The WBC10 post-conference excursion to Red Mountain, sponsored by the Red Mountain AVA Alliance, focused on two areas: education and celebration. The afternoon kicked off at Col Solare where Chateau Ste. Michelle’s head winemaker Kevin Corliss led about 50 bloggers on a tour of vineyard site selection and optimizing growing conditions. Kevin was followed by a sample of Col Solare’s Tuscan styled blend made in concert with the Antinori Family, as well as a barrel sample of the 2009 Cabernet. As we drank, geologist Dr. Alan Busacca explained that what made Red Mountain so unique is the variety of soil types, the most diverse geology of any AVA in the Northwest.
The group left Col Solare and embarked upon a short vineyard hike down to the Hedges Family Estate with one of the Red Mountain gurus: Dick Boushey, Jim Holmes, Chris Upchurch of DeLille Cellars, Alan Busacca, and Ryan Johnson of Grand Reve Vintners. Depending on which hike you were on you may have learned about vineyard management, orientation of the land, history of Red Mountain, the high tannin content of Red Mountain wines or newer planting techniques. At Hedges Estate bloggers were greeted by Christophe Hedges and treated to side by side tastings of Red Mountain wines compared the same varietals and vintages from some of the world’s most famed wine regions, including Barossa Valley, Cote Rotie, and Napa Valley.
The next stop was at the famed Ciel Du Cheval Vineyard, home to some of the most revered wines coming from the Northwest. This vineyard provides fruit for wines under the labels of Betz Family, DeLille Cellars, Andrew Will and Quilceda Creek. Jim Holmes talked to us from the back of his pick up truck, and walked us through the thinking behind the founding of Kiona Vineyard & Winery (which he and John Williams co-founded) and Red Mountain. This was a unique opportunity to hear from the literal roots of this AVA. Jim led us through some soil sampling exercises and allowed us to literally get our hands dirty. Our final stop was at Terra Blanca Winery where owners Keith & ReNae Pilgrim introduced us to their wines and led us through a selective tasting of their signature blend, the Onyx. When we walked into the caves, we were greeted with a 2009 barrel sample of Cabernet. Keith talked about the ageability of Red Mountain wine and guided us through a tasting of wines chosen to demonstrate the longevity of these wines: the 2006, 2001 and the 1999.
From there we adjourned to the Celebration; the Grand Tasting with 12 Red Mountain wineries including those named above as well as Alma Terra, Cooper Wine Company, Fidelitas, Goedhart Family, Hightower Cellars , Kiona , Portrait Cellars, and Tapteil Vineyard Winery . The tasting was followed by a Red Mountain Style BBQ by chef and fellow blogger Frank Magana, owner of the Prosser, WA, based winemaker hangout, Picazo717. Chef Frank treated guests to ostrich skewers, wild boar sausage with creamy polenta, and some serious St Louis style BBQ ribs. The post-conference excursion couldn’t have gone better. A big thank you from the Red Mountain AVA Alliance goes out to Keith & ReNae Pilgrim at Terra Blanca for hosting the dinner and letting folks stick around late into the night, and to Chef Frank Magana for an amazing meal. The Red Mountain AVA also extends thanks to the bloggers for coming out to see what Red Mountain is all about. Here’s to you.