Stephen Northrup, wine consultant at our Venice store, recently toured Canoe Ridge
Canoe Ridge is located outside of Patterson, WA, on 500 acres with panoramic views of the Columbia River and Horse Heaven Hills. It is the red wine facility for Ch Ste Michelle. The ridge was named by explorers Lewis and Clark, who thought it resembled an upside down canoe.
We were greeted by the extremely knowledgeable vineyard manager Mimi Nye, who gave us a tour of the vineyards. Mimi has been with CSM since vines were hand planted here 21 years ago. Starting in the vineyards Mimi gave a great lesson on thinning out grape clusters, weather and irrigation. Did you know that Washington vineyards are planted on original root stock? Also,
eastern Washington gets only 4 inches of rain yearly.
We then ventured 900 ft up, by van, to the top of Canoe Ridge. Standing on a 9 million year old lava flow Mimi filled us in on the geology of Horse Heaven Hills and the Columbia River Valley. All that basalt and sandy, gravely soil makes for some excellent Old World small scale styled wines.
Now it was on time to meet enologist Brian MacKay for a tour of the winery. Brian explained how he and his team are running a large operation but are given the freedom to craft those small scale wines. His Ethos Syrah is one such wine. It was ready for bottling and Brian gave us a tank sample of this dark, fruity, intense Syrah.
Walking past the 50 ton
tanks and endless stacks of barrels we made our way to the portable bottling
facility. It’s an 18 wheel tractor trailer outfitted with an assembly line.
Very impressive. Finally, and most importantly, Brian led us to the tasting room where we enjoyed a glass of 2009 Canoe Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon and 2009 Cold Creek Cabernet Sauvignon. A very nice way to end a memorable experience.