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Breaking News:

Scott Paul Wines
Names New Winemaker

David Hill Vineyards
Names New Winemaker

Spring Valley Vineyard
Joins Chateau Ste Michelle Family

Panther Creek Cellars
Purchased by
Chambers McMinnville LLC

Supreme Court
Overturns Interstate Wine Ban

WA State Wine Commission:
New Exec Director Search

Taste Washington
April 8-12 -It's Hip to Spit!

" Sideways" Pinot noir
from A to Z Winery

First Dundee Appellation
Pinot noir Released





with permission of Wine Press NW

Corus Estates & Vineyards, based in Seattle, has a fascinating history - and it gets more interesting all the time.

Corus can trace its beginnings to the late 1950s when a group of University of Washington professors got together to make wine and formed Associated Vintners. AV was Washington's first producer dedicated to wines made from European (vinifera) grape varieties. In the early '80s, AV became Columbia Winery and moved from Seattle to nearby Woodinville. In the '90s, it acquired other wineries, including Covey Run and Paul Thomas in Washington and Ste. Chapelle and Pintler (now Sawtooth) in Idaho. The parent group overseeing these wineries became Corus Brands, and it planted a huge vineyard in the eastern Columbia Gorge called Alder Ridge.

Earlier this decade, Corus sold most of its wineries (Columbia, Covey Run, Paul Thomas and Ste. Chapelle) to wine giant Canandaigua and was left with Sawtooth Winery, its two estate vineyards in Idaho's Snake River Valley and Alder Ridge Vineyard. Led by CEO Stan Baty and President Ken McCabe, Corus began to rebuild and launched the highly regarded Zefina Winery in Seattle, the Alder Ridge label and Battle Creek, a Pinot Noir label in Oregon's Willamette Valley.

On Monday, Corus announced the opening of a new custom-crush facility in Dundee, Ore., right in the middle of Ya mhill County. Called Twelfth and Maple Wine Co., it is a 70,000-square-foot operation that will be used to make the award-winning Battle Creek wine. It also will make wines for such top Oregon producers as Erath, Hatcher Wineworks, A to Z, Brooks, Daedalus and Francis Tannahill. Former Rex Hill winemaker Aron Hess will oversee production of all wines made at the facility, and Sam Tannahill will continue his role as consulting winemaker for Battle Creek.

Scott Paul Wines names New Winemaker
Kelley Fox both Winemaker and Operations Manager

Scott Paul Wines, a producer of ultra-permium Oregon Pinot noir, has hired Kelley Fox as winemaker and operations manager. Kelley was previously with Oregon pioneer Eyrie Vineyards as assistant winemaker. She has held winmaker positions at Hamacher Wines, Torri Mor, and worked the 2004 harvest at New Zealand's Gibbston Valley.

David Hill Winery names Jason Bull New Winemaker

David Hill Winery, in Oregon's North Willamette Valley, has named Jason Bull as their new winemaker.Bull brings with him a Bachelor of Science degree in Enology from California State University, Fresno, and 15 years experience in the wine business. For the past four years, Jason was winemaker at Laurel Ridge Winery outside Carlton, Oregon. Prior to that Jason worked in Napa and Sonoma Counties in California for Flora Springs Winery & VIneyards, Benziger Family Winery, and Von Strasser Winery.

In addition to his position at David Hill, Bull also makes wine for a number of small Yamhill County producers, three of which will be joining David Hill Winery for their production: La Dolce Vita Vineyards, Kason Vineyards, and La Bonne Terre Vineyards.

With sweeping views of Oregon's coast range, David Hill Vineyards is one of the most picturesque wine venues in the Willamette Valley. The winery's grapes hail from the oldest vines in the valley, and its tasting room is located in a historic farmhouse built in 1883. The farm is on 140 acres of which 40 acres are planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer.

All of David Hill's wines are produced exclusively from its estate, including three premium levels of Pinot Noir; one estate Pinot Gris; and two ports, an estate white port made from the Muscat grape, and a tawny port made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes.

We've enjoyed Jason's wines from Laurel Ridge for several years at Avalon and are excited to try his creations for David Hill Winery.

Oregon Winemaker and Vineyard Owner
Form Union Wine Co.

Ryan Harms, head winemaker at Rex Hill Vineyards in Newberg, Oregon, and George Hillberry, owner of La Colina Vineyard and Chehalem Mountain Vineyard in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, have formed a partnership creating Union Wine Company and have purchased Kings Ridge, a brand formerly owned by Rex Hill. Both veterans in the Oregon wine industry, Harms and Hillberry’s partnership stems from their personal passion for well-valued wine and their joint philosophy that the best wines are a union of gifted winemaking skills and precise farming techniques in the vineyard. Kings Ridge was first introduced by Rex Hill Vineyards in 1988. As part of the purchase, Union Wine Company acquired existing 2003 Kings Ridge Pinot Noir inventory from Rex Hill. Harms and Hillberry intend to grow the Kings Ridge production in the coming years, focusing largely on Pinot Noir.
from Wine Business Online

“Spring Valley Vineyards Leased
to Ste. Michelle Wine Estates”

After the Death of the Winemaker,
Family Lost the Impetus for the Winery

By Christina Kelly
Avalon Editor/Writer

Dean Derby, Shari Corkrum Derby,
and Gaynor Derby

When Dean and Shari Derby lost their son Devin, winemaker for Spring Valley Vineyards in a car accident last year, the couple struggled with the idea of what to do with the winery. The pioneering wheat farmers were both in their 70s, and not looking forward to the intense work of keeping a premium winery at the top of the heap.

The answer came this week when Washington’s largest wine company, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, agreed to lease the winery, vineyard, all equipment and all product for the next 10 years.

“This is a real tribute to our son Devin, to keep the winery in production with the quality that people have come to expect,” said Dean Derby, who along with his wife Shari began producing Spring Valley wines in 1999. The family has grown grapes for other wineries since about 1992.

“Our original intent was to diversify from wheat by growing grapes,” Derby said. “We called our son Devin to come out (from Chicago) and help build a winery and make wine. When he got killed, we didn’t know whether we could keep doing it.”

Devin Derby died in a one-person vehicle accident when he rolled his truck on Dec. 13. His widow, Mary, is no longer involved in the winery, although it is acknowledged that she had the palate for blending the wines. The Derbys hired a new winemaker and reorganized after the first of the year, but it was clear to the couple that they could not continue farming wheat, overseeing the wine business and participating in their other financial interests at their age.

“We aren’t people who just sit around in retirement,” Derby said. “We can still take care of the wheat business, but leasing the winery took a load off us. We might have considered running it 20 years ago, but not today. We did not want to see the quality that Devin built up, and the reputation, decline.”

The Derbys only had one company in mind when they thought about leasing the winery—Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. The couple had previously sold grapes to Northstar, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates’ premium Merlot winery. Dean said he met Ted Baseler, president and CEO of Ste. Michelle Estate three years ago while traveling on an airplane and was impressed with his dedication to great wines. When the couple decided to offer the winery in lease, Dean called Baseler.

“We feel fortunate that Dean and Shari Derby called us to take Spring Valley wines into the future, building on a past of excellence from their spectacular vineyard,” Baseler said. “These are some of the most remarkable wines made anywhere in the world today.

“Our plan for Spring Valley Vineyard is to continue to produce wine that expresses the terroir of this small estate vineyard,” Baseler continued. “It is very exclusive and will continue to be a limited-production release. We will slightly increase production as a few acres of new plantings produce fruit.”

Under the agreement, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates will acquire the winery and the brand name Spring Valley and all the wine in bottle and barrel. IT will lease the vineyard with a long-term contract. The farm has been in the family of Shari Corkrum Derby for nearly 100 years, so there was never a consideration of buying the property outright. The Derbys also farm about 1,000 acres of wheat and about 40 acres of grapes.

When Dean Derby contacted Baseler, he said it took about five seconds for Baseler to quickly agree that he was interested in a deal. Prior to making such premium wines, Spring Valley grapes were the most highly sought after in the Walla Walla wine community and beyond.

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates has not determined the winemaker for Spring Valley, although Derby said they will interview the current winemaker, Brian Carlson. He said if any of his five grandchildren, ranging in age from 4 to 22, want to work in the winery, they will likely find a spot.

“This way, we keep the farm in the family, and the lease takes us to the next level,” Derby said. “We will keep the name and the quality under Ted Baseler’s watch. And, we’ll enjoy remaining here without all the work involved.”

Spring Valley makes Uriah, which is a blend primarily made of merlot, in addition to Frederick (primarily cabernet sauvignon), Nina Lee (100 percent merlot) and Muleskinner (100 percent merlot). The wines are named for early family pioneers of the Corkrum family.

By adding Spring Valley Vineyards to their premium wine portfolio, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates will be producing some of the top wines in the state, including Northstar of Walla Walla, Chateau Ste. Michelle Ethos, Walter Clore Private Reserve, Eroica Riesling and Col Solare. Spring Valley will continue to have a limited production, so the wines will not be available in all markets.

“I think this is probably the best of the situation,” said a Walla Walla winemaker who once purchased grapes from Spring Valley. “When Devin died, it was pretty traumatic—no one wants to outlive their children. This way, they can still see what Devin built up, keep the land, and feel confident that Ste. Michelle will keep the wines premium.”

Panther Creek Cellars
Acquired by
Owners of Hinman - Silvan Ridge Wineries

Panther Creek Cellars, founded in 1986, and known for its small production single vineyard Pinot noirs, has been purchased by Chambers McMinnville LLC. Chambers McMinnville owns Hinman and Silvan Ridge wineries, both based southwest of Eugene, Oregon in the Southern Willamette Valley. The Chambers family also owns the Eugene Register Guard newspaper and is prominent in the region.

Panther Creek Cellars was founded by Ken Wright, who made the wines through 1993, when he left to found Ken Wright Cellars, after selling the winery to current owners Ron and Linda Kaplan. St Innocent owner and winemaker Mark Vlossak made the wines for several years, followed by current winemaker Michael Stevenson (who also has his own Stevenson Barrie label).

Purchasing Panther Creek gives Chambers McMinnville a base in the North Willamette Valley and a lineup of higher end Pinot noirs to add to their portfolio. While Silvan Ridge, the higher end of the two wineries owned by Chambers, makes a reserve Pinot noir, the winery has not produced many small production, single vineyard, high end Pinots. The Panther Creek acquisition gives Silvan access to Panther Creek's restaurant customers, key to a winery's success.

Complementing Silvan's access to restaurants, Panther Creek wines will gain access to the markets in which Silvan and Hinman are strong, especially grocery stores with strong wine sections (Fred Meyer, Whole Foods, etc.). In theory, Panther Creek and SIlvan/Hinman could share grapes, equipment, and personnel. And Panther Creek's location gives Chambers a base in the North Willamette, including a popular tasting room in the Panther Creek winery building, a historical old firehouse in the center of a town known for its wine tasting attractions.

Ron and Linda Kaplan will continue to be involved with the winery, and Michael Stevenson will continue as winemaker, according to press releases.

US Supreme Court
Overturns Interstate Wine Shipping Ban
21st Ammendment does not Trump Interstate Commerce

By a 5-4 vote, the US Supreme Court today ruled that states' bans on their residents having wine shipped to them directly, versus purchasing the wine through a distributor or retailer, is unconstitutional. States cannot prohibit consumers from buying wine directly from out-of-state wineries if they allow wineries to ship wine within their state.

The opinion states: "It is evident that the object and design
of the Michigan and New York statutes is to grant in-state
wineries a competitive advantage over wineries located
beyond the States' borders."

" In-state wineries, by contrast, can obtain a license for direct sales to consumers. The differential treatment between in-state and out-of-state wineries constitutes explicit discrimination against interstate commerce."

The decision applies specifically to laws in New York and Michigan, but has implications for winelovers across the US. Justic Kennedy wrote, in the majority decision, that states can regulate liquor, but that power does not allow states to "ban or severely limit the direct shipment of out-of-state wine while simultaneously authorizing direct shipment by in-state producers".

The decision may prompt the lossening of state restrictions on wine shipping, but may also prompt some states to ban all wine shipping, in-state as well as out-of-state. A long period of change in state laws may follow this decision.

Texas recently changed its laws and will allow interstate wine shipping starting in September, with the licensing of shippers in Texas. Virgina also has a licensing process in place to allow wine shipping into the state with some restrictions.

States with fledgling wineries may be more likely to change their laws to allow their own wineries to continue to ship in-state. The 24 states that ban direct shipping from out-of-state wineries include

The majority was made up of Judges Kennedy, Scalia, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer. In a minority dissent, Judge Clarence Thomas stated that the 21st Ammendment covers shipping. He was joined by Rehnquist, O'Connor, and Stevens in the dissent.

Washington State
Launches New Executive Director Search

April 7, 2005
by Christina Kelly, Avalon Staff Editor/Writer

The Washington Wine Commission is launching a new search for an executive director to lead local, national and international programs to promote Washington state wine.

The previous director, Jane Baxter-Lynn, who held the position for nearly six months, resigned last month for personal reasons. In the interim, former executive director Steve Burns is filling in until a new director is selected.

Washington state is the second largest wine producer in the United States (behind California). The executive director, along with the existing staff, oversees a $1.5 million budget, incorporating programs in marketing, public relations, public affairs, member relations, export outreach and a new global branding campaign.

“The executive director position is one of the most high-profile, sought-after careers in the wine industry,” said Ted Baseler, chairman of the Washington Wine Commission. “We have already received an unprecedented level of interest in the position and encourage qualified candidates to continue to apply.”

Qualified candidates should be an enthusiastic and long-committed spokesperson for the wine industry, representing the interests of the more than 300 wineries and 350 grape growers within Washington. The executive director also leads the Washington Wine Institute in advocating the interests of the Washington wine industry on regional and national public affairs and legislative issues, so some legislative experience is warranted. The ideal candidate should be a leader and consensus builder, suggesting innovative programs and activities for the industry locally, nationally and internationally. A strong background in marketing, public relations and public affairs is desired.

Extensive travel is required, since Taste Washington travels to European and Asian countries.

“We need someone who knows the Washington wine industry well,” said Barrister winemaker Greg Lipsker, from Spokane. “We want to be represented in the eastern half of the state too—it is where most of the fruit is grown.”

A search committee, led by Washington Wine Commissioner Mark Levine, will conduct interviews in May with hopes to fill the position by July 1.

About Christina Kelly

For more than 20 years, Christina Kelly worked as a newspaper reporter on the West Coast, covering education, public safety, government, business, environmental issues, entertainment and minority affairs.

During the same time, the Washington native began her lifelong interest in wine. After two decades in the news reporting business, Christina decided it was time to concentrate on her passion — the wine industry. She is our indispensable staff writer and columnist.

This intelligent, charming powerhouse graces the Northwest wine industry with her insights, tastings and conversations with those in an industry that has exploded in the past few years. Her column may tell us a funny story that relates to wine, introduce us to a dedicated winemaker with a vision, or provide us with consumer information to make good choices in a field crowded with great wines. Christina's column is one you'll want to read.

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