Canoe Ridge Vineayrd


Canoe RIdge Vineyard History
Canoe RIdge VineyardOne day in 1982, Phil Woodward, cofounder of the Chalone Wine Group, was in Seattle and tasted a Chardonnay that was said to be one of Washington’s best. Impressed by the quality of the wine and intrigued by a winery that shared his last name—Woodward Canyon—he canceled his flight home, rented a car and set out to find the maker of that fine Chardonnay. The journey led him to the town of Lowden, in the very southeast corner of Washington State, home to Rick Small and Woodward Canyon Winery. This was the beginning of a long friendship between the two men that eventually led to an important introduction with a group of Washington farmers.

In 1989, these farmers started planting wine grapes on Canoe Ridge, up to that time home only to badgers and sagebrush. They were introduced to Phil and in 1990 a partnership between the Chalone Wine Group and 52 Washington investors was formed. The company was the first California fine wine company to invest in Washington State.

Under the leadership of CWG, the original 101 acres of plantings were finished and an additional 62 acres were developed in the years that followed. A total of 143 acres are now in full production.

Rick Small, Woodward Canyon Winery

Canoe Ridge Vineyard not only provides the winery with the fruit for their own wines, but a small amount is sold to two other wineries. For their friends at Woodward Canyon they farm 14 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon to their specifications, and for The Hogue Cellars they grow Cabernet Sauvignon, which often goes into their Reserve Cabernet program. The winery owners value these relationships tremendously because these talented people bring their own perspective to Canoe Ridge's work in the vineyard. There are always more experiments to conduct and every year the owners learn something new about growing the very best fruit they can.

The Canoe Ridge Estate vineyard overlooks the vast Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses 29,370 acres of marshes, sloughs, open water and cropland. This is a popular nesting area for Great Basin Canada geese, several species of ducks and other marsh and water birds.


The Winery

When the Canoe Ridge vineyard came into full production in 1994, the owners started searching for a location to build the winery. The vineyard is near the town of Paterson, population 25, in a very isolated part of the state and they wanted to have a tasting room open to the public. They focused their search on the town of Walla Walla, seventy miles to the east of the vineyard, which has a larger population, attracts visitors and is the center of a growing wine community. When they discovered the historic Walla Walla Engine House, they knew we had found the perfect home.

Canoe Ridge VineayrdThough the Engine House was in excellent condition after its restoration, the winery had special needs in the way of plumbing, electricity, floor drains and environmental temperature control to make it a working winery. That July the necessary features were added to the Engine House while taking care to preserve its historic integrity. Shortly after these additions were made, the wine production facility moved in just in time for their earliest-ever harvest that began on September 4, 1994.

The brick walls and 32-foot ceilings of this stately old building provided the winery with the ideal environment to produce and age our wines for their first seven years of production. As the vineyard matured and production grew, so did the size of staff and the need for additional space. During the winter of 2001, the winery began an expansion that was long overdue and completed just in time for the harvest of 2001, which began at Canoe Ridge Vineyard® on September 7. This is the only vintage that has come close to starting as early as the 1994 harvest.

The winery's new state-of-the-art facility is a freestanding companion to the Engine House, allowing Canoe Ridge to maintain the historic integrity of the original building. The charred beams of the old building now span a cellar of barrels filled with small lots of special wines, reserve bottlings and barrel fermented whites.The tasting room, bottling line and case goods remained in their original places. Plans include updating the bottling line and expanding the tasting room.

The new building is constructed with 10-inch thick concrete walls with a 4-inch thick layer of insulation in the middle, which efficiently maintains temperature. This construction helps us conserve energy. The new space provides unlimited options for handling each lot of wine in a way that brings out its own unique expression of the vineyard.

The winemakers have completely re-designed the crush area with an above ground belt-driven system and a large sorting area. This handles the fruit more gently than the original auger system and provides capability to remove any unwanted material. They now have small tanks that allow them to pick in small lots, isolating unique areas of the vineyard that reflect their terroir. This also helps to track experiments that are conducted in the vineyard.

Next --- Terroir - How the Geology of Eastern Washington shapes Canoe Ridge Wines ---page | 2 | 3 | 4

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