Red Willow Vineyard: Part II

In an earlier post, I described the wonderful people, the Sauer family, at Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. In the weeks ahead, I am going to write about the grapes, the terroir and more about the incredible story of the Sauer family. Right now, I’m going to tell you about how we met them in the first place.

As members of Columbia Winery’s Cellar Club, we signed up for a trip last weekend to visit Red Willow Vineyard and to join in the 25th anniversary celebrations at The Hogue Cellars in Prosser. (I’ll write about the Hogue visit in a future post.) The wine club makes this pilgrammage every year, and we highly recommend that you sign up next year. We had a fabulous time with a great group of people — wine enthusiasts from Edmonds through the Tri-Cities — and the club organizers, Michele Rennie and Dianna Murray.

The trip started in Yakima, where we gathered to take a short bus ride to Red Willow Vineyard. As I’ve mentioned before, Mike Sauer, his wife Karen and son Jon made this experience one we will always remember. First, we watched a film and a presentation about the Yakima Valley’s growth and history as a wine region. As we tasted Columbia Winery’s 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Willow and 2001 Syrah Red Willow and nibbled on ripe huckleberries, we learned about the terroir and the passion of grape growing. The respect that the Sauer family has for the soil, the slope and the climate was evident throughout the evening.

On we went to toast the vineyards with Columbia Winery’s 2000 Peninsula Red Willow, which we preferred even more than the previous vintage that we tasted last year. A fantastic BBQ in the vineyard was followed by a wagon ride to the hillside chapel, where we toasted the beautiful sunset with more excellent Red Willow wines. The chapel was built with stones from the farm and took three years to build. It proudly and distinctly stands, surrounded by hillside vines of Syrah and Viognier–both grapes were first grown in Washington state right there at Red Willow Vineyard.

The beauty of the vineyard took our breath away. The spirit of the land and the passion of the people who grow the grapes intensified our experience. At the top of that hillside, and throughout the evening, the wine club members, the organizers and our hosts, the Sauer family–all of us–shared a comraderie, a joy of the grape and the land where it grows, a love of the wine, and a deep pride in Washington state’s wine industry.