Canoe Ridge Vineayrd


"Interview" with Canoe RIdge Vineyard

Who owns Canoe Ridge Vineyard®? The Chalone Wine Group owns Canoe Ridge Vineyard®. CRV began as a partnership between the Chalone Wine Group and a group of Washington State investors. In February 2001, CWG boosted its investment in Washington State by increasing the size of Canoe Ridge Vineyard® winery and buying out its Washington minority partners. Our management has remained the same from the beginning.

What is the difference between Canoe Ridge Vineyard® and Canoe Ridge Estate? To understand this distinction, it is important to realize that Canoe Ridge is a place. It is the location of our estate vineyard "Canoe Ridge Vineyard®." It is also the home of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s red wine production facility and their "Canoe Ridge Estate" vineyard. Our 163-acre vineyard is located on the northeast slope of the ridge, while Canoe Ridge Estate is located on the southwest side of the ridge.

The town of Paterson, where both vineyards are located, is a very small community and we have been happy neighbors from the start. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the two properties were being developed, an agreement was reached between, then CEO of the Chalone Wine Group, Phil Woodward and, then CEO of Chateau Ste. Michelle, Allen Shoup; Chalone Wine Group would use the name Canoe Ridge Vineyard® and Chateau Ste. Michelle would use Canoe Ridge Estate. The deal was sealed with a handshake.

Who is in the canoe? The inspiration for the two paddlers is the explorers Lewis and Clark. Local folklore says they named Canoe Ridge when they journeyed through eastern Washington on the Columbia River. From the river, the two adventurers thought the ridge looked like an overturned canoe.

Why isn’t the winery located at the vineyard? As our estate vineyard was coming into production in 1994, we started looking for a winery site. Our vineyard, near the small town of Paterson, is very secluded, and we wanted a tasting room. Looking for a location where visitors could easily find us, we chose the town of Walla Walla, 70 miles east of our vineyard. The town’s history and charm attracts visitors and it is the center for a developing wine community. When we came across the Engine House, we immediately fell in love with it and it is a wonderful home for a winery and tasting room.

How many cases do you produce? The weather and the vintage always affect production, but on average we produce 40,000 cases per year.

Where did the name Canoe Ridge come from? As the folklore has it, Lewis and Clark named it on their travels through the region. They thought it looked like an overturned canoe.

When was Canoe Ridge Vineyard® established? The first planting at our estate vineyard was 1989. The winery was established in July 1994.

Where do your barrels come from? We use 75 percent French oak that comes from five different forests in France. The balance of our cellar is American oak made from trees grown in Missouri, Pennsylvania and Oregon.

How much wine does a barrel hold? There are different sizes, but all of the barrels used at Canoe Ridge Vineyard® hold 59 gallons.

How many bottles of wine are in a barrel? A 59 gallon barrel holds 23-25 cases or 276-300 750ml bottles.

What makes a wine "Reserve"? The definition of reserve is different for every winery. At Canoe Ridge Vineyard®, it is a particular lot of wine that is harvested from a unique area of our vineyard. It represents the finest, most focused expression of our vineyard.

We are also members of the Washington Wine Quality Alliance. They define reserve as: "Reserve wines must be 100 percent Washington State in origin, from any or all Washington AVA and indicate the winemaker’s designation of this wine as being of exceptional quality. The reserve designation can apply to only the greater of 3000 cases or 10 percent of the Member winery’s production for the given varietal or blend."

How do you pronounce Gewürztraminer? ga-virtz or ga-virtz-tra-meener. Don’t be intimidated, just go for it! We say Gewürz for short.

How is the blend of a wine decided? When a winemaker is in the process of making blending decisions, he holds a series of what we call technical tastings. This is when our production team sits down together and tastes from an analytical perspective. What they taste varies depending on the time of year and at what stage the wine is in. These sit-down tastings usually begin once the wine is in the barrel. At first, when the individual lots are still unblended, the winemaker and his crew might taste up to 30 different samples. This is done in "flights." Instead of tasting all 30 wines at once, they taste five flights of six wines each. As the blending trials progress, samples are eliminated until the ultimate blend is decided upon.

We seem to get a number of volunteers for this job, but keep in mind a lot of work is involved in this process. We always begin tasting at 10 AM. As with any type of analysis, it is important to remove the outside variables. It is our winemaker’s preference to taste late in the morning after everyone’s palate has recovered from his or her morning coffee and they are just starting to feel hungry for lunch. Our sensory capabilities are much more acute at this time. Each member of the staff keeps a tasting journal so that comparisons can be made and they can see what evolution the wine has gone through. And, since we have to work the rest of the day, we spit out the samples.

How do you get flavors such as blackberries or shaved chocolate in the wine? Grapes are amazing in the complexity of their flavors with likeness to familiar fruits, spices, flowers etc. This happens for several reasons. Each varietal has typical characteristics and those flavors are further influenced by the terroir, the characteristics of the geographical place, the climate and the soil. Additionally, the way the fruit is grown, the uniqueness of the vintage and how the wine is handled in the cellar affect the quality and intensity of the flavors. No, we don’t add those flavors.

How do you clean your glassware? You would be surprised at how important this factor is to the quality of your tasting experience. To provide a neutral smelling glass in our tasting room, we use a dishwashing detergent that is free of any perfumes, dyes or chlorine. The glasses go through two wash cycles; the first with a small amount of soap, the second without soap - just clear, very hot water. After washing, each glass is polished. We use a laundry detergent free of any perfumes or dyes for our towels and no fabric softeners. In the rare instance that we bleach our towels, the bleach is neutralized in a second wash with vinegar and finished with a clear rinse. Our dishwasher sterilizes with hot, filtered water in three minute cycles. You can apply all of these techniques in your home. Most important is the elimination of perfume in both your dish and laundry detergent. This can be more difficult than you would think but is worth the extra effort if you want to experience a wine without outside influences, the way the winemaker intended.

Should I rinse my glass between tastes? Some feel you should rinse your glass with water between wines in an attempt to neutralize the effect of the previous wine. Others argue that, considering the different compounds that can appear in tap water, which is the greater influence, the previous wine or the water? In our tasting room, it is our practice to rinse your glass only between pouring our off-dry Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay. This eliminates any sugar that may remain in the glass and gives you a more accurate taste of the Chardonnay, which is dry. After the Chardonnay, we pour our red wines, going from the lightest body to the heaviest.



Fast Facts

Vineyard Name:
Canoe Ridge Vineyard®

Southeastern Washington -
off Highway 14

60 miles south of Kennewick
6 miles west of Paterson
75 miles west of Walla Walla

Columbia Valley

Established: 1989

Vineyard Manager:
Mile Means

Acres in Production:
76 acres Merlot
13 acres Chardonnay
48 acres Cabernet Sauvignon
5.5 acres Cabernet Franc
.5 acres Syrah

New Plantings:
20 acres Merlot

Northeast Slope

500-775 ft

Annual Rainfall: 5-6"

Warm Region II

Soil: Sandy Loam

Growing season:
typically March 15 to October 31

Vertical Shoot Position

Solid set and Drip

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