VineLines Dispatch: James Beard Foundation spotlights Mike Sauer of Red Willow Vineyard

By on March 29, 2019
Red Willow Vineyard is owned by Mike Sauer.
Mike Sauer, owner of Red Willow Vineyard, worked with winemaker David Lake for decades. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

Here is the latest VineLines Dispatch by Richard Duval, the contributing and frequently roving photojournalist for Great Northwest Wine.

The James Beard Foundation nominated storied grape grower Mike Sauer of Red Willow Vineyard in Washington’s Yakima Valley for its “Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Producer” category.

Sauer’s instrumental role in helping establishing Washington state and the Yakima Valley as one of the wine industry’s best producers of world-class grapes led to this honor. In 1971, he established Red Willow Vineyard in the foothills of Mount Adams, and his family’s grapes are much in-demand with the list of wineries that reads like an all-star scroll. The late David Lake, the winemaking Master of Wine at Columbia Winery, encouraged Sauer to become the first in the state to plant Syrah in 1986.

Winners in each category will be announced May 6. Semifinalists for Best Northwest Chef include Peter Cho of Han Oak in Portland, Katy Millard of Coquine in Portland, Brady Williams of Canlis in Seattle, Justin Woodward of Castagna in Portland, and Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi of Joule in Seattle.

New tasting rooms in Washington

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Ron Shackelford of Shackelford Vintners plans to open a tasting room in downtown Snohomish, Wash., on June 1. Shackelford and his wife, Anne, own a vineyard on the northwest shoulder of Red Mountain. (Richard Duval Images)

Laurelhurst Cellars expands to the SoDo area near the great Jack’s BBQ… On June 1, Shackelford Vintners will be the third winery tasting room in downtown Snohomish, joining Kasia Winery and Randolph Cellars. Nestled nicely on First Street in the historic downtown district, Shackelford’s new digs will overlook the Snohomish River. Ron and Anne Shackelford are leasing the 850-square-foot building that served as the Snohomish Visitor Center since 2005.

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Elaine Jomwe, left, and Tanya Woodley own and operate SuLei Cellars in the Walla Walla Valley. They are set to open a satellite tasting room May 1 in downtown Vancouver, Wash. (Richard Duval Images)

Walla Walla’s SuLei Cellars has targeted May 1 as the launch date for its satellite tasting room in downtown Vancouver, Wash., on Main Street about six blocks from the $1.5 billion Vancouver Waterfront.

“I’m excited to get back to my roots in the Vancouver market,” co-owner/winemaker Tanya Woodley told Great Northwest Wine. “We still have a lot of friends and family there, so we’ll have a great support system. Our Vancouver/Portland wine club has grown substantially in the past few years. We feel like it’s a great time to capture that market!”

Woodley, Class of 2007, will become the second graduate of Walla Walla Community College’s Institute for Enology and Viticulture to be a part of the Southwest Washington Wine Association. Ben Stuart, Class of ‘15, is the head winemaker for longtime downtown winery Burnt Bridge Cellars. …

Noted wine economist and Washington resident Mike Veseth was part of an expert panel at the recent Climate Change Leadership conference in Porto, Portugal. As recorded by wine trade news site The Buyer, Veseth commented on the challenge of aligning a complex supply chain infrastructure to a common mission of sustainability at all stages.

One key strategy is to put pressure on each of the stages to do better. “You need to take action with suppliers and in markets up and down the supply chain,” he said. “You buy products that fit your values.” …

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Brittany Komm-Sanders, who grows grapes for Precept Wine, stands in Skyfall Vineyard near the town of Kiona, Wash. (Richard Duval Images

A milestone moment in the life of a viticulturist is moving from the theoretical to the practical. Brittany Komm-Sanders of Precept Wine is applying her master’s thesis on the effect of fruit zone leaf removal on canopy development to high-end premium red lots in Canyon Ranch Vineyard near Prosser and Skyfall Vineyard between Red Mountain and the Horse Heaven Hills. Early data notes a significant impact on grape quality …

This week, Taste Washington began last night in Seattle with wine/food sojourns scheduled throughout the Puget Sound. Details for the state’s biggest wine and food party at I’ll be roaming with camera throughout four days of supping and sipping, while Eric Degerman of Great Northwest Wine will attend Saturday’s Grand Tasting. …

The fourth annual Reveal Walla Walla Valley auction on April 14-15 will bring private collectors and members of the trade to Dunham Cellars and Corliss Estate for the series of small lot, one-of-a-kind wines from Walla Walla Valley producers. Last year, the bidding generated $92,900 for the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, which distributed proceeds to area non-profits. The top three lots were Leonetti Cellar ($8,000), Doubleback ($6,900) and Corliss Estate ($5,000). For more information or to request an invitation, visit

Oregon Wine Trail bound for Big Apple

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Montinore Estate viticulturist Karen Peterson pulls samples on Sept. 18, 2018 from Tidalstar Vineyard, a Salmon Safe site near Carlton, Ore. Montinore Estate will be among the 60 wineries from Oregon pouring in Manhattan this spring. (Richard Duval Images)

A contingent of 60 Oregon wineries – ably supported by some of the state’s highly regarded artisans of foodstuffs and coffee – will invade New York City this spring.

As Sally Murdoch, communications manager for the Oregon Wine Board, put it: “No white table cloths. No orange cheese cubes. Instead, a generous pour of Oregon’s fine wine and pioneering spirit.”

At the Oregon Wine Trail New York City, wine aficionados will sip on legacy Pinot Noir, unexpected whites and wine surprises at the Altman Building near Greenwich Village on May 6. Supporting the wines will be Olympia Provisions, Jacobsen Salt Co., Stumptown Coffee Roasters and the Oregon Cheese Guild…

The fourth annual Willamette: the Pinot Noir Auction, will be April 5-6. This year, 85 producers will offer small lots of five, 10 to 20 cases of Pinot Noir and Chardonnays from the 2017 vintage. Venues for the invitation-only weekend include Domaine Drouhin, Domaine Serene and The Allison Inn.

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About Richard Duval

Contributing wine photojournalist Richard Duval captures vivid wine imagery for Great Northwest Wine, Wine Press Northwest and other regional and national wine media. His images are found in wine marketing guides throughout Washington, Oregon and Idaho and used by a growing number of wineries in the Pacific Northwest. From his studio in Woodinville, Wash., Richard creates bottle shots and captures the occasional portrait of wine personalities. His “Art from the Vine” fine art exhibit has been displayed in restaurants, hotels, wineries and wine centers throughout the region. He markets wine work, which includes a line of personal greeting cards, online via WinePix —

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