A fine vintage. The grapes ripened slowly in a cooler year and had plenty of hang time to develop their character.
Fine berry fruit with notes of spice, pepper, and smoke. Elegant, smooth palate with excellent length
The most celebrated red-wine vineyard in
Washington, Red Willow lies in the remote
northwestern corner of the Yakima Valley
Appellation. Mt. Adams' 1200-foot peak and the
Cascade foothills rise to the west. There are no other
vineyards within 20 miles. It is a fairly warm site
(mid-region 2 on the old UC Davis scale). At high
elevations, 1100 to 1300 feet, Red Willow has complex
soil formations and steep hillsides. Owner Mike Sauer
has developed the 120 acres of land with sensitivity and
respect for soil and slope. The basic land-form is a
peninsula of land jutting out from the south-facing
Ahtanum Ridge. The south slope of this peninsula
formation drops down into a saddle that runs southward
to rise upwards to a small hill. There are east, west, and
south-facing vineyards and these are divided into 40
small blocks of great red varieties, including seven terroirs
of Syrah. All these form a rich blending palette for
Columbia's winemaker David Lake.
A fine vintage. The grapes ripened slowly in a cooler year
and had plenty of hang time to develop their character.
Fine berry fruit with notes of spice, pepper, and
smoke. Elegant, smooth palate with excellent length
Columbia Winery was the first premium winery in Washington and the first in the state to produce vineyard-designate wines. Columbia Winery was founded in 1962 by ten friends, six of whom were University of Washington professors. Originally known as Associated Vintners, the group was united in the belief that vines could survive the harsh Washington winters and that fine wine could be made in Washington state.
Having worked alongside founding winemaker and Master of Wine, David Lake, Kerry Norton now oversees the Columbia Winery winemaking, handcrafting Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah sourced from the Columbia and Yakima Valleys.
View all Columbia Winery Wines
Washington's first appellation, Yakima Valley has over one third of the state's vineyards. The rolling foothills of the Cascades give the vines a good sun angle, so grapes are well-ripened come harvest time. Merlot dominates the plantings here, creating elegant wines with complex fruit, herbs & structure. Syrah continues to grow in popularity, creating blanced wines with spicy black fruit.
A few smaller, but notable appellations that lie within or just outside of Yakima Valley include:
Rattlesnake Hills, which gained AVA status in 2006, lies in the north with 17 wineries. Horse Heaven Hills, another recent sub-appellation hugs the south end of Yakima and is known for its outstanding vineyard sites that create incredible and collectible red wines. Red Mountain, known for its intense and delicious reds, is located on the eastern side of Yakima Valley.
Now the number two producer in the United States, Washington State has also grown in quality.
So how does a state known for rain and coffee produce high quality wines? They plant their grapes on the east side of the Cascade mountains, away from that ever-present rain cloud that sits along the coast. Perhaps wine grapes do well since the sandy loam soils east of the Cascade range give way to an almost desert-like land, saved from drought only by the helpful rivers that run through the area – and the good irrigation systems.
Thinking that the state would do best with typical northern growing grapes like Riesling and Gewurtztraminer, turns out the apple state is well-suited for reds, namely Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and, more recently, Syrah. Of course, whites have not been forgotten - Washington State Rieslings range from bone-dry to sweet, are well-structured and high quality, and Chardonnay dominates most of the other white plantings, making a range of wines. But the reds of the region, Merlot in particular, have made Washington State a quality force to be reckoned with.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Fruity
Red wines that are more fruit-forward and lighter in tannin and body.
Smooth & Supple
Medium bodied reds that go down easy, with smooth tannins and supple fruit.
Earthy & Spicy
Wines where earthy and/or spicy dominate the flavors – typically medium to full body.
Big & Bold
Full bodied wines that have concentrated fruit and are higher in alcohol and/or tannins. Some need age.