October 6, 2007
Those who know me well understand that I have a passion for Washington state wines and I’m also an avid Mariners’ fan. One of my all-time favorite Mariners is Edgar Martinez, whom I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of years back when I worked on the eastside of Seattle.
Those who read this blog know that I’ve written quite a few posts recently about our amazing journey to Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. Imagine our surprise to learn that Gar had visited the vineyard too!
According to Red Willow owner Mike Sauer, Edgar and his lovely wife Holly visited Red Willow Vineyard a couple of years ago for a charity event on behalf of the Children’s Hospital. They toured the vineyard and picked Syrah grapes from Row 11 (Edgar’s Mariners jersey number), which was then made into wine by then-winemaker for Columbia Winery, David Lake.
Oh, and as an aside, 80 percent of Syrah in Washington state was propogated from cuttings from Red Willow Vineyard where, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the first production of Syrah grapes in the state took place in 1988.
Wine and baseball … and writing about it … combines three of my passions into one post!
September 29, 2007
When we visited Red Willow Vineyard in early September, Mike Sauer talked passionately about the history of the land in the Yakima Valley and how it was affected by the repeated Lake Missoula floods at the end of the ice age. The area that became his peninsula vineyard, with its high elevation, was above the water level and not affected by the water-deposited silt and sand like much of the valley floor. By the time the first wine grapes were planted in 1973 at Red Willow Vineyard, the lasting lesson learned was wine grapes do best on poor soil and vines love the hillsides. The success of Red Willow Vineyard, where those 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon vines are still in production, demonstrates that.
Mike told the amazing story of Red Willow Vineyard to us that day. Rather than paraphrasing it here, I will point you to it on the Red Willow Vineyard Web site. However, I will share this, which is quoted on the Web site from 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.
September 25, 2007
The terroir — what exactly does that mean? According to Wikipedia’s definition, terroir is loosely translated as “a sense of place”– the type of soil, weather conditions, grapes and winemaking, all of which contribute to give a specific personality to the wine. At Red Willow Vineyard, terroir is all of the above and then some. As mentioned in a previous post, Red Willow owner and self-proclaimed farmer, Mike Sauer defines wine as bringing the soil, the site, the season and the efforts of many people together into a single vintage.
We visited Red Willow Vineyard in early September as part of a group of visitors from Columbia Winery’s Cellar Club. Mike talked passionately to us about the terroir which he, too, described as a sense of place. He told us the story of a Texas couple who enjoyed his wine so much in Dallas that the man brought his girlfriend up to Yakima Valley to visit Red Willow Vineyard, where he proposed to her in the vineyard’s distinct chapel on a hillside surrounded by vines. Mike then told us: “Hopefully, the terroir is also part of the special memories of your life.”
In our case, it most definitely is. We were engaged at a winery — Maurice Carrie Winery in Temecula, California –long before Washington wines became my passion. We go back to Maurice Carrie because it’s a special place for us, just like Red Willow Vineyard is a special place for that Dallas couple. But something tells me that we’ll also be going back to Red Willow Vineyard for one of our future anniversaries because it became a special place to us during our visit there.
September 15, 2007
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.