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.
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.
Red Mountain. If you have not heard of it, it perhaps conjures thoughts of red earth, or red trees covering a towering mountain. If you have heard of it, your brain defaults straight to Cabernet Sauvignon.
Red Mountain is an AVA in the Yakima Valley of Washington State. Here is a quick reminder on Washington State and it’s nested AVA’s.
That large brownish area at the center and east is the Columbia Valley AVA. You see it, the Columbia Gorge and Walla Walla AVA’s dipping over into Oregon. The Yakima Valley AVA encompasses a strip there in the center that includes Rattlesnake Hills AVA, Snipes Mountain AVA and then on the eastern edge of the AVA, the tiny little triangle labeled as Red Mountain.
So to begin, Red Mountain AVA is nested inside the Yakima Valley AVA which is nested inside the Columbia Valley AVA, like Russian dolls.
Red Mountain – not really red – not really a mountain
Red Mountain AVA is on Red Mountain, but it is not the entire mountain. We are talking grapes here right? In order to catch the best sun, the vineyards are on the southwest facing slope of the mountain. And then there is the term mountain, which indicates a landmass above the earth surface that typically rises above 2000 feet. Red Mountain is actually part of the fold belt that makes up the Yakima Valley and at it’s highest point sits at 1410 feet. As to the red? There is cheatgrass that in the spring is reddish. The vineyards here sit between 540 and 1400 feet. The whole AVA only covers 4,040 acres, the smallest in Washington State.
The Yakima River flows by, moderating temperatures and keeping away the threat of frost. It also provides water for irrigation. With only 5 to 6 inches of rainfall annually, irrigation is necessary.
The first vineyard was planted here in 1975, by Jim Holmes and John Williams. These two met when their desks got pushed together working at General Electric. Some things are kismet. The vineyard that grew from this friendship was the Ciel de Cheval Vineyard. Just a few years before, the land on Red Mountain was nothing but sagebrush, grass, cougars and snakes. Power and irrigation had been brought in. They planted Cabernet Sauvignon, which is what the AVA has come to be known for, and the site is still revered for the quality of fruit it produces.
John & Jim started Kiona Vineyard & Winery, the first winery on Red Mountain. The Williams, John & Ann, built a house and opened Kiona’s tasting room. Their son Scott helped with planting the vineyard and eventually took over. Scott’s son JJ now works for Kiona.
The buzz for Red Mountain spread, first with other friends and co-workers jumping on the bandwagon. Today there are around 2,200 vineyard acres planted in this small AVA. There are over 15 wineries in the AVA with loads of others jostling to get in line for some of the prized fruit that comes from these vineyards.
What makes Red Mountain fruit so good?
Well, the soil here, has a decided lack of nutrients. It also has a high pH. This combines with the wind to cause small berries with thick skins which give you a greater skin to flesh ratio, as well as higher tannins. That gives you much more intense juice.
Wines from Red Mountain are some of the most well thought of and highly rated wines in Washington State.
We visited with Sarah Goedhart, winemaker at Hedges Family Estate, while we were in Red Mountain and look forward to bringing you our conversation with her soon. In the meantime, you can see a few photos and a bit of our conversation with her, as well as a bit on the Goedhart Family Syrah at the links below.
Today we venture out of the Yakima Valley, sort of….This wine is from Armstrong Family Winery, who are located in Walla Walla. We spent an afternoon with Tim & Jennifer Armstrong at the vineyard this summer (you can read about it here). But, sadly…the fruit from this vineyard, did not go in this wine. Here’s the deal…
Tim & Jennifer started their wine journey near Seattle with Tim working with a winery in Woodinville. (Well actually they met in Milwaukee and spent time in Chicago before heading to Washington…but Washington is where we get to the good part). After sourcing grapes, they found a vineyard near Walla Walla (which is where we visited them). They now have a tasting room in both Woodinville as well as Walla Walla and their vineyard has just had it’s first estate harvest! So…you need to get in line for the 2019 Vintage!
Their property is stunning, with the historic barn that now graces many of their labels. The vineyard is 20 years old, and they have been retraining it. I look forward to the vintages that will come from the estate and to seeing their dream of a winery and tasting room on property progress. In the meantime, you can visit by booking the guest house they have on property.
Okay…on to this particular wine.
Armstrong Family Winery 2016 Bogie’s Blend
Where does the name come from?
Bogie, the family dog is a blend of beagle and basset hound. The wine named in his honor is a blend of 55% Syrah & 45% Cabernet from the Columbia Valley. Bogie joined the family 13 years ago as a rescue.
Elephant Mountain Vineyard fruit
Well…I know it says Columbia Valley, but those grapes come very specifically from Elephant Mountain Vineyard, which we visited a while back. This vineyard is super nested. So yes, it is in the Columbia Valley as the label says, it is also within the Yakima Valley AVA (which is in the Columbia Valley AVA) and then it is in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA (which is within the Yakima Valley AVA). So, when I said we ventured out of the Yakima Valley at the top…well i was only telling part of a truth. Yep, this wine actually comes from fruit from the same AVA as that lovely Côte Bonneville Riesling.
So you may have noticed by now the photos of the wines with their flavor profiles. Well, I only had one bottle of each of these wines, so I referred to tasting notes to find the flavors and pairings ahead of time. For this lovely photo I blended Tim’s notes with a review of this wine and put together a spread of black cherries, tobacco, spice, vanilla, rose petal, lavender, roasted walnuts, coffee, blueberry and anise. Did I get all that from the wine when I opened it? First I found stewed red berries and spice then florals, yes…dried rose petals and lavender. Then the nose took on those cocoa notes, I thought of chocolate covered dried chukar cherries (which seem appropriate as we are in Washington). The tannins were tingly, not drying and I got a bit of mocha and smoke…and a little cigar tobacco.
This wine sits at a hefty 15.2% abv, but it is surprisingly smooth. This wine runs $42.00. It was the wine we enjoyed sitting on their back patio overlooking the vineyard as we chatted with Tim & Jennifer.
I did roast some walnuts to pair with this and they were perfect. We made a perfect bite with bleu cheese, honey and rose petal…and then another with the walnut, raspberry jam and a sprinkle of dried lavender…the combinations to delight with this wine are endless.
Half way there!
I don’t know if that is good or bad. I kinda want this to go on forever! None-the-less we are on to Day 7 tomorrow! See you then!
Justin Neufeld is the winemaker for Gilbert Cellars. On his own he works on his JB Neufeld label, focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon. We spoke with Justin when we were in Yakima in July. He sources his fruit and he played with vineyard specific bottlings for a bit, and found that by blending fruit from multiple vineyards he could bring more depth to the wine. Different vineyards have different soils and aspects and the fruit ripens differently, bringing different notes to the wine.
2015 Cabernet Sauvignon – Yakima Valley from JB Neufeld
Brooke Neufeld was kind enough to send me the vineyard breakdown for this vintage.
The vineyard compilation for 2015 was: -38% Dineen Vineyard -38% DuBrul Vineyard -17% Two Blondes Vineyard -7% Conley Vineyard.
So to break this down, DuBrul is located north of Sunnyside (in the Prosser area) so around the middle of the valley. Dineen and Two Blondes are located further west, north of Zillah and Conley Vineyard is on the far end of the valley near the city of Yakima. So you can see that these vineyards are likely to have different character notes in the fruit.
This wine is not listed on their website. The current release is the 2016. But…Brooke told me they have a case of this left at the winery…so…if you want a bottle you should act quickly!
This wine is smoother than expected. Tannins hit your gums but smooth quickly, leaving a bit of a buzz in your mouth. The wine feel cool and lifts on the palate. Red fruit dominates up front with cranberry, red currant and pomegranite. A set of tasting notes I came across mentioned blackberry, basil and fennel on the nose, and I get all that if I breath deeply.
This wine sits at 14.7%. Yep, it sounds big, but it is smooth. While I don’t know the price on this from the winery (you’ll have to call and ask Brooke) the 2016 vintage will set you back $35.
So with those thoughts of fennel and basil, I whipped up a salad of fresh shaved fennel, basil, olive oil, fresh orange juice, salt, pepper and orange zest. Heaven! We had Steak and Stout pies with this and it was lovely. With bleu cheese? Divine, as well as with blackberries and dark chocolate.
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.
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.
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
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…
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.
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.
We’ve come to Day 2 of our 12 Days of Wine! Today’s wine is from Owen Roe Winery and it’s kinda special. This is the 2015 Syrah Chapel Block. Yes…I know, another Syrah. Well, we happen to like Syrah and as I mentioned this one is special to us.
The Chapel Block – Red Willow Vineyard
Red Willow Vineyard is in the Yakima Valley, and within it sits the very special Chapel Block. We were lucky enough to visit and spend an evening watching the sunset with vineyard owner/grower Mike Sauer and his son Jonathan.
So many of the vineyards in the Yakima Valley are easily accessible along Interstate 82. It’s a bit more work to get to Red Willow. Southwest of the City of Yakima, you must travel West from Wapato. It is 14 miles through large blocks of agricultural land that seems to go on forever. Far in the distance Mt. Adams rises.
We arrived before sunset and Jonathan Sauer took us up to the Chapel Block. The Chapel stands on the top of a hill with slopes on each side planted to wine grapes. That syrah grows in sight of the Chapel is no mistake. The building harkens back to the Chapel of Hermitage in France’s Northern Rhône where Syrah is king.
While we were there, we saw blocks labeled for wineries, one of which was for Owen Roe. This was where the Syrah for this wine originated from. The Chapel Block, with it’s iconic Chapel is well known for highly prized fruit in the Yakima Valley. The care and pride that the Sauers put into the fruit they grow, shows in the final wine. You can read a bit about our magical evening with them here
So, we do have a progression here from yesterday’s wine. This is from the other end of the Yakima Valley and it is 2 years younger. It was aged 10 months in 47% new oak. It sits at 14.1% abv and will set you back $55.
The color on this was a bit bluer and the rim a little less (2 years younger will do that). Blueberry, blackberry and a bit of orange zest come out, blended with notes of leather, tobacco and a bit of wet stone.
We again hit the bleu and gouda to pair with this. I found raspberries and cherries to pair nicely. (hmm…cherries and the Chapel block…that just makes me happy to think about)
More on Owen Roe
We visited Owen Roe and met with then Owner David O’Reilly in October of 2018. Recently he has sold the winery, though he is still overseeing operations. We are always sad to see a winery sold, most especially when it is to a larger organization. We hope that as David is staying on, not just with Owen Roe, but will be taking a place within Vintage Estates a a regional director, the winery will continue in it’s quality and uniqueness.
For more details on Owen Roe Winery you can visit these posts
It’s Cabernet Franc Day! So we are celebrating by pulling a bottle out of the cellar. Our Cabernet Franc today comes from the Yakima Valley in Washington and is made by Owen Roe.
Who is Owen Roe? Well….
Owen Roe O’Neill was a seventeenth century Irish Patriot, who dedicated his life to upholding the highest principles of political equality and freedom. His commitment to great things makes him an ideal model for us at Owen Roe, for we share his dedication to principle in our work to produce the wines of Owen Roe.
Owen Roe Winery
We visited Owen Roe in October of 2018 when we attended the Wine Media Conference in Washington. It was harvest and Wine Yakima Valley had provided a pre-conference tour that included a dinner with a sunset view in front of the Owen Roe winery. Before dinner we had the opportunity to do a vineyard tour with then owner David O’Reilly and I even managed to tour the winery, filled with fermentation bins with David and meet winemaker _____.
We visited the Yakima Valley again this summer and did a wonderful tasting with Brandon. Owen Roe sources grapes from both Oregon and Washington, so you will find Oregon Pinot, Washington Reds and white wines from Chardonnay to Gewurztraminer to Oregon Pinot Gris.
Wine news (a bit of wine politics)
There is a bit of news since our visit. Vintage Estates of Santa Rosa California, purchased Owen Roe in September 2019. These are the same peeps that purchased Qupé in Santa Barbara a while back. I’m always a bit of a skeptic when a large company purchases a winery and adds them to their “portfolio”. David O’Reilly stays on directing operations at Owen Roe. He also gets a new title as regional winemaking director for Vintage Wine Estate. So….we shall see.
So… on to the wine we are drinking today!
Owen Roe 2017 Rosa Mystica Cabernet Franc
This Cabernet Franc is from the Yakima Valley and sells at $28. is at 14.1% abv. The fact that it says Yakima Valley and does not have a vineyard designate, tells us that this fruit source from multiple locations in the Yakima Valley, blended together. It aged 16 months in French Oak.
The first thing that catches your eye is the label. This black and white photography by David K. Brunn, is haunting…I guess a little mystical (hence the name). Here’s what the winery has to say about it:
The image on the front label was captured by photographer David K. Brunn. The ancient Drumlane Abbey in County Cavan, Ireland served as a place of refuge for almost one thousand years until it was destroyed by the forces of Oliver Cromwell. Here the great patriot Owen Roe O’Neill sought solace until he too breathed his last, also at the hands of Cromwell in 1649.
Owen Roe Winery http://www.owenroe.com
This Cabernet Franc – In the Glass
The color of this Cabernet Franc leans toward Ruby. Deep enough in the glass that while I can see light through it, it is not transparent enough to read through. The nose first hits you with cocoa powder. Another breath finds wet tobacco and brambles. Then you find cooked strawberries, stewed on the stove with maybe a bit of herbs. Finally comes the spice, baking spice and a bit of vanilla.
A sip finds the wine dry. While it smelled hot on the nose right after it was opened, indicating high alcohol, on the palate it is smoother, lighter, feeling medium on tannins, alcohol and body. The acid while not high, it high enough to pair beautifully with food. This feels old world, in it’s lightness. While bigger on the nose, than on the palate, I did get more in the way of black fruit on the palate. We paired this with grilled sausage today, which went nicely.
Other Great Cabernet Francs
Cabernet Franc is so underrated! It’s more than just a blending grape..the 3rd in the line of Bordeaux grapes. It is being grown in Virginia, where it is making some luscious juice. We had a terrific one a while ago from Veritas. You find it in California and Oregon (it’s doing great in Southern Oregon…check out the Cab Francs from Leah Jorgensen Cellars, or Quady North. And of course Washington is growing some great Cab Franc in the Yakima Valley! Where ever you find it, it’s worth picking up. I suggest pairing it with a big juicy burger like we did.
We were lucky enough to enjoy a bit of the summer in Washington’s Yakima Valley. Barbara Glover of Wine Yakima Valley took time out of her day to meet us to talk about the Valley. While we were there she also filled us in on their upcoming event Catch the Crush happening October 12-13th 2019.
We met Barbara initially when we visited the Yakima Valley while attending the Wine Media Conference held here in October of 2018. She had planned a spectacular pre-conference tour highlighting the wine, cider and beers of the area. When we wanted to return to the Valley to visit and speak with winemakers she was a great resource. She graciously assisted us with finding the perfect spots for sunrise and sunset as well as suggesting winemakers to speak with.
We met Barbara at Stems Wine shop in downtown Yakima. Stems is a GREAT place to find wines from all over the region!
Catch the Crush
Catch the Crush is an annual event in the Yakima Valley. Barbara took a bit of time to fill us in on the details. Each of the wineries has their own style of event that you can enjoy with a Premier Pass. And the Premier pass will only set you back $35. If you are able to get to the area and take part, this promises to be a fantastic event!
More on the Yakima Valley Wine Region
I mentioned we spent a bit of time in the Valley…. here are some links to some of the great places we visited.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The day ended with spectacular views of Mt. Hood. We leave you hear with a bit of spectacular nature.
After a good nights sleep, we were up early, but not too early, (not pre-dawn like the day before!) to meet Co Dinn up at Roskamp Vineyard on Snipes Mountain.
As you are driving through the Yakima Valley, Snipes Mountain is hard to miss. It bubbles up in the middle of the Valley on the south side of the highway. Snipes Mountain, named for Ben Snipes who had a cattle ranch here in the 1850’s, is it’s own AVA.
Meeting Co Dinn on Snipes Mountain
We were scheduled to meet Co Dinn of Co Dinn Cellars here early in the day. There was plenty of time, as we headed out early and followed the GPS. But the %/&*#$*&% GPS led us astray, trying to take us in the back way, where there are locked gates and dirt roads. We called Co and got back on track and eventually met him off the mountain, which gave him an opportunity to stop and show us some of the soil strata on our way up.
At the top of the mountain we visited a beautiful block of Co’s Syrah, while he filled us in on the soil and we took in the expansive views. He got pretty detailed on the soils and geology, so we will save that for our in depth interview with him later.
We also visited his Chardonnay block that looks north toward Sunnyside and across to DuBrul Vineyard. We look forward to doing a comparitive tasting of these two Chardonnays later this year.
After a great morning we looked at the clock and realized it was time to get moving. Luckily would be back this way so we scheduled to join him at his tasting room in a couple days. Now it was back on the road, we had to continue our journey east to Red Mountain.
Hedges Family Estate in the Red Mountain AVA
We drove east and passed Red Mountain to the North of the highway. The entrance to the area is on the east side of the mountain. As we were running just a bit early, we headed toward Richland to find some coffee. We found a great quaint coffee shop, with a friendly staff, good coffee and bags of cherries for sale on the counter. After a cup of joe we were back on the road to Red Mountain and to Hedges Family Estate.
The Red Mountain AVA has been getting quite a bit of press lately. The AVA is not actually the whole mountain, but the South facing slope. This is (currently) the smallest AVA in the state at 4040 acres. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah here are bold and powerful and are thought to be some of the finest examples of these varieties in the state.
Sarah Hedges Goedhart – Hedges Family Estate Winemaker
When we were deciding on a winery to visit in this region, we were drawn to the fact that Hedges Family Estate is biodynamic on their vineyard. (You know biodynamics is my jam!). We reached out and Sarah Hedges Goedhart, the winemaker for Hedges Family Estate was able to meet with us.
The property is stunning. You drive up the the beautifully landscaped French Chateau and enter another world. Sarah’s mother is French and had a great influence on the design. I could have happily spent the day reclining in the garden.
Sarah was in a meeting when we arrived, but soon joined us on the patio under the trees, next to the fountain, overlooking the vineyard. It was a pretty enchanting spot. She shared with us her story and her family’s. We dove into their going biodynamic, moving to native ferment, the old world philosophies in the vineyard and winery as well as about slowing down. Sarah has been known to play meditation and yoga music in the winery to assist fermentation. The staff looked at her skeptically at first, but they couldn’t deny the results.
Into the Tasting Room
After our interview we moved into the tasting room for a tasting with Sophia. This winery has multiple labels and the selection we tasted through was vast and included some barrel samples that Sarah brought in for us. We look forward to sharing all those details with you later.
We headed out to grab some vineyard shots and then jumped back in the car to make our way east to Walla Walla.
Walla Walla “The city so nice they named it twice”
We spent time in Walla Walla last year for WBC18, so we knew a little of the lay of the land coming in. We stopped for a really delicious lunch at the Walla Walla Bread Company. I will throw out a high recommendation here, for if you ever find yourself in this town.
Walla Walla AVA
While we spent time in Walla Walla on our last trip, we really have yet to “dig into” this AVA. The area has the highest concentration of wineries in the state. Rainfall in the valley varies, but some vineyards on the east side have the ability to dry farm, which is rare in Washington. The eastern side also gets into the foothills of the beautiful Blue Mountains.
The region is known for reds with Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon dominating the plantings.
Valley Grove Vineyard in the Walla Walla AVA
We had time to check into the hotel, before heading north of the city to visit Tim & Jennifer Armstrong of Armstrong Family Winery at their Valley Grove Vineyard. The drive took us through vast wheat fields, rolling as far as the eye could see. The hills rolled and sometimes you were engulfed in nothing but wheat. Eventually we came to a green patch near a creek and turned into the vineyard. The old red barn is an iconic landmark.
Tim and Jennifer met with us at a picnic table on the back patio overlooking the vineyard. We talked about their journey into wine, their Seattle winery and then walked the vineyards talking about their plans for this place.
Off to the Walla Walla Tasting Room
All too soon it was time for us to leave. They were packing up to fly out on a well needed vacation to the East Coast in the morning. We determined we had not had enough and headed downtown to their tasting room. It was jazz night, so they were open late with live music. Carl runs the tasting room and it also happened to be his birthday. We arrived early and grabbed a table in the back and watched as every table filled up. Carl did an amazing job of keeping up with the busy room.
Time to rest for the next great day
We were a little tired, so we looked for a pizza spot nearby and grabbed a pizza to go. I’ll send a shout out to Sweet Basil Pizzaria for great service and a great pie!
Off to bed to rest up. Our morning stop would be the beautiful Valdemar, followed by some time in Walla Walla and dinner at the Gas station.
What were we thinking!? A sunset shoot, followed by a sunrise shoot in Washington! Days here are longer. In July they are about 15 hrs. Sunset was 8:57 pm and sunrise is about 5:15 am. At least today we did not have a ton of driving to do.
We were up really early to get out to Wilridge Vineyard in the Naches Heights AVA before the sun. Paul Beverage, the owner, couldn’t join us that early, but was happy to give us permission to shoot on this beautiful property. We quietly pulled in. They allow camping on the property and there was an RV out front with people tucked away sleeping, as we were arriving before sunrise to set up.
Naches Heights AVA
The Naches Heights AVA was approved in 2012 and was the first Washington AVA to be completely sustainable. All 7 initial vineyards were biodynamic or LIVE certified. This AVA is in Yakima County, but sits outside (north and west) of the Yakima Valley AVA.
We’ve talked about the Missoula Floods that washed through this area. I remember speaking with David O’Reilly of Owen Roe at their Union Gap Vineyard. We stood toward the top of his vineyard at 1,200 feet and were at the top of the Missoula Flood level. Naches Heights sits between 1,200 and 2,100 feet, so the entire plateau is above the Missoula Floods.
The plateau was formed as a lava flow from the Cascades cooled. The soil here is known as Tieton Loam Loess. The high elevation means less chance of winter damage in the vineyard.
Paul Beverage started his winery in Seattle back in 1988. In 2007 he planted Wilridge Vineyard near Yakima. The vineyard was planted to be Certified Organic and Biodynamic.
They consider themselves a “Recreational Vineyard”. There are bike trails and hikes, and they have a map to guide you around the vineyard and to the cliff trail hikes in Cowiche Canyon. You can even rock climb on the Andesite rock cliffs where the vineyard has bolted anchors.
You can also just kick back on the porch of the 100 year old farmhouse that is their tasting room and enjoy the views and the wild (or not so wild) life. The cats are friendly. Rachel, a young black cat, came running up to me meowing and spent part of the morning purring and curling up in my lap!
Rachel, the vineyard cat. She ran up to me from across the porch meowing and demanded to sit in my lap and be petted! How could I not ablige.
The farmhouse has 3 AirBnb rooms, they take reservations for RV parking and you can camp in the vineyard! Staying here, gives you the luxury of waking up and taking in the gorgeous sunrise in your PJ’s with a cup of Joe in hand.
Back to the Yamika Valley AVA
Justin of JB Neufeld made some time in his morning to talk with us about his Cabernets. In addition to his own label, he is the winemaker for Gilbert Cellars and we met him on their beautiful property on Hackett Ranch.
The bees buzzed happily in the lavender behind us as we chatted with a view of the beautiful gardens and amphitheatre here on the property.
Justin is focused on Cabernet Sauvignon. He looks to how this grape expresses itself in different soils and climates within Washington. We had a fascinating discussion with him on how he pulls the best out of each of his vineyard designates from Red Mountain to Red Willow, across the entire Yakima Valley, to create a beautiful complex blend of Cabernet. We also talked about microflora in the soil and about the wines he makes with Gilbert. You can expect us to share more of this interview later!
Wine Yakima Valley
When we visited Washington before for #WBC18, we met Barbara Glover who had put together the pre-conference tour for Wine Yakima Valley. Barbara was instrumental in helping us connect with vineyard owners and winemakers for this trip to the Yakima Valley. We were excited to meet with her and talk about all the exciting developments in the Yakima Valley Wine Region.
She arranged for us to meet her at Stems, a wine shop in downtown Yakima. We met Brad the owner and were able to talk Yakima Wine. In addition to the great interview with Barbara, it was fun to just chat with them about the region, it’s people and culture.
Brad mentioned that when he opened Stems, he planned to be just focus on Washington Wines. Local demand to learn more about other regions has him holding events including wines from outside the region. The thirst for knowledge (and wine) is alive and well in Yakima! This is a great place to pick up a bottle or twelve of wine and anything wine related that you can imagine.
When we asked where to grab lunch, everyone said the same thing…Los Hernandez. We did a piece on our delicious lunch here.
We were running early for our tasting at Owen Roe, so we thought we would stop by Treveri. I mean who can pass up bubbles after filling up on tamales!
As we were filled with tamales, we passed on the cheese and charcuteries offerings, but…if you are in the area, this is a great stop for bubbles and a snack. Tastings are seated and are free. We found a spot outside. The clouds had rolled in and it actually got a little humid (which is not typical for this area!). It was just mere moments before an attentive host came to talk us through the menu. It felt a bit luxurious to sit and enjoy the view and have someone continually bring you new bubbles to try.
These are good affordable bubbles. Your tasting will take you through bubbles that go from Brut Zero to Demi Sec with their sweetness levels and in addition to the traditional Blanc de Blancs of Chardonnay, they have a rosé of Syrah and Chardonnay and the Demi-Sec sparkler we tasted was of Gewurztraminer.
When we were here last October we attended a dinner at Owen Roe’s Union Gap vineyard. I had an opportunity to walk the winery with owner David O’Reilly as well as do a vineyard tour with him. As we walked the vineyard we tasted the Owen Roe wines on, in the blocks the grapes were harvested from.
But Owen Roe has many more wines than just the Union Gap vineyard designates. They pull from Red Willow for their Chapel Series, as well as from DuBrul, Olsen, Outlook and Elerding here in the Yakima Valley for many of their other wines (and they do have a really wide selection of wines!) They also source from the Willamette Valley from vineyards across 4 different AVAs. When we knew we were going to be back in the area, we knew that we wanted to sit down and taste through their wines.
Tasting with Brandon at Owen Roe
The space looked so much different than our last visit! Our October visit was during harvest and the winery was filled with fermentation bins! Now there were stacks of barrels, some of which created a private tasting area and this was where Brandon set us up for our tasting.
Brandon set us up with a wide and large tasting through many of their wines and we promise we will walk you through that tasting in the not so distant future.
It was still early when we finished at Owen Roe, but we were bushed! We picked up some dinner and crashed early. The next day would be early again. Co Dinn was meeting us at Roskamp Vineyard in the Snipe Mountain AVA, early in the day. Next we would drive on to Red Mountain to visit with Sarah Goedhart at Hedges Family Estate. Then we would be making the drive to Walla Walla to meet Tim & Jennifer Amstrong at their vineyard. So stay tuned!
in the Yakima Valley, we wanted to catch up with Barbara Glover who heads up
Wine Yakima Valley. She had put together
an amazing tour for many of us in the Wine Media for the conference held in
Walla Walla in Oct 2018. The tour gave
us an in depth look at this region and was the reason we decided we needed to
return to learn more.
a couple of morning interviews and Barbara was kind enough to squeeze us in
last minute. Now…where to meet? Barbara made a call and set us up to meet at
Stems in Yakima.
Stems is a wine & gift shop, so we had a backdrop of shelves of bottles of Yakima Valley wines for our interview with Barbara.
who runs this shop was generous in letting us use the space and we had great
conversations on the area. We found a
couple of bottles that we were not able to find elsewhere to take along with
are in Yakima, this is a great place to pick up a bottle and gain some valuable
information from Brad on the area! It’s
also a pretty great spot to pick up gifts for fellow wine lovers!