got that degree in San Diego and then went to Santa Barbara to get the pre-reqs for vet school. It was there that she met her husband. Okay…actually they met in high school, but they reconnected in Santa Barbara.

Getting hooked on wine in Santa Barbara

While going to school she got a job as a tasting room manager at the Santa Barbara Winery. Her future husband was working there in production. It was there that she got hooked. They would pick 2nd harvest grapes and make bathtub wine. They had the bug, and were on the journey to start their own winery.

On to Preston in Healdsburg

They ended up in Healdsburg working at Preston, where she learned biodynamics, organics, in addition to breadbaking and olive production. This was about the entire culture of working with the land.

Preston is a kind of magical place. We visited in 2011, I remember feeling like I’d taken a step back in time. This is simple beautiful Americana with home baked breads and olives in the tasting room. This is a farm and an enchanting one at that.

Returning to the Tri-Cities

California is an expensive place to live for two people just starting out and her brother suggested they come work at the family winery. Sarah started out working on the garden and hosting people and a year later became the assistant winemaker to her uncle, when the position opened up.

When she started as assistant winemaker, Hedges was making about 100,000 cases a year. That’s quite a jump from the 8,000 cases she assisted with at Preston.

Biodynamics at Hedges

In 2007 they started the biodynamic conversion. At this point 3 of their vineyards are biodynamic and 2 are organic. Bit by bit they add livestock. Right now they have chickens and a turkey and they want to add sheep. It’s a gradual process and she wants to be sure that they understand and adapt to each part before moving on.

Native ferments

The first wine they tried to make biodynamically was in 2011, with a native ferment. Native ferments can seem simple, just leave the tank alone right? Nope. Since then they have been using the pied du cuvee method. You get a bucket of grapes and get your fermentation started there.

Soothing tunes for the wines

She has also incorporated music in the cellar. She had a white wine that was a little reductive. It seemed to her that the wine was stressed and struggling, so she asked the cellar crew to play mellow spa music. Of course they thought she was a little crazy, but tasting the before and the after…they became believers.

The Goedhart label

The label had been their dream when they lived in California, but with California costs, it was just not possible. In 2005 they moved to the Tri-Cities and started their label with a winery in the basement of the ranch house they were living in. They both had full time winery jobs and would do this in all their free time as a labor of love. Their focus was Syrah. Not a fruit bomb, but not an old world overly lean wine either. This wine was to be elegant with a bit of restraint. They ran the label for 6 years. On weekends they would be open for tastings and she would make wood fired breads and panini’s.

Kids, a full time job and running their own winery became too much, so Hedges took over the label. Once the kids are raised, perhaps they will try this again. In the meantime, she can continue to make their Syrah in the style they like here.

Sarah on Syrah

Sarah and I spoke about the Syrah they are growing here. They have the Joseph Phelps clone, which was the first clone available in Washington. This clone tends to be lean with herbal characteristics. Then they have the Tablas clone. This is the clone that Tablas Creek brought over from Chateauneuf-de-Pape. She describes this clone as “Wild, savage, and fruity”. They do multiple picks over a few weeks, keeping clones and picks separate and then she can blend these to create that elegant style of Syrah that they enjoy best.

We have recently opened up two different Syrah’s from Hedges and both were pretty exceptional. My palate obviously is in line with the style of Syrah that they are making.

Sarah on the reason for biodynamics

I asked Sarah what was most important to her in biodynamics…

Preserving land for the future, for kids, for everybody.  I think that’s the one thing on this planet that we’re screwing up and we really need to turn it around.  What do we call ourselves?  Stewards of the land it’s our responsibility to keep it around. 

Sarah Hedges Goedhart, July 2019

The property is beautiful. That is reason enough to come. In addition the wines we tasted here were delicious and their was quite a portfolio of wines to taste. Sarah even brought in a couple of barrel samples for us to taste. The topper here is the people. Sarah was a joy to speak with, her father Tom said a hello as he came through the tasting room. They had just finished a morning meeting before Sarah came to speak with us. The volume here is high. They do make quite a bit of Columbia Valley wine in addition to the Estate wines that Sarah focuses on, but it’s still a family business. It has that blend of Washington practicality with the elegance of a French Château, blended with the relaxed biodynamic style that Sarah brings.

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Hedges Family Estate – Red Mountain Washington – the history

Hedges Family Estate the garden with the fountain Red Mountain Yakima Valley Washington

I had heard of Red Mountain. It is on the East end of the Yakima Valley AVA in Washington and was all the buzz. I had even heard it called “Washington’s Napa”. I was skeptical, not of the wines, but of the buzz. So on our first trip to Washington for a wine conference in Walla Walla, we focused our extra time elsewhere.

Returning a little less than a year later, we had a little more time to spend and time to research. As we have been focusing on biodynamic vineyards, we looked for one in the Red Mountain AVA, and came across the Hedges Family Estate.

The history, the beginnings

As I started exploring their site and learning about the Estate and the family I was anxious to see the property and speak with Sarah Hedges Goedhart, the daughter of the owners and their winemaker.

The property is beautiful. Upon arriving you feel as if you have been swept away to a French Château. This is no accident. Sarah’s mother Anne-Marie, is originally from Champagne….but wait….let me tell this story in order.

Tom Hedges & Anne-Marie Liégeois

Sarah’s farther Tom is from the Tri-Cities area. His family arrived in Washington back in 1888, settling first in the Waterville area and farming wheat, then moving to Wenatchee to grow apples. Her grandfather got a job in Hanford, so the family moved to this area.

Sarah’s mother, as I said before is from Champagne. It was at a party in Mexico, that her parent’s met. Her mother, there studying language, her father, studying tequila production, while getting his masters in International Business. 3 months after the party they were engaged, a year later married. It’s a romance that is coming up on 45 years.

The beginnings of the Hedges Brand

They traveled the world with her father, Tom, working in International Produce sales, spending time in South America, North East Canada and finally ending up in Seattle, with Tom looking for a new direction. West Coast wines were becoming a thing, so they started brokering wines, starting with bulk wines internationally, then getting more specific when they started getting requests for Washington wines. The first Hedges wine was sold to the government of Sweden. 5000 cases blended from the bulk wine they sourced from Washington. It was popular and inexpensive compared to European wines. The 2nd year they doubled their volume and decided to try selling this wine in the states. This is when the Hedges Brand was born. They moved from buying bulk wine to buying grapes.

The decision to build on Red Mountain

Then came a trip to Vin Expo in Bordeaux where they were continually asked where their vineyard was. Her father was confused, but her mother explained. In France you are nothing without land. So then the decision to be made was, build a winery or buy land? Her father went to a High School reunion in 1989 and heard that Red Mountain was going to be big, with the best fruit in the state. So decision made, they bought 40 acres at somewhere around $1,200 an acre, and they got the last private water rights ever granted in the area.

The Château

In 1995 they broke ground on the Château. This is a place that with it’s attention to detail, transports you to France. Vines line the circular driveway leading up to the Château. You enter through the cobbled walkway shaded by Umbrella Calabra trees, with stone benches and lanterns that you can invision lit at evening. When you reach the entrance you arrive in a courtyard with seating under the trees and a large fountain. The large winery doors beckon, but so does the view of Red Mountain the other direction.

We will continue with our interview with Sarah, discussing the biodynamic practices they have chosen to employ on the estate.

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12 days of Wine 2019 – Day 1 Hedges Family Estate

We kick off our 12 days of wine this season with a wine from Red Mountain Washington from the Hedges Family Estate. We had a wonderful visit with Sarah Hedges Goedhart this summer and after a lengthy tasting through many of their wines we left with a bottle of this wine.

Hedges Family Estate the garden with the fountain Red Mountain Yakima Valley Washington

Syrah on Red Mountain

Yes I know. If you know Red Mountain, you immediately think cabernet sauvignon. Don’t get me wrong, the cab is good here, but I love syrah and the syrah here is pretty amazing. You will get lush bold dark fruit and a distinctive minerality.

Vines at Hedges Family Estate in Yakima Valley's Red Mountain AVA
Vines at Hedges Family Estate in Yakima Valley’s Red Mountain AVA

When Sarah & her husband Brent started Goedhart Family Wines in 2006 they wanted a singular focus. That focus was on syrah from Bel’ Villa Vineyard. They blend both early and late fruit to get a balance. This gives you bright red fruit notes and acid from the earlier picked fruit and lusher darker fuller notes from the later picked fruit.

Bel’Villa Vineyard

Planted in 1997 this vineyard sits above the Hedges Estate vineyard. It is one of the highest vineyards on Red Mountain. This is the Joseph Phelps clone on it’s own rootstock and the vineyard sits at 959 feet in elevation.

Here is a link to their vineyard map. Click on the top right vineyard section to find the block for this wine. (It’s a pretty cool map)

https://www.hedgesfamilyestate.com/the-land

2013 Goedhart Family Red Mountain Syrah from the Bel’ Villa Vineyard

This wine is 100% Syrah from the Bel’ Villa Vineyard on Red Mountain. Goedhart is Sarah’s married name.

Their harvest notes for 2013

Harvest Notes: 2013 was another excellent vintage in Washington State, made slightly unusual by 80 plus temperatures in April and 90 plus temperatures in May. This uncommon early season heat caused bud break and growth to be early and rapid, exceeding average by about ten days. An average summer meant veraison and harvest began early, which led to ripe fruit throughout the state. Once again, “average” in Washington is everyone else’s “great”.

http://hedgesfamilyestate.orderport.net/product-details/0138/2013-Goedhart-Family-Red-Mountain-Syrah

Details on the making of this wine

  • destemmed
  • partially crushed into stainless steel fermenters
  • punched down three times per day
  • pressed to barrels
  • malo-lactic fermentation
  • racked off lees
  • 100% barrel aged for 11 months in 26% new American & French oak.
  • Abv sits at 13.4%
  • they made 504 cases of this wine.
  • SRP $29.00
2013 Goedhart Family Red Mountain Syrah Bel Villa Vineyard from the Hedges Family
2013 Goedhart Family Red Mountain Syrah Bel Villa Vineyard from the Hedges Family Estate

Tasting notes

This wine is a rich dark garnet with a bit of a rim (this is a 2013 after all). It started with full fruit then backed off as it opened. I did get the dried blueberries and cherries they mentioned (side note, dried blueberries have a slight macha note to them, who knew?). Notes of mocha, cherry and orange peel. It does have a whiff of vanilla and spice from the oak.

Tasting notes for the Goedhart Family 2013 Red Mountain Syrah
Tasting notes for the Goedhart Family 2013 Red Mountain Syrah

Pairing

We had some bleu cheese and gouda (always a good bet with a big red). We laid out dried blue berries and cherries, plus some other cherries (cooked). Michael made a chili with beef, turkey and bison (adding game to pair with the wine.) We also did some adorable little potato stacks with butter, thyme and parmesean that baked in the oven and were the perfect little flavor bombs to pair with the wine.

More on Red Mountain

We visited with Sarah last July and you can catch a bit of our visit in our post The Scenic Route Flash Tour 2019 Part 5 One Day 3 Washington AVA’s

You can also visit the Red Mountain AVA site for details on the area.

11 more days!

And we’re off! Day 1 for 2019 is in the books…on to Day 2! Join us tomorrow for the reveal of our 2nd wine for our 12 days of Wine!

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