Genesis wines by Hogue are the finest crafted expression of Columbia Valley fruit. The Hogue team searches out those vineyards and microclimates that have the best potential to produce varietal wines in a definitive Washington style. In essence, Genesis is about discovering those special vineyard sites and microclimates and creating wines that express their findings.
Genesis is named after Mike Hogue’s first vineyard, and this line of wines, including the Genesis Viognier, Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, represents the new genesis of Hogue.
To express the idea behind Genesis, Hogue chose a label with a figure taken from a painting titled “ Shaped Hully” by Northwest artist Matthew Dennison.
In the painting, Dennison’s dream-like, oversized figures stand on the edge between land and sea and sky, not unlike the geography of the Pacific Northwest.In a similar vein, Washington and the Pacific Northwest were shaped and inhabited by explorers. Washington is still a place where creation and discovery take place.
Today, the exploration continues in Northwest winemaking and the rapid evolution of Washington as the new Wine Country.
Shaped Hully is the artist’s metaphor for discovery. Likewise with Genesis, the Hogue team continues its exploration and discovery of vineyards and microclimates within the region in an effort to capture the “rich color, textures, and shape” of Washington wines.
By Christina Kelly 8/02
Hogue Cellars is a little like the Rodney Dangerfield of wine: popular, acsessable, but not given all the winery's due respect.
The Prosser-based company is Washington state's third largest winery, behind Stimson Lane (Château Ste. Michelle/Columbia Crest) and Constellation Brands (Columbia Winery/Covey Run). But, Hogue is the largest family-owned winery in the state, producing 450,000 cases per year.
With those numbers, Hogue Cellars doesn't take a back seat to anyone. Yet, just like the self-effacing comedian, owners Mike and Gary Hogue want respectability. They are investing heavily in additional vineyards to control the crop, technology and personnel.
"We're raising the bar," said Mike, from his Prosser farm. Mike's parents have grown crops since the 1940s, and the sons added grapes in the early 1980s.
"We're ratcheting up the quality. In addition to our fruit forward wines, most under $10, we're moving up to a higher bracket. In order to do that, you have to have extremely good fruit. If you don't continue to improve the product, you get left behind."
For years, Hogue's fruit forward wines were a pretty good bargain for the price. The wines were fruity, had some character but not a lot of complexity. The price hovered between $7 and $9 for semillion, chardonnay, pinot gris and a cabernet-merlot blend. These are still decent wines for everyday meals and sipping.
A few years ago, Hogue introduced Vineyard Selections, featuring wine that had a little more aging and depth. The wine is about $15 per bottle.
Hogue encourages his winemakers to experiment with unusual varietals, develop distinctive wine styles and set aside special vineyard sites. Under limited production, that wine is sold under the label of Genesis, and costs anywhere from $13 to $24 per bottle.
The designation for the best wines produced at Hogue is its reserve line, running about $30 per bottle. This wine is concentrated, layered fruit, framed by oak. Mike Hogue says his reserves stand up to the more expensive $40 and $50 cabernets and merlots grown in the Northwest.
Part of the early Hogue philosophy came from being farmers. The brothers had to decide whether they wanted to be known as a boutique winery selling premium, high-end wines, or farmers with a good product at a good price for the consumer. They settled on value, and Gary began selling the wine.
Eventually, the brothers realized they had to convince the grape growers to yield fewer grapes per acre to produce better fruit. Coming from a farming family, the task was not easy.
"Farmers think of so many tons per acre; so many spuds or bales per acre. It's been a real struggle to explain that in some cases, less grapes is better," said Gary Hogue. "We tell them they will solidify their future with us if they bring in better fruit."
In addition, the winery offers bonuses for grapes that are used for the reserve wine.
"This evolution is working," said Gary. "And, we'll keep working the needle on this quality issue. There is more potential. We're not over. We knew we would go through periods where we had to bring it up a notch."
In recent years, Hogue has changed its bottle packaging and tweak the style of its bread-and-butter wines.
The winery has the ability to experiment under the watchful eye of Wade Wolfe, vice president of production. Wolfe has a Ph.D. in grape genetics from UC Davis and is widely recognized as one of the most knowledgeable viticulturists in the country.
"My original intent was to teach and do research," Wolfe said.
Wolfe went to work for Hogue in 1991, helping to improve the fruit intensity of Hogue's grapes. He joined winemaker David Forsyth, another US Davis graduate, to produce the higher end wines.
Forsyth said his staff is "hunkering down," reducing the variety of wines offered to focus on producing higher quality wines while retaining affordability.
"We feel we're making very good wines, but sometimes we feel a little left behind," Forsyth said. "Some may not agree with our wine stylistically, but it's good wine."
But unlike the comedian who gets no respect and laughs all the way to the bank, Hogue is getting noticed. Gary Hogue said the distributors have noticed the changes. So has the customer. And while the price may inch up the scale, the winery's cornerstone will remain value, consistency and quality.