Growing up in the Champagne House, Baron Albert, naturally predisposed Christophe Baron to the art of winemaking. The sheer love and fascination for wine may indeed have been passed down from generations of family vignerons, but not one to always follow French rules and traditions, Christophe journeyed to the new world in search of opportunity.
A native of the Marne Valley in France, Christophe studied viticulture and enology in Champagne and Burgundy. In 1993, he continued his training in the United States with Adelsheim Vineyards of the Willamette Valley, interned at Waterbrook Winery in Lowden, Washington, and pursued his dreams as a flying winemaker in Australia, New Zealand and Romania for a small British firm.
In 1996, Christophe returned to Walla Walla to visit a friend. While rambling around the valley floor in an old pick-up, searching for frost-free vineyard pockets, he spotted an old orchard fifteen miles south of Walla Walla. It was completely covered with cobblestones the size of large fists—similar to the terroir of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and areas of Bordeaux. Upon closer inspection, he knew he’d found the perfect opportunity to make wine free from restrictions, and a new home.
Some of the first settlers
to the Walla Walla Valley were French-Canadian fur traders who named
the local Native Americans the ‘Cailloux’ (pronounced ‘ki-yoo’,
plural for ‘stone’ in French), of whom we now know as the Cayuse
Tribe. The natives lived along the ancient, cobblestone riverbed of the
Walla Walla River, and the fur traders referred to them as the ‘People
of the Stone’. Christophe planted his vineyards in the same riverbed—thus
the name Cayuse Vineyards.
Cayuse Vineyards production commenced at Pepper Bridge Winery in Walla Walla with the 2000 crush. In 2002, Cayuse Vineyards purchased two, historical hotel buildings in downtown Walla Walla. Formerly used as brothels until the 1960s, plans for renovation of these buildings into a working winery complete with a tasting room, offices and a full kitchen, will move forward in the next several years.
Cayuse's first efforts produced the 1997 Columbia Valley Syrah and the 1997 Columbia Valley Camaspelo (a Bordeaux blend) from non-estate fruit. Beginning with the 1998 vintage, the winery is committed to using grapes grown only in the Walla Walla Valley, as they believe the best vineyard sites in the valley have yet to be fully developed. Continuing from the 1999 vintage, they exclusively use estate fruit for all wines.