SANTA ROSA, Calif. – Four Northwest vineyard owners have been honored as among the 20 most admired grape growers in North America.
Tina Caputo, editor of Vineyard & Winery Management magazine in the Sonoma Valley city of Santa Rosa, released the list this week.
“Grape growers tend to stand in the background while winemakers are encouraged to take center stage,” the magazine wrote in its introduction. “This year, we hope to remedy that by recognizing the wine industry’s unsung heroes: grape growers, viticulturalists and vineyard managers.”
The four Northwest grape growers are:
Dick Boushey is the owner of Boushey Vineyard in Washington’s Yakima Valley. He began planting his vineyard north of the town of Grandview in 1980 and today is considered one of the finest growers in Washington, thanks in large part to his prowess with Rhône varieties.
In addition to his own vineyard, Boushey also manages several properties on Red Mountain, including: Col Solare, Fidelitas, Upchurch, EFESTE, Hamilton, Ambassador, Canvasback, Force Majeure, Cadence and Gamache.
Boushey’s estate vineyard is 160 planted acres, while he manages about 200 acres of vines on Red Mountain.
Jim Holmes is the owner of Ciel du Cheval Vineyard on Red Mountain, one of the most famous vineyards on Red Mountain. Holmes and John Williams planted the first grapes on Red Mountain in 1975 when they planted Kiona Vineyards. A year later, they planted Ciel du Cheval across the road.
In 1991, the two amicably parted ways, with the Williams family keeping Kiona Vineyards & Winery and Holmes taking Ciel du Cheval. In the past couple of years, Holmes’ son Richard has launched Côtes de Ciel, a series of estate wines made by Fidelitas winemaker Charlie Hoppes.
In addition to Ciel du Cheval, Holmes also co-owns and manages Grand Ciel with DeLille Cellars in Woodinville.
Mike Sauer owns Red Willow Vineyard, one of the most storied plantings in Washington. Sauer began planting grapes in the early 1970s, and his oldest vines – Cabernet Sauvignon planted in 1973 — remain today.
In 1979, Sauer began a relation with David Lake, winemaker for Columbia Winery. For years, all of Red Willow’s grapes went to the Woodinville winery. In 1986, Sauer planted the first Syrah in Washington – and Lake made the first wine from them in 1988. In 1993, Sauer planted the first Tempranillo in the Pacific Northwest.
Today, Sauer and his family farm 140 acres of vines, and they sell to about two-dozen wineries, including Betz Family and Owen Roe. After Lake died in 2009, Columbia Winery ended its relationship with Red Willow.
In the early 1990s, Sauer began building a stone chapel at the top of his vineyard. Today, it is one of the most iconic buildings in Washington wine country.
Dick Shea is one of the most venerable grape growers in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Shea moved to Oregon from Connecticut in 1989 after tasting the Adelsheim Vineyard 1986 Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir and began planting his Pinot Noir that same year.
Shea Vineyard is in the Yamhill-Carlton American Viticultural Area, and his grapes are highly valued by many of the state’s best producers, including Ken Wright, Penner-Ash, Bergström and J.K. Carriere. In 1999, Shea and his wife, Deirdre, started holding back 25 percent of their production for their own label, Shea Wine Cellars.
Shea’s grapes are so revered, Penner-Ash Wine Cellars developed an event called ¡Tu Shea! that included tastings and seminars surrounding wines made from Shea grapes.
In addition to these four grape growers, Vineyard & Winery Management also gave honorable mention to Todd Newhouse, manager of Upland Vineyards on Snipes Mountain, and Kent Waliser, general manager of Sagemoor Vineyards along the Columbia River in Washington.