Oct 3 2018

A Trip to the Vineyards with Avennia - Part I

We are now well into harvest 2018 at Avennia.  70 tons of fruit have been brought in already and 31 stainless steel fermenters are working away, filling the winery with delicious aromas.  Only one empty fermenter remains, so it is a full house indeed.  We play Tetris with all the equipment on the floor, squeezing what we can into every single square inch.  Still 30 tons to go.

Back in August before the hustle of harvest began, we wanted to offer a special experience to all of our hard-working, knowledgeable, talented, and engaging staff who operate and manage our busy Woodinville Tasting Room.  So, we closed shop for 2 days, rented a minivan, stocked up on car snacks, and …. road trip!  Woodinville is a unique winemaking area, 3-4 hours drive from where most of our grapes are grown in the Yakima Valley, Columbia Valley, and Red Mountain AVAs.  So we took our team straight to the sources, to meet the people and families behind these iconic Washington plantings, and to better understand the land that gives us such bounty.  

We started at one of the oldest vineyards in the state, Red Willow Vineyard, where we were greeted by the gracious Sauer family who has farmed grapes on this land since the 1970s.    

All piled into their tractor caravan, Mike, John, and Rick gave us a tour of the various blocks, stopping along the way to show us the differences in the soils and stones. 

Red Willow is an integral part of our old vine Sestina, Left Bank Bordeaux Blend, one of our top-scoring flagship wines.  The Cabernet Sauvignon we source was planted in 1985, quite old for Washington state.  Just take a look at the age on that wood.  In 2014 (and again in 2016), this fruit was so exceptional, our winemaker Chris Peterson insisted it deserved its own reserve bottling, which sold out in a flash.

Across from the hilltop to the West, lies a separate planting called the Marcoux, from which we built our Oliane barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc blend, matching it with complementary fruit from Boushey vineyards (stay tuned, we go there later). 

And no visit to Red Willow is complete without seeing the Sauer family's hilltop chapel, their personal homage to the chapel at Hermitage, which reminds all visitors of the deep Sauer family faith.

After a quick taco truck lunch stop, we raced Southeasterly and up, up, up towards the Horse Heaven Hills.  Most of us had never visited the celebrated, iconic Champoux Vineyards before. For a good history of this vineyard, read Andy Perdue's article. In our tasting room this year, after pouring the wildly popular 2015 Cabernet Franc we released for the first time this past April, we were all anxious to visit. 

When we arrived we could hear crews working in the vines a few blocks over, and the evidence of their hard work colored the sandy ground.   

Dropping fruit is a tactic growers use at the end of a growing cycle to concentrate flavors and make sure the vine is putting all of its energy into producing quality wine grapes, rather than quantity.  Look at these gorgeous clusters.   

Next up, we sailed back down into the valley towards Snipes Mountain and Upland Vineyards Estate (and orchards).  The Newhouse family has a talent for growing many types of fruit (apples, cherries, etc), and their vineyards are no exception.  When we were fortunate enough in 2013 to start receiving some of their older vine Grenache, planted in 1999, we jumped at the chance.  Since then, our Justine Southern Rhône blend has really been shining. 

Check out the gorgeous views at Upland looking down one of our rows of Grenache.  

The last stop that day was at the home and vineyard of Dick and Luanne Boushey, royalty in Washington’s grape-growing world.  As always, they were gracious hosts to spend over 2 hours with us, and boy did we learn a lot.  If some growers are scientists, Dick is a true artist.   

L-R: Allison, Gary, Dick, Chris, John, Patrick, Andrew, Luanne

The end of our day was spent eating and drinking good Washington wines, and unfortunately (or fortunately) we didn’t get any photos of that.

Stay tuned for Part II.