Our vineyards are the absolute key to the quality of our wines. We are privileged to work with some of the finest growers in all the Northwest.
Chardonnay, Block 25, Clone 95, planted 2000
Chardonnay, Block 28A, Clone 75, planted 2000
Cabernet Sauvignon, Block 36, Clone 191, planted 2000
Cabernet Sauvignon, Block 38, Clone 8, planted 2000
Cabernet Sauvignon, Block 40, Clone 8, planted 2000
In 1968, Thomas A. Alberg, Sr., purchased 235 acres of land now known as Stillwater Creek Vineyard in the Frenchman Hills of the Columbia Valley near Royal City. Though Mr. Alberg and his family long suspected the land would make an excellent vineyard, it wasn’t until the Albergs gathered historical data from the property in the late 1990’s that the site’s suitability for wine grapes was confirmed.
In 2000, the Albergs began planting a wide selection of premium vinifera grapes with the intent of developing a vineyard known for its quality grapes and unique selection of clones. Mr. Alberg’s son, Tom, is the Managing Director of the family entity that owns and operates Stillwater Creek Vineyard. His brother, Mike, was actively involved in the development and early management of the Stillwater and their brother, David, manages a cherry orchard on a portion of the property. Tom and his wife, Judi, also founded Novelty Hill Winery, focusing on estate-grown wines crafted by veteran winemaker, Mike Januik, primarily using grapes from Stillwater Creek Vineyard. In addition, approximately two-thirds of Stillwater’s grapes are sold to other top vintners in Washington State.
Stillwater Creek Vineyard is a 235-acre site on the Royal Slope of the Frenchman Hills. Planted in 2000 on a steep, south-facing slope with one of the most diverse clone selections in Washington State, Stillwater Creek quickly has earned a reputation as one of the Columbia Valley’s top vineyards.
The site’s fractured rock and extreme southern exposure are ideal for reds, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. White grapes are planted on a mixture of fractured rock and areas of fine sandy loam. Temperatures during the growing season favor warm days and cool nights. Grapes ripen beautifully under these conditions, enhanced by both hours of light per day during the summer and the total number of sunlight days from bud-break through harvest.
Stillwater Creek Vineyard is dedicated to growing high quality wine grapes through careful vineyard management and innovative clonal selection. Sharing that vision is award-winning Washington winemaker Mike Januik, who began consulting on plant selection and vineyard design in 1999. Like many winemakers in the state, Mike believes the next leap in Washington wine quality will come through clonal selection; to that end, Stillwater Creek is planted with a variety of clones, including both Entav and Rauschedo selections. The four principal varieties planted at the vineyard – Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Chardonnay – represent 17 different clones. The vineyard is a mix of 80% red, 20% white grapes.
Bacchus, Riesling, Block 1B, Clone G198, planted 2005
Bacchus, Riesling, Block 1C, Clone N90, planted 2005
Dionysus, Riesling, Block 17, Clone G110, planted 1973
Dionysus, Cabernet Sauvignon, Block 14, planted 1999
Dionysus, Cabernet Sauvignon, Block 16A, planted 1973
Gamache, Sauvignon Blanc, Block 23, planted 1985
Gamache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Block 19, planted 1985
Gamache, Malbec, Block 9, planted 2003
Sagemoor, Grenache, Campsite Block 415, Clone 362, planted 2013
Sagemoor, Malbec, Block 312, planted 2003
Weinbau, Merlot, Block 9, planted 1997
Flavors are created and nurtured in the vineyard. -Kent Waliser, Director of Vineyard Operations
Sagemoor Farm includes five vineyards: Sagemoor, Bacchus, Dionysus, Weinbau and Gamache.
Sagemoor is located on a southwest facing slope 10 miles Northwest of Pasco, WA adjacent to the Columbia River. In 1972, Sagemoor planted 85 acres of grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay Beaujolais, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, White Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and an experimental block. Additionally, Bacchus Vineyard planted 195 acres of wine grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, White Riesling, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. To this day some of these original plantings are producing high quality, highly sought after grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and White Riesling date back to these original plantings. The sloping land facing the western sky provides a warm site with excellent air drainage. Many of the original plantings have never frozen back to the ground despite several killing winter freezes that Washington has come to expect.
Bacchus is one of five vineyards managed by Sagemoor Vineyards. It’s on the east side of the Columbia River, 15 miles north of Tri-Cities, WA. Bacchus is in the Columbia Valley AVA and has 180 acres planted to wine grapes. It’s also next door to Dionysus Vineyard.
In 1972 Bacchus was planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay. Today, after 40+ years of experimentation and feedback from winery partners, Bacchus now grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay. It’s a leading source of old vine WA fruit with over 35 acres of the original 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon, and 16 acres of 1972 Sauvignon Blanc plantings.
Fun fact: In Bacchus there’s a strange lump of land riddled with granite boulders. Nothing can be planted there—the rows either bend around it, or stop altogether, picking back up on the other side. It’s called a glacial erratic. It’s where a glacier got stuck 15,000 years ago during the Missoula Floods, melted a little, and unloaded a heap of granite. It’s an incredible stamp from a cataclysmic event.
Bacchus has a commanding view to the west overlooking the mighty Columbia River and the Rattlesnake Mountains. The sloping land’s elevation ranges from 550-900 feet, and soft rolling knolls keep Bacchus warm (not hot, not cool) with excellent air drainage.
Dionysus, established in 1973, was originally planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay Beaujolais, Zinfandel, Gewurztraminer, Trousseau Gris (Grey Riesling), Chardonnay and Semillon. After 40+ years of experimentation and feedback from our winery partners, Dionysus still grows Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, but the other varietals have been replaced by Riesling, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. Cabernet Sauvignon has become the remarkable flagship variety of this vineyard site.
Fun fact: Many original plantings have never frozen back to the ground despite several killing winter freezes that Washington has experienced.
Dionysus, Bacchus, and Sagemoor Vineyards share a commanding view to the west overlooking the mighty Columbia River and the Rattlesnake Mountains. Dionysus’s southwestern sloping land has elevation ranging from 600-900 feet. Soft rolling knolls provide a warm site (not hot, not cool) with excellent air drainage.
The soils at Dionysus are varied, adding complexity to any wines coming from this great site.
- Royal fine sandy loam soil, 2-10% slope dominates blocks 14,16 and 18.
- Sagehill very fine sandy loam with 10-15% slope blocks 11,12,13, and 19.
Gamache, acquired in 2016 from brothers Bob and Roger Gamache, is the newest addition to the Sagemoor Vineyards family. It sits up on the white bluffs overlooking Basin City to the east in the Columbia Valley AVA, with 180 acres of wine grapes.
When the Gamache brothers located the site in 1980, they asked the grandfather of Washington wine industry, Dr. Walter Clore, to walk the property. “There’s absolutely no reason you can’t grow good quality wine grapes here,” he declared. Deeming the land sufficiently blessed, the Gamaches moved forward. There were only about 10 bonded wineries in WA state at the time.
In 1982, Gamache planted 20 acres each of Semillon and Chenin Blanc. Riesling was 1983. These days Gamache still has the original Riesling, plus Chardonnay, Roussanne, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, Syrah, and Malbec.
The highest elevation is 960 feet. A gentle, mile-long southwestern slope ends at elevation 840 feet. Bordering the east side of the vineyard is a 300 foot drop to the valley floor, towards Basin City.
Gamache soil is primarily Warden sandy loam, with a little Kennewick sandy loam. There’s caliche (a hardened natural cement of calcium carbonate) about 12 inches down in the northern part of the site. It does show itself in a couple of other smaller areas as well.
Fun fact: The spring migration of sandhill cranes led the Gamache brothers to discover the vineyard sits right under a thermal. When the cranes come through, they play around in the air just above the vines. They circle around and float up up up, never using their wings. They go up as high as they want, and then scoop back down closer to land and ride the rising heat up again. It’s a fun sight to see.
Weinbau Vineyard is in the Wahluke Slope AVA, 12 miles east of the town of Mattawa WA, with 460 acres of wine grapes.
In 1981 Weinbau was planted to Riesling, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer. Over the last 35+ years with experimentation, and feedback from our winery partners, we’ve altered Weinbau’s focus a bit. There are some original Riesling and Chard vines from that 1981 planting, but also Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Mourvedre, Merlot, Carmenere, Grenache, and Cabernet Franc. Incidentally, Weinbau has one of the largest Cab Franc crops in Washington.
Weinbau has a view of the Rattlesnake Mountains to the south, and the Saddle Mountains to the north. The land slopes gently south, with elevation ranging from 710-950 feet. Weinbau is a warm site with excellent air drainage, and soil is dominated by Kennewick silt loam with 2-5% slope. The consistency of soil type shows up in vine growth and subsequently in the wines.
In 2009, Weinbau expanded by 100 acres. The expansion’s plantings use innovative row orientation and block layout to minimize direct afternoon sunlight, decrease sunburn potential, and coax more even ripening.
Souzāo, planted 2005
Touriga Naçional, planted 2005
Upland Vineyards is located wholly within the Snipes Mountain American Viticulture Area in the heart of the Yakima Valley. Farming wine grapes since 1968, four generations of Newhouse family farming have helped maintain the Upland legacy, which started over 90 years ago. Originally planted by William B. Bridgman in 1917, Snipes Mountain is widely considered the birth place of Washington Wine. Today that original vineyard is still bearing fruit and the vine’s longevity is a testament to the favorable weather conditions bestowed upon the mountain. With slopes facing in all four cardinal directions and an elevation that ranges from 750 to 1300 feet, Upland is able to grow a wide range of wine grapes in some of the oldest and most diverse soils in Washington. With over 35 varieties of vinifera, Upland Vineyard’s grapes find their way into bottles of wine from over 20 different wineries. Varieties include: Aligote, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewurtzraminer, Graciano, Grenache, Malbec, Melon, Merlot, Morio Muscat, Mouvedre, Mueller Thurgau, Muscat of Alexandria, Muscat Hamburg, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Souzao, Syrah, Tempranillo, Tinta Madiera, Tinta Cao, Touriga Nacional, Viognier, Zinfandel, and others.
Snipes Mountain was named after cattle king Ben Snipes, who was the first to settle the Yakima Valley and who made his vast cattle business headquarters on the south side of Snipes Mountain in the 1850’s. He chose this site because it was the highest point around and from the top of Snipes Mountain he had a panoramic view of the Yakima Valley and his vast herds of cattle. He also couldn’t help but note that the mountain added a little more protection from the elements of Mother Nature that the rest of the valley didn’t seem to offer.
In 1917, W. B. Bridgman saw the same favorable elements on Snipes Mountain and planted European (vinifera) wine grapes, an extremely uncommon thing to plant back then. He farmed the Snipes Mountain site, as well as others throughout the valley until his death in 1968 at 90 years old, although by that time most of the day to day business was run by his nephew, Bill Barnard. In 1972 Alfred Newhouse bought all of what used to be Upland Vineyards. Over the next 35 years he and his son, Steve Newhouse, would continue to expand their holdings on both Snipes Mountain and Harrison Hill.
Today the Alfred Newhouse family farms cherries, apricots, nectarines, peaches, prunes, pears, apples, juice grapes, table grapes, and of course wine grapes. Altogether they make up over 1300 acres of what today is once again called Upland Vineyards, of which over 700 acres are wine grapes grown in some of the most unique soils in the world. Because of these unique growing conditions, Snipes Mountain was awarded its own American Viticulture Area in early 2009, becoming the 10th AVA in Washington State. And as a testament to the quality of the grapes grown at Upland Vineyards, owner Steve Newhouse was awarded the 2008 Grower of the Year by the Washington State Association of Wine Grape Growers.
In addition to Alfred and Steve, other active farming members of the Upland Vineyards family include: Marla Newhouse, John Newhouse, Todd Newhouse, Keith Newhouse, and Nicolas Newhouse, all of whom are heavily involved in the day to day management of Upland Vineyards, LLC.
Syrah, Tablas Creek Clone, planted 2000
Syrah, Shiraz Clone, planted 1994
It was 1979 and Jim Holmes was pleasantly surprised – maybe even a little shocked — when he sampled the very first wine made by fellow Groundbreaker Rob Griffin at Preston Winery from grapes he and grown with his partner John Williams at Kiona, the first vineyard planted on Red Mountain.
“It was the most wonderful feeling. We said, hey, this actually tastes something like Cabernet Sauvignon, not something from outer space. We were hoping for something that people wouldn’t spit out and it turned out to be much better than that,” he recalled.
Holmes – who now owns Ciel du Cheval vineyards – was an engineer doing research at Hanford in those days, and grape growing was a hobby. He and Williams planted the original 80 acres using an antique 1940s-era John Deere M tractor and the sweat equity of friends and family. “I’d like to say we had this vision and knew what we were doing, but that would be a lie,” he said, chuckling. In the beginning, these fledgling growers planted cuttings – a practice that’s now considered outdated. “We put two sticks in each hole in the ground and some of them came up, others didn’t,” he said. They also used a trellising technique based on a tradition established in the then-Soviet Republic of Georgia, designed to protect the vines from bitter winter cold, a practice they later abandoned. “We learned so much by trial and error,” he said.
One of the most dramatic changes made over time is in the approach to irrigation in that high desert area.
“Twenty five years ago, the county extension service put out an irrigation guide that said you needed 30 inches of water a year to grow grapes. If you take a ruler and measure that and then imagine how much water that is over the entire vineyard, well, that’s a great big swimming pool,” Holmes said. He cited some “terrific research sponsored by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates” as a real game changer: “The research found that, oh my gosh, you could grow grapes with between 8 and 12 inches of water and have a higher quality product, too.”
With every successful harvest, the partners were encouraged to add and expand. In 1991, they purchased Ciel du Cheval – also planted in 1975 – and when Holmes retired from Hanford, the partners amicably parted and Holmes took sole ownership of that vineyard in 1994. Since then, it has nearly doubled in size and Holmes now sells to 25 vintners, including the first producer to feature the vineyard on his label, Chris Camarda’s Andrew Will.
“In the 1980s, you didn’t see many vineyard designated wines,” Holmes said. “Everything just got blended together. But after Chris put it on Andrew Will’s label in 1989 and that wine got a great deal of attention, then the vineyard started getting a lot of attention.”
A new project launched by Holmes’ son, Richard, will bring a new level of attention to Ciel, as he collaborates with veteran winemaker Charlie Hoppes to make wines from designated blocks within the vineyard, and also focus on making wines from single, select clones. “That’s going to be completely e-commerce,” said Holmes of the new venture. “After he graduated from UW, he went and worked in the dot com world and now he’s back, just in time.”
While Holmes isn’t yet ready to retire from grape growing, he has shifted his focus to tracking the vineyards using high tech equipment to monitor and record moisture and nutrient levels.
“Yes, there are spread sheets and databases, but it’s more an adventure than a scientific job might be,” he said. “The record keeping is a means to an end, a way of satisfying our curiosity and solving mysteries.”
There’s no mystery about the continued allure of Red Mountain, an AVA where more than 1,300 acres is currently planted and Holmes predicts another 1,000 when the new irrigation district is established.
“We certainly never expected it, but it’s very validating,” he said.
-Article by Leslie Kelly
Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 3, planted 2007
Cabernet Franc, planted 2000
Petite Sirah, planted 2007
When John Williams and Jim Holmes took their first trip up to Red Mountain in the early 1970s, there was nothing but hardscrabble landscape. “It was a bunch of sagebrush and jackrabbits. There wasn’t even a road, just a Jeep trail,” recalled John, who along with his friend and fellow research engineer, Holmes, planted the famous AVA’s first vineyard in 1975. “You could stand on top of Red Mountain, looking over at the Horse Heavens and there wasn’t a green spot to be seen.”
Some 30-plus years later, the area is a patchwork of iconic vineyards, producing highly sought-after fruit. But it took true visionaries to imagine that scenario in the early days. The Williams family – the first three-generation grape-growing and winemaking dynasty in Washington state – were originally drawn into the industry by an invitation to do viticulture and winemaking trials for Dr. Walter Clore and Washington State University.
“We got a pretty good start there,” said John. “But there had been soil samples taken in the 1930s by the Bureau of Reclamation, around the time the Grand Coulee Dam was built.” When they planted the first 10 acres of Cabernet sauvignon, Riesling and Chardonnay – after digging a 550-foot well “Jim’s wife, Patty, used to say they were putting their investments in a hole in the ground,” Scott said — there were only six wineries in the state, and by the time the winery was bonded in 1980, that number had more than doubled.
The first vintage was produced in Jim Holmes’ garage, where Scott jokingly described the crew of extended family as “slave labor.”
“We used basket presses with ratchets back then, and we’d have to round up kids strong enough to turn them,” he said, chuckling at the memory.
Eventually, more vines were planted, with the last lots of the 65-acre vineyard going in the ground in 1995. “We realized it takes a lot of money to plant grapes, and every time we’d go to the bank for a loan, they’d tell us we didn’t know anything about growing grapes. We didn’t know anything about making wine. It was a real bootstrap operation,” John said. “But that also meant that we didn’t owe any money.”
From the beginning, part of the mission involved dumping wine that wasn’t deemed good enough. “There was a lot of bad wine out there in the early days, and putting out an inferior product was death,” John said.
Did they dump much?
“We just gave it to Dad’s friends, they’ll drink anything,” Scott joked.
The family dynamics that sometimes caused sparks to fly have mellowed through the years. “Years ago, I worked for my father-in-law, and told him I either had to quit or end up hating him, so I learned from that lesson,” John said.
Scott said they’ve always agreed on the winery’s focus, to let the fruit shine in the wines. And when Scott’s son, J.J. expressed an interest in coming to work for Kiona, he was encouraged to go in a slightly different direction. He earned a business and marketing degree at Gonzaga, and spent a couple years being mentored by Lorne Jacobson of Kelnan Wine Management before coming to work for the winery full time.
“He came into the office, put his feet up and said, get ready, change is coming,” Scott said. “It was really déjà vu all over again.”
J.J. raised the winery’s profile through social networking and by launching a wine club, featuring limited releases available only to members. The result has been that this value-oriented winery has found new fans and prompted loyal followers to take a fresh look.
“We’ve had the advantage of not being beholden to anybody, so we can react fairly quickly to quirks in the market,” Scott said.
Much of their success could be attributed to what they didn’t do, though.
“In those early days, a lot of the early grape growing efforts were sidebars of other operations, growing potatoes or wheat or corn where the agricultural philosophy was maximum inputs and maximum yields. It doesn’t work that way with grapes,” said Scott. “Out here in the desert, we were kind of forced into moderated deficit irrigation from the start and that worked to our advantage.” Scott and his wife, Vicky, started another vineyard on Red Mountain and eventually sold some of that land to Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and the Antinori family for Col Solare. “They had the muscle to get an irrigation project going that we share,” Scott said.
Article by Leslie Kelly
Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 8, planted 1984
Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 8, planted 1998
Malbec, planted 2006
Planted in 1984, Klipsun Vineyards is known for its powerful and elegant Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Since its inception, grapes from Klipsun have been purchased by an elite group of Washington wineries including Sparkman, Quilceda Creek, Seven Hills, Col Solare, Betz Family and others. Since 1990, more than 45 wines made in part from Klipsun grapes have achieved scores of 90+ or higher from the most influential reviewers, and four wines made from Klipsun grapes have earned perfect 100-point reviews from Robert Parker. Terlato Wine Group acquired the renowned 120-acre Klipsun Vineyards in the Red Mountain AVA of Washington State in April 2017 and plans to continue selling grapes to high-quality winemakers. The vineyard is widely known as one of the preeminent in the world and was named one of the “25 Great Vineyards of the World” by a top wine publication.
“This is an important acquisition for us,” said Bill Terlato, CEO and president of Terlato Wine Group. “Klipsun Vineyards is the source of some of the most coveted fruit in the state and Red Mountain is an area of Washington we’ve always admired. We intend on being a steward of this property for many generations.”
Klipsun Vineyard joins a prestigious group of vineyard holdings in the Terlato Wine Group, including: Chimney Rock, Mee Lane, Pope Valley, and the Estate Vineyard at Rutherford Hill in Napa; Sanford & Benedict and La Rinconada in the Sta Rita Hills; Malakoff Vineyard in Victoria, Australia and holdings in Friuli Colli Orientali, Italy. The word “Klipsun” means “sunset,” in the language of the Chinook Wawa, an American Indian tribe of the area.
Back in those early days, long before Klipsun became known as one of the most prestigious vineyards in Washington State, Patricia Gelles often wondered what she’d gotten herself into. “Oh, I thought that all the time,” she said.
The public relations executive moved to the Tri-Cities in 1974 with her husband, David. While working at Westinghouse, he became friends with Jim Holmes and John Williams, also engineers and the original groundbreakers in growing grapes on Red Mountain.
“We helped them plant the first vineyards, with John on the tractor, we walked behind him, sticking vines in the soil,” Gelles said.
Years later, Holmes and Williams called with news that neighboring land was for sale. “It took us a while to get there. At first, we were going to lease it from the Kennewick Irrigation District, which had acquired the property during the Depression, but we eventually bought it,” she said.
The plan was – and remains to this day – to plant only varietals the couple loved to drink: Sauvignon blanc and Semillon as well as Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot and Nebbiolo went in later, followed by some Malbec and, perhaps there will be some Petit Verdot in the future, but no Cabernet franc.
But before vines went in, there was a well to be dug. It went deep, more than 600 feet, into the Priest Rapids aquifer. Gelles consulted with Clay Mackey in the beginning about where to plant on the 160-acre spread. Once the vines went in, the reality of the second stage of the operation struck: “I realized I had to go and sell these grapes,” Gelles said.
Well, she didn’t have to work too hard. “Rob Griffin came calling in 1987,” she said of the former winemaker for Hogue Cellars and stalwart at his own Barnard Griffin since the mid-1980s. “And then there was Casey McLellan from Seven Hills in 1991. It snowballed from there.”
Those two veteran winemakers, along with Quilceda Creek’s Alex Golitzen was among Klipsun’s first fans and have been a steady customer since the beginning, with Casey being one of the first vintners to make a Klipsun Vineyard designated wine.
“I had just come back from attending Davis and tasted a barrel sample of the Klipsun Cabernet,” McClellan recalled. “It really stood out. It was powerful, had great structure and a bit of dustiness in the nose. It reminded me of the great Rutherford Bench Cabs.” In the nearly three decades since the vineyard was first planted, there have been changes: vines that were struggling have been ripped out and replaced with different clones, the couple acquired another 40 acres and hired a vineyard manager, Julia Kock. And they’ve had a commitment to sustainability long before that became a trendy term.
“We haven’t used herbicide in 25 years,” Gelles said. They’ve also kept a cover crop in between rows to keep the dust down and have always used drip irrigation, so they can control the amount of water the plant receives. “We don’t believe in stressing a vine,” Gelles said. “If you stress a vine too much and then have a bad winter, it can die.”
She paints a portrait of Klipsun Vineyards for those who have never been: “It’s high desert, where we get just six inches of rain a year.” Within the vineyard, there are variations in soil makeup, but Klipsun enjoys the dramatic shift in temperature during the summer months, when the hot days turn into cool nights.
“That’s where you get the great acids developing,” she said. Gelles would love for more wine tourists to visit Red Mountain and the wineries in and around the Tri-Cities to get a first-hand view of what makes the place so special.
Excerpt from an article by Leslie Kelly
Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 8, planted 1980
Marsanne, planted 2010
Grenache Blanc, planted 2010
Grenache Noir, planted 2010
Viognier, planted 2010
Syrah, Joseph Phelps Clone, planted 1998
Dick Boushey’s plan was to live in the Yakima Valley for one year. That was in 1975. Like many from the west side of Washington, the wide-open spaces and near-constant blue skies attracted him and have kept Boushey here for near 40 years. Today, Boushey, 62, is one of the top viticulturists in the United States. Not bad for a kid from the Tacoma suburb of Sumner who wanted to be a banker.
“I had an uncle who farmed over here,” he said. “Dad always liked the Yakima Valley and wanted to move here.”
The family bought an apple orchard, and Boushey, who graduated from the University of Puget Sound, moved over first, planning to stay for just one year.
“The one year turned into four years,” he told Great Northwest Wine. “Then I met Luanne (his wife). She grew up in Bellevue and moved here for two years for a teaching job. We’re still here.”
Back then, there wasn’t much to the Washington wine industry. But Boushey, who already had cultivated a love for wine, met many of the legends of the industry, including Dr. Walter Clore, a Washington State University researcher known as “the father of Washington wine.”
But Boushey wasn’t so sure the Washington wine industry was really viable until he tasted the legendary Chateau Ste. Michelle 1975 Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that proved great reds could be made here.
“That was so good,” he said. “So I sort of took the gamble, and it turned out.”
Boushey began planting wine grapes on his farm north of Grandview. It wasn’t – and still isn’t – the most sexy area of Washington to grow wine grapes, but it has turned out to be one of the best.
“There was a grape culture here, and there wasn’t in other places,” he said. “It was almost all row crops in Mattawa and the Horse Heavens.”
Otis Vineyard, planted in 1957 by Otis Harlan, is not far from Boushey Vineyard, and that also attracted him to planting wine grapes. In 1980, Boushey put his first vines in the ground, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc.
“Nobody wanted Chenin Blanc, and it got botrytis,” Boushey said, so he pulled it out and stuck exclusively with red grapes for the next two decades. After a few years, Boushey became interested in Syrah.
“What hooked me was I was over at Columbia Winery, and I wanted to try David Lake’s 1988 Syrah,” Boushey said. “This was the best wine I’d had in a long time, and I wanted to grow some of it.”
He couldn’t get any plants, but by 1993, he convinced Mike Sauer, owner of Red Willow Vineyard, to provide him with some cuttings. Sauer had planted the first Syrah in the state in 1985, and that is what made the 1988 Syrah that Boushey tasted at Columbia.
“It has done really well,” he said.
Boushey Vineyard’s site is much cooler than Red Mountain, which is less than 30 miles to the east. The difference in ripening time can be two to three weeks, which winemakers love for flavor development.
The first winemaker to take Boushey Vineyard’s Syrah was Doug McCrea of McCrea Cellars in Olympia. Today, the big players include Sparkman Cellars, Long Shadows, Forgeron, among others. He now grows more than 38 acres of Syrah – and wishes the block was larger.
“Everybody tells me Syrah is overdone, but I’m always short in Syrah,” he said.
Overall, Boushey has planted 160 acres of wine grapes, of which 15 percent is white varieties. Starting in 2003, he began planting such Rhône whites as Marsanne, Roussanne, Picpoul, Grenache Blanc and Viognier. He also grows Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
Boushey also grows another 140 acres of apples, cherries and juice grapes. He is a big deal in juice grapes, sitting on the board of directors for National Grape, the farmers cooperative that has owned Welch’s since 1952. With about 200,000 tons harvested annually, Washington is the nation’s largest grower of Concord grapes.
“Dick has a great ability to balance crop and canopy,” Hoppes said. “He knows he’s in a cooler site, and he’s patient. He has a lot of wisdom, and he’s not one to panic. He just lets things get ripe.”
Boushey has been a home winemaker since 1975, and he loves sitting in on blending sessions with winemakers.
“That’s really helped me to be a better grower,” Boushey said. “I understand the chemistry. That’s why I like working with the winemaker – you can go back and tweak things in the vineyard.”
So might there be a Boushey Winery one day? The thought crosses his mind constantly.
“I think I don’t have time,” he said. “Maybe someday. It would be fun, but then I’d have to sell it.”
Plus, Boushey loves what he does now.
“I’m going to farm until I fall off the tractor.”
Excerpt from article by Andy Perdue
Cabernet Sauvignon, planted 2005
Sauvignon Blanc, planted 2005
Malbec, planted 2012
Merlot, planted 1998
In our program since 2013, Oasis is a cooler site in the eastern end of the Yakima Valley, situated near Olsen Estate Vineyard. Oasis is a diversified farming operation, farming vineyard, orchard and hops. Owner Brenton Roy, is a fourth generation Yakima Valley farmer. His grandfather first planted vinifera grapes in 1968. Today with a collective 35+ years experience, Oasis Farm tends nine varieties of wine grapes and sells to five different wineries. Grape varietals currently grown include: Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Sangiovese.
Chardonnay, planted 1991
Roussanne, planted 2006
Grenache Noir, planted 2005
Merlot, planted 1998
Cabernet Sauvignon, planted 2007
Petit Verdot, planted 2002
Petite Sirah, planted 2006
Syrah, Joseph Phelps Clone, planted 2000
Syrah, Clones 877 and 470, planted 2012
There is a reason we source many different blocks from Olsen. It’s quality. Leif Olsen and team are perhaps one of Washington’s best kept secrets. Long a superb grower, it was not until they launched their eponymous winery that folks outside of the state started to take notice. Sadly the winery went away. But for us, it has been a blessing. We are privileged to purchase fruit from a number of their “reserve” blocks, or fruit that had gone into their own special labels. Like the syrah and petit verdot. This fruit goes into our Darkness and Kingpin, both among our most sought after wines. We could, and will go on and on. Just not now.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 337, planted 2015
New for us in 2018, Red Willow is located in the northwest corner of the Yakima Valley and on the south slopes of Ahtanum Ridge, within the bounds of the Yakima Indian Reservation.
Some 12,000 years ago, the peninsula shaped land formation was bordered by water during the repeated Lake Missoula floods, which occurred at the end of the ice age.
Due to its higher elevation, 1200-1300 feet, the peninsula vineyard site was above the water level and thus was not affected by the water deposited silt and sand that much of the valley floor received. Its soils are poorer and more ancient than those of lower elevations.
The mid 1920’s brought irrigation canals to this part of the valley. Overnight, sage brush and range grass gave way to farms of grain, alfalfa hay, potatoes, hops and vegetables. Included in this first wave of settlers was Clyde Stephenson, the first generation to farm the land on which Red Willow is located. At this time, the main crops were potatoes and alfalfa hay along with cattle.
In the 1950’s and 60’s, the farm expanded with the presence of the second generation, Harold Stephenson. More acres were added and deep wells (1,000 ft.) were drilled so that water could be pumped to higher elevation fields. The method of irrigation changed from the ditch flooding of flat fields to using some of the first wheel line sprinklers in the Yakima Valley. The crops grown were wheat, alfalfa hay, corn and the main crop, alfalfa seed.
1970 marked the beginning of the third generation to farm this land, Vern Stephenson (Harold’s son) and Mike Sauer (Harold’s son-in-law) both returned from college and started farming. Vern continued to work on the general farm while Mike began to experiment with grapes on some of the acres less suitable for field crops.
The first vineyard planted was in 1971. It was a 30 acre Concord vineyard along with a few token rows of wine grapes, Chenin Blanc and Semillon. Ironically, these two wine varieties did not survive on the rich soil where the concords were planted. This was the first of dozens of lessons to be learned the hard way.
1973 was a significant year for the newly named Red Willow Vineyards. Prior to that, it was known as the grape division of Latum Creek Ranch. A local county extension agent introduced Mike to the well respected WSU Viticulturist, Dr. Walt Clore, and this led to many cooperative efforts with the WSU Prosser Experiment Station. A weather station was installed to compare temperature data with other areas around the state. An experimental plot with over 20 varieties of wine grapes was planted at Red Willow and later many wines were made from this “college plot” and the wines were compared with other regions around the northwest.1973 was also the year that the first block of wine grapes were planted, three acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. Although this vineyard suffered many afflictions in early years – weeds, rabbits, grass hoppers, and sporadic irrigation – the lasting lesson learned early on proved true, “wine grapes do best on poor soil and vines love the hillside.” This axiom would become a lasting principal for Red Willow.
1978 was the beginning of a long lasting relationship between Red Willow and Associated Vintners, later to be called Columbia Winery. A contract was signed by Lloyd Woodburne, one of the key founders of Associated Vintners. A year later the youthful Master of Wine, David Lake, was hired as wine maker.
His hiring would have a profound effect on the development of Red Willow. In 1981, he chose to vineyard designate the Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Willow and that pattern has continued to the present date. His world prospective of wine often brought suggestions concerning the planting of different varieties. Perhaps the variety David was most influential in jointly introducing with Red Willow is Syrah. Other less known varieties experimented with and made into wine are Cabernet Franc, Mataro, Tempranillio, Malbec, Viognier, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo.
Since this is a new grape growing region, discovering which varieties make the best wine and how to best grow them has been a trial and error process. Likely experimentation will go on for at least another generation.
1982 was the first sizable expansion of wine grapes for Red Willow. 20 acres each of White Riesling and Gewurztraminer were planted. Shortly after this planting white wine grape prices plunged and it would be years later before they would modestly recover. Further planting took place every few years several acres at a time and always red wine varieties. The vineyards developed were usually steep hillsides that took weeks of bulldozing before they were suitable for planting. Perhaps the most distinguishing hallmark of Red Willow is the diversity and complexity of its soil found on these hillsides.
In 1992, after visiting the vineyards of Northern Italy and the Chianti region, Mike returned home impressed with the identity assigned to each small vineyard and the importance given to the slope and direction of slope. Given varieties were planted on certain slopes. Inspired by this trip to Italy, along with the death of longtime friend, Monsignor Mulcahy plans were made to develop some of the last and most difficult acres and to build a stone chapel honoring the memory of the Monsignor.
The hilltop chapel built with stones from the farm, took three years to complete. Planting of the hillsides around the chapel started in 1993 and was completed in 1997 with most of the vines planted being Syrah or Viognier.
This chapel would become the focal point of tours and photography, yet more than this; it gives an identity to the site.
As George Rainbird says in An Illustrated Guide to Wine, “Four things go into the making of wine, whether it be good, bad or indifferent.
- First of all, the soil from which the vine grows;
- second, the climate, particularly the sun or the amount of sunshine which shines upon the vine in any given year;
- third, the type of grape used in the making of the wine;
- and last, but by no means least, the hand of the vigneron who makes the wine.
The first is immovable and permanent, the second variable, the third important, and the last human. When these four come into alignment, the result can be a near miracle, and by the grace of God this sometimes happens.”
From the Red Willow website
Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 191, planted 2015
Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 8, planted 2005
Merlot, planted 2015
New for us in 2018, Discovery is located on a bluff overlooking Crow Butte park on the Columbia River. Elevation is 200-600′ with a south – southeastern aspect and a 6% slope. The soils are made up of deposits produced by the Missoula floods and the Columbia River gorge winds; wind blown loess over fractured basalt is the growing medium for this vineyard. Soils are shallow, sandy, and are well drained for both water and air, making this a great site for world-class wine grapes.
The site is 85 acres, with 40 acres planted to the vineyard. 12 acres planted 5×8-1089 plants per acre and 28 acres planted at 3×8 high-density 1815 plants per acre. They grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Cabernet Franc.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 8, planted 2006
Cabernet Franc, Clone 1, planted 2006
Petit Verdot, Clone 2, planted 2006
New for us in 2019, Corvus Vineyard is located in the Red Mountain AVA – the smallest AVA in Washington State at just over 4000 acres. Located in the rain shadow of the cascade mountain range in the south central region of Washington State, the Red Mountain AVA is acclaimed for its red varietals and is well known for its superb growing conditions – well drained soil, good air movement and long warm growing days with cool nights during the growing season. The region consistently produces some of the highest scoring wines across the globe. The vineyard is planted in a high-density design (5×5), under drip irrigation using VSP trellising techniques. The cultivars planted include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot and a small amount of Mourvèdre.
Pinot Noir, Dijon Clone 777, planted 1998
Temperance Hill Vineyard is a 100 acre vineyard made up of roughly 20 different blocks of wine grapes. The site itself is 200 acres (lots of room to grow) in the west Eola Hills, just west of Salem, Oregon. It has an elevation range of 660 to 860 feet making it a cool, late site; excellent growing conditions for Pinot Noir. The soils are predominantly Nekia, Rittner and Jory. The site is thought to be the remnants of an ancient volcano and grapes are planted on many different slopes with varying exposures.
80% of the vineyard is planted in Pinot Noir, the rest is made up of Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris. The oldest vines at Temperance were planted in 1980 and 81 and are on a hanging trellis system. The more recent plantings of Dijon clone material are on a single upright vertical trellis system. The latest plantings are on a single arm Guyot system and have 1550 vines per acre. Some of the blocks in the latest planting are Dijon clone Pinot Noir and some are Pommard clone.
Dai Crisp took over management of the vineyard in 1999 and since then has farmed it all in accordance with Oregon Tilth Organic Certification standards. The vineyard is both Food Alliance and Salmon Safe Certified. All the materials used in the vineyards are OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) certified or Tilth approved. Dai uses mechanical cultivation rather than herbicides and usually does two jobs at once, like mowing while in-row cultivating, to increase the efficiency of fuel and tractor use. All the handwork is done by a 13 man crew, the core of which has been with Dai since 1999. The target crop level for the pinot noir is two tons to the acre and the fruit goes to 20 clients including Adelsheim, Bergstrom, Brooks, Chehalem, Elk Cove, Evesham Wood, JK Carriere, Lange, Love and Squalor, Lumos, Mystic, Panther Creek, Pheasant Court, R. Stuart & Co., Ransom, Sparkman, St. Innocent, Stevenson-Barrie, Union Wines and Wiles Cellars.