July 28, 2010
Winepress Northwest refers to the
Wahluke Slope as
"Washington Wine Country's Hidden Treasure"
Read about it here
May 22, 2009
Congratulations! On behalf of our esteemed 2009 Seattle Wine
Awards Tasting Panel, it is my sincere privilege to share with you
the following Grand Awards of Excellence for your wines:
Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
January 14, 2009
Lori Magaro, Marketing & Public Relations
Ray’s Boathouse, Café & Catering
6049 Seaview Avenue NW
Seattle, WA 98107
Phone: (206) 789-3770
WINNERS OF RAY’S BOATHOUSE 22ND ANNUAL
RETROSPECTIVE OF NORTHWEST WINES COMPETITION ANNOUNCED
Retrospective Wine Dinners held on January 22-23, 2009, 6:30 PM
– Every January, Ray’s Boathouse in Seattle, Washington conducts its
Retrospective of Northwest Wines competition and dinner. Now in its
22nd year, this wine-lover’s event has uncovered hidden gems from
up-and-coming wineries, as well as reaffirmed the well-deserved
praise earned by established wineries.
On January 6-7,
2009, Ray’s wine director Richard Kelsey assembled a panel of judges
consisting of sommeliers, wine writers and local wine experts to
blind-taste Northwest wines released in 2008. The wines were
submitted for judging by the winemakers and their distributors. All
Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia wineries that produce
grape-based wines were eligible to participate. This year,
nearly 400 wines were submitted. The categories for entry were Dry
Whites, Pinot Gris, Aromatic Whites, White Blends, Chardonnay, Pinot
Noir, Syrah, Merlot, Red Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Dessert.
blind-tasting, the judges meticulously evaluated the wines for
characteristics such as flavor, texture, aroma and composition. Each
judge assigned a numerical score based on their evaluation. The
wines with the highest combined scores won.
Ray’s Executive Chef Peter Birk has created an extraordinary menu to
complement the winning wines, available upon request. Due to demand,
the Retrospective Dinners will be presented on two consecutive
evenings, January 22 and 23, 2009, in Ray’s waterfront banquet room
with the winning winemakers in attendance.
The cost is $125.00 per guest, includes tax and gratuity. For
reservations, please call 206.789.3770 ext. 225.
This year’s winners
in each category are:
Whites: Hogue Cellars Fumé
Blanc, Columbia Valley 2007
Adelsheim, Willamette Valley 2007
Skylite Cellars Viognier, Columbia Valley 2007
Airfield Estates ‘Lightning’, Yakima Valley 2007
‘Cuvée Forêts Diverses’, Willamette Valley 2005
Ginkgo Forest Winery, Wahluke Slope 2006
Otis Kenyon, Walla Walla Valley 2006
Anton Ville Winery, Yakima Valley 2005
Brian Carter Cellars ‘Tuttorosso’, Yakima Valley 2005
Chateau Ste. Michelle ‘Ethos’, Columbia Valley 2005
Heaven’s Cave Icicles Riesling Ice Wine, Horse Heaven Hills 2005
information and the menu for the Retrospective Dinners, please
contact Lori Magaro at (206) 789-4130 ext. 220 or
Published in The South County Sun
Success Supplement - Feb. 14, 2007
New winery to open in Mattawa
Barrel tasting event planned for this spring
By Phillip Leitz
A third Mattawa winery will soon be
joining long-time player Fox Estates and relative newcomer Wahluke Wine
Mike Thiede’s tasting room for his
family’s fledgling Ginkgo Forest Winery isn’t finished and ready for business
quite yet, but Thiede is determined to have a barrel-tasting event still this
spring. Originally he’d set the date for March or April, but now figures he’d
better wait until May. He plans for the public tasting portion of the winery to
be open for business this fall.
Thiede has plans to bottle about
200 cases each of his 2005 vintage Cabernet-Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot. Just
this past year, Thiede began working with consulting winemaker Greg Chappell,
who also crafts wines as associate winemaker for Silver Lake Winery in the Yakima
Valley’s Rattlesnake Hills American
Viticultural Area (AVA).
Thiede plans to keep the winery in the 1000 to 1200 case per
year production range, at least initially. It’s a volume he feels he can handle
without too much more stress being added to his 20-acre wine grape operation.
Eventually, he hopes to reach the 5000 case level of wine production.
When the 20 acres are in full
production, Thiede said he plans for three to four tons of grapes per acre,
with a return of 160 to 180 gallons of wine per ton of grapes. That translates
to 1100 to 1500 potential cases of wine. “Quality is important and we want to
remain small,” he said.
But Thiede’s current 3200-square
foot facility is already a bit too small, especially since the winery changed
to oak barrels for aging at the request of winemaker Greg Chappell. Thiede is
convinced the toasted American oak barrels make a vast improvement in the
flavor of his red wines.
Thiede has been a full-time
orchardist for more than a dozen years now, with orchard situated about halfway
between Mattawa and Desert Aire and also directly west of the winery for a
total of about 120 acres of trees.
He began the planting of his twenty
acres of wine grapes seven years ago and in addition to merlot,
cabernet-sauvignon and syrah varieties, he has some producing “blending”
varieties. Thiede also sees some promise for some Barbera and Malbec varieties
he has on his vineyard as limited vintage stand-alones. He also was very
positive about how Pinot-Noir 777 was shaping up in his plantings.
“As a small winery we’ll be in a unique situation where we
can bottle up just a few barrels of a wine and make it work,” said Thiede.
Before Mike and his wife Lois took
on agriculture full-time, they both worked on the Hanford Project. Mike has an
undergraduate degree in botany and a Master’s of Science degree in Radiological
Science. He worked on the Arid Lands Ecology project for ten years creating
their initial eco-risk assessment models.
From a combination laboratory-field
science background like that, it’s not much stretch to the chemistry and
biological processes found in wine-making.
Thiede is also set up to do
maturity testing on grapes, so growers and winemakers can make sound harvest
decisions. He’s already been doing brix analysis and other maturity testing for
fellow growers in the area.
“I like to experiment and I really
do like trying new things,” said Mike of the wine-making adventure. “And the
economics made a lot of sense to me.”
With over 5200 acres of wine grape
vineyards, the Wahluke Slope produces about one-fourth of Washington
State’s grapes for use in
winemaking. The area has been quietly instrumental in establishing the state’s
reputation as a producer of consistently high-quality wines. Rosebud Ranches
was among the first pioneers to plant grapes on the Wahluke Slope, beginning
their vineyard located fairly high on the slope and tucked just below the main
Wahluke Branch Canal about ten miles northeast of Mattawa in 1978. That was
about the same time German wine-making behemoth F.W. Langguth established a
winery specializing in Reisling-style wine production out further east on the
slope. After some success, the firm abandoned production at the site.
That’s why it’s nice to see that
long-time operators of the Rosebud Vineyard Roy and Sharon Dobson recently got
a little recognition for their efforts. It turns out the well-established Stimson
Lane winery announced last December that they were
designating one of their Snoqualmie Vineyard red wines the ‘Rosebud Vineyard
2001 Cabernet Sauvignon.’
And it’s a real bargain at just $16
That’s putting Rosebud grapes in the
same class as the long-recognized and
named Chateau Ste. Michelle ‘Indian Wells’ Cabernet. (That one’s made from
grapes ‘just down the road’ between Mattawa and Desert Aire, by the way.)
And Milbrandt brothers Butch and
Jerry have garnered a lot of mention for the grapes that they grow near Mattawa
for winemakers from Walla Walla to
It’s nice to get some recognition when you’re doing
something right. About a year ago the Mattawa area got that recognition when
they received designation as the Wahluke Slope AVA. The area encompasses about
81,000 total acres of which over 5000 are planted to wine grapes. Long used to
blend rich and desired characteristics into wines produced from Port Townsend
to Walla Walla—and in fact helping to establish and cement some very fine
wine-making reputations in the state—the Mattawa area has at long-last been
recognized for the quality characteristics its grapes churn out year after
Mike Thiede is acutely aware of his
winery-tasting room venture opening up what is nearly virgin territory in the
The current climate has seen the
Fries family—those of Dundee, Oregon’s
Duck Pond fame—build their Washington
winery, Desert Wind Winery, in Prosser. Owners Doug and Jo Ann Fries, their two
sons, Matt and Greg Fries, and daughter Lisa Jenkins and her husband Scott are
all partners in the Desert Wind project, which is slated for a February 17
The Fries family has over 400 acres
of producing grapes in the Wahluke AVA, but
will turn those grapes into wine and entertain tourists in Prosser.
As will Butch and Jerry Milbrandt, who just recently
announced their plans to build a winery and tasting room in Prosser also.
The Milbrandts do operate a sizable
winery, Wahluke Wine Company, just west of Mattawa in a Port
of Mattawa industrial park. But
Wahluke Wine is a custom-crush facility where bulk wine is made for growers and
other wineries. The Milbrandt winery in Prosser will turn out quality wines
from their Sundance Vineyard and Katherine Leone Vineyard in the Wahluke AVA
as well as from the brothers’ 400-plus acre Evergreen Vineyard situated near
the Gorge amphitheatre.
But Thiede wants to join Fox Estate
Winery in remaining active in the commerce of the Mattawa area community. Fox
Estates, which is currently listed in the trade information as bottling in
excess of 5000 cases of wine annually, has a tasting room and has held their
Bratfest at the winery for the past few years.
“I much prefer doing business out
of the winery,” said Thiede of his plans. “I really want to produce a really
good local wine and build a reputation for quality.”
But Thiede noted that it’s also a scary prospect. “No one’s really selling wine out of a
tasting room,” he said, describing the marketing situation in the whole of the
Wahluke AVA. “No one knows what the potential is here along the highway.”
Thiede said Ginkgo
Forest has benefited a great deal
from the support and help of neighbors and friends. “The Port continues
developing parcels of ground here,” he said, referring not only to the lot he
purchased from the Port of Mattawa that his current winery building stands on,
but to the nearly 160 acres the Port more recently purchased from Taylor
Orchards to develop for commercial use. The port commissioners’ initial plans
are to offer the lots abutting the highway to wine interests for wineries and
“We have the potential to make as
good if not better wines than the Prosser area,” said Thiede. And it’s apparent
that Thiede must suspect that the area has the long-term potential to rival the
Prosser area as a destination for wine touristas also.
Thiede is targeting his production
at this point for the $25-30 dollar a bottle range.
In 2004, sales of Washington
wines had a retail value of $684.9 million. A quarter of that—arguably the new
Wahluke AVA’s contribution to that total—is over $170 million. That’s a
worthwhile contribution to Washington
State’s economic engine.
It’s nice to see people like Mike
and Lois Thiede taking chances and trying to keep some of that money local,
where it does us all the most good.
Mike and Lois Thiede’s Ginkgo
Forest Winery is located at 22904 Rd. T.7 SW just northwest of Mattawa and just
west of SR 243 in the Port of Mattawa
Wineries in the Wahluke Slope AVA:
Fox Estate Winery; The Wahluke Wine Company; Ginkgo
Forest Winery, Coventry
Selected Vineyards in the Wahluke Slope AVA:
Lucky Bohemian Farms, 260 acres (Mike and Laura Mrachek of Saint Laurent
Winery, owners); Indian Wells Vineyard (Chateau Ste Michelle); Rosebud Vineyard
(Roy and Sharon Dobson); Fox Estate Vineyard; Stone Tree Vineyard; Clifton
Vineyard, Katherine Leone Vineyard and Sundance Vineyard (Butch and Jerry
Milbrandt; Desert Wind Vineyard, 540 acres (Doug and Jo Ann Fries and family,
Duck Pond Cellars and Desert Wind Winery); Winebau Vineyard (Sagemoor Farms);
Wahluke Slope Vineyard; Dick Shaw
Vineyards; and, Jack Jones Vineyards.
Partial list of wineries using Wahluke Slope AVA
grapes: Bergevin Lane, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Chatter Creek, Columbia Crest,
Desert Wind, Duck Pond Cellars (Oregon), Hogue Cellars, Isenhower Cellars, K
Cellars, Latah Creek, Lost River Winery, Northstar, Sagelands, Snoqualmie
Vineyards, St. Laurent Winery , Syncline Cellars, Three Rivers Winery,
Methow Valley Winery and many more.
Outstanding grape varietals grown in the Wahluke Slope AVA:
Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Chenin Blanc.
(Barbera, Mourvèdre, Primitivo, Malbec, and Petit Verdot, relatively new
varietals to Pacific Northwest wine regions, are all
planted on Wahluke Slope.)