Taste of Cascadia gathers 20 top winemakers to The Lodge at Columbia Point

By on June 28, 2018

The Lodge at Columbia Point near the Columbia River in Richland, Wash., opened in September 2017 with 82 guest rooms and suites, each named for a winery in the Columbia Valley. The property was the vision of the late Tom Drumheller, a native of Walla Walla and a graduate of Washington State University who was a leader in the Northwest hospitality industry. (Photo courtesy of The Lodge at Columbia Point.

RICHLAND, Wash. — The Lodge at Columbia Point opened last summer in Richland and is poised to become the wine country destination of Washington’s Columbia Valley.

Alas, the man with the vision, the patience and the skill to create the luxury riverfront hotel and spa near the Columbia River was not able to fully appreciate the fruits of his labor. However, the team left behind by the late Tom Drumheller has created a special event to introduce wine lovers to The Lodge at Columbia Point and honor his legacy.

The event on Saturday, June 30 is called The Taste of Cascadia. It runs 1-4 p.m. and features 20 Northwest wineries and the people responsible for some of the top wines at this spring’s Cascadia International Wine Competition in Richland.

“Tom Drumheller, our founder, had a passion for hospitality and wine, which is why we are excited to be hosting the Taste of Cascadia event to showcase several of the wines that won honors at the prestigious Cascadia International Wine Competition,” said Wendy Higgins, general manager of The Lodge at Columbia Point. “Many of the winners are our wine partners.”

On Saturday from 1-4 p.m., stations for the 20 wineries will be spread throughout The Lodge at Columbia Point to provide wine lovers an opportunity to explore the property and get a sense for some of the suites, all of which are named for wineries throughout the state.

The Walla Walla Vintners 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon received the Tom Drumheller Memorial Award as the top wine produced by a Walla Walla winery. Drumheller, a beloved leader in the Northwest hospitality industry and a Walla Walla native, died of cancer on Sept. 17, 2017 — just days after he opened The Lodge at Columbia Point.

Cost to attend The Taste of Cascadia is $99, which includes small plates by chef Pauline Garza. And $10 of each ticket will go toward the Tom Drumheller Memorial Scholarship at Washington State University’s Hospitality Department. In the spring of 2017, a few months before he was diagnosed with cancer, Drumheller was inducted into the school’s Carson College Business Hall of Fame.

Willamette Valley winemakers travel to Tri-Cities

Ariel Eberle, head winemaker at Yamhill Valley Vineyards, celebrates her 10th anniversary at the McMinnville, Ore., winery this fall. (Photo by Quinn Poer Photography/Courtesy of Yamhill Valley Vineyards)

The regional wine industry was something that fascinated Drumheller, and the Cascadia International Wine Competition is the largest judging of Pacific Northwest wines conducted in the U.S. This past April, an international panel of 21 experts spent three days evaluating 1,012 wines using fruit from Washington, Oregon, Idaho or British Columbia. There were 11 winemakers that served as judges for the Cascadia, and they were joined by James Beard Award-winning wine journalist Bill Ward, a champion for wines from Washington and Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

“It was a real treat to taste and assess wines from regions like Idaho, British Columbia and southern Oregon,” said Ward, columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “These are world-class wines, every bit as good as those I have tasted at other competitions. This experience made me even more eager to explore the wines of these regions on my own.”

Among those winemakers making the trip from beyond the Columbia Valley to present their award-winning wines on Saturday is Ariel Eberle, head winemaker at Yamhill Valley Vineyards in McMinnville, Ore. Judges selected her 2017 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir as the best rosé of The Cascadia, and this fall will mark her 10th harvest at one of the Willamette Valley’s historic plantings.

“We very much are looking forward to bringing 35 years of Yamhill Valley Vineyards winegrowing to the Cascadia tasting event happening in Richland this Saturday!” said Eberle, who graduated from Oregon State University with a science degree prior to going through Chemeketa Community College’s winemaking program. “Our wines are the culmination of decades of dedication to our site and a philosophy centered around passing down the lessons we have learned along the way.”

Brian Carter to pour The Lodge at Columbia Point

Brian Carter Cellars won best in show at the Seattle Wine & Food Experience Wine Competition.

Brian Carter, owner and winemaker at Brian Carter Cellars in Woodinville, Wash., recently won best of show at the Washington State Wine Competition for his work with rosé. It marked the second time in five years that’s captured that honor. (Photo courtesy of Brian Carter Cellars)

Wineries lined up to present their award-winners are Angel Vine, Portland; Barons Winery, Walla Walla; Brian Carter Cellars, Woodinville, Wash.; Clearwater Canyon Cellars, Lewiston, Idaho; Coeur de Terre Vineyard, McMinnville; Fletcher Bay Winery, Bainbridge Island, Wash; Gamache Vintners, Prosser; Hightower Cellars, Benton City, Wash; Lady Hill Winery, St. Paul, Ore.; Maryhill Winery, Goldendale, Wash.; Obelisco Estate, Woodinville; Palencia Winery, Walla Walla; Schooler Nolan, Richland; Seven Falls Cellars, Paterson, Wash.; Simpatico Cellars, Woodinville; Spangler Vineyards, Roseburg, Ore.; Vine 46, Lewiston, Idaho; Vino la Monarcha Winery, Kennewick; Walla Walla Vintners, Walla Walla; and Wit Cellars, Prosser.

The award for the best red wine of the 2018 Cascadia went to Maryhill Winery for its 2015 Elephant Mountain Vineyard Carménère. Growers of that wine — Joe Hattrup and James St. Clair — are scheduled to be pour it for winemaker Richard Batchelor and share their thoughts about growing the obscure red Bordeaux grape in the Yakima Valley’s Rattlesnake Hills.

In addition to their best-of-class wines or unanimous double gold medal winners, several of the wineries received additional gold medals, and they will be presenting some of those to patrons on Saturday afternoon.

The Taste of Cascadia also will allow The Lodge at Columbia Point to showcase its emerging culinary program. Earlier this month, opened its restaurant — Drumheller’s Food & Drink. Just off the hotel lobby is Vine Wine & Craft Bar.

“The wines we serve and pair at Drumheller’s Food & Drink and Vine Wine & Craft Bar are top-notch and set us apart in the Tri-Cities area,” Higgins said. “We wanted to share these special wines with our customers, which is why we are hosting the Taste of Cascadia event at The Lodge at Columbia Point. We hope to make this an annual event.”

About Eric Degerman

Eric Degerman is the president and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. He is a journalist with more than 30 years of daily newspaper experience and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest with Andy Perdue and served as its managing editor for 15 years. He is a frequent wine judge along the West Coast.

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