VineLines Dispatch: Growing support for WSU wine research

By on July 21, 2019
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The Bujanda family of Bodegas Valdemar in Oyón, Spain and Valdemar Estates in Walla Walla, Wash., will work with Washington State University in Richland to create educational opportunities in both countries. (Richard Duval Images)

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

The newly opened Valdemar Family Wine Estates project in Walla Walla – the Spanish winery’s first venture outside Europe – continues its impressive entry to the Washington wine community by signing an agreement with Washington State University Tri-Cities to promote educational opportunities in the Washington wine industry and in Spain.

From its opening day this past spring, Valdemar Estates has enjoyed a string of visitors with humble class. Connecting with WSU is further indication that the Bujanda family intends to be a team player in the Walla Walla Valley and beyond.

Auction of WA Wines events lining up 

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A game of ring toss at the Winemakers Picnic and Barrel Auction helps support the 2018 Auction of Washington Wines at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville. (Richard Duval Images)

One of the most popular events in the Washington wine community that directly benefits the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center is less than a month away.

The Auction of Washington Wines is staging a stellar range of activities in mid-August, including my favorite event to photograph winemakers and wine lovers – the Winemaker Picnic & Barrel Auction on Thursday, Aug. 15.

More than 100 wines will be poured at this outdoor event held on the grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle. The Picnic is followed the next day by a choice of six dinners pairing Washington winemakers with award-winning Washington chefs. 

The Auction concludes with the swanky soirée known as The Gala, which features a live auction along with a multicourse dinner and some the best of wines in Washington. This money-raising event — ranked among 2018’s top three highest-earning charity wine auctions in the nation by Wine Spectator magazine – also benefits Seattle Children’s Hospital. (I’m proud to serve as the pro bono official photographer for the Auction for the ninth straight year.)

Red Mountain vines under new leadership

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The 2019 harvest will see a number of Red Mountain vineyards under new ownership and management. (Richard Duval Images)

Shaw Vineyards has added Red Heaven and Scooteney Flats vineyards to holdings in the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area – Quintessence, Shaw and Obelisco.

Marshall Edwards, Honorary Grower for the 2018 Auction of Washington Wines, takes over management of the vineyards from long-time vineyard manager Damon LaLonde, who will now work with rising star Andrew Schultz of Brothers-in-Farms. Brothers-in-Farms recently added historic Klipsun as well as portions of Aquilini Vineyards to the portfolio. 

The Williams family – the first growers on Red Mountain with thriving Kiona Vineyards – recently purchased nearby Artz Vineyard, another long time staple on the Red Mountain winescape. The late Fred Artz managed Klipsun for much of its history.

A new face for Abeja

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Abeja plans to move production from its picturesque barn into a modern winemaking facility for the 2020 harvest. (Richard Duval Images)

Walla Walla’s Abeja is building a new state-of-the-art production facility with an underground barrel cave that will consolidate winemaking operations at its 38-acre estate on Mill Creek Road.

The historic barn – long used for production – will remain a fixture on the Abeja campus. The project is expected to be ready for the start of the 2020 harvest.  

Canvasback opens up in Walla Walla

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Canvasback, a Duckhorn Vineyards brand, recently opened its Walla Walla Valley tasting room. (Richard Duval Images)

South of downtown Walla Walla has become the public home for Canvasback, owned by historic Napa Valley producer Duckhorn Vineyards. The Southside tasting room – which once housed Waters, Doubleback and Solemn Cellars – offers the winery’s portfolio of estate Red Mountain wines.

Brian Rudin has deep love for Walla Walla fruit, including years of work with the Saviah Cellars Funk Vineyard in The Rocks District. As a result, Rudin plans to unveil a Walla Walla Valley Syrah in addition to expanding the roster with other Red Mountain-based wines.

2 growers to learn overseas

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Sadie Drury, whose management responsibilities include Seven Hills Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley, received a 2019 Powers Family Sabbatical Award. (Richard Duval Images)

Two of Washington’s finest growers will be expanding their knowledge base internationally, thanks to The Powers Family Sabbatical awards

Sadie Drury, general manager of North Slope Management where she manages eight vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley AVA, will head to Australia. She will study the changing climate and the impacts of fires, hotter summers and less available water. These are issues South Australia has battled for a decade. 

Andrew Schultz of Brothers in Farms, a custom vineyard management and consulting company, will travel to Chile to discuss irrigation practices with vineyard managers who wrestle with similar growing conditions as Washington growers. 

The awards are named for the late Bill Powers, founder of Badger Mountain Vineyard and Powers Winery, who was driven to identify new and best practices to grow better wine grapes.

Oregon winery embraces beer bottles

Portland’s Coopers Hall Winery – first keg-only winery in the state – now is believed to be the first winery in the country to bottle its wine in reusable bottles; beer bottles that is. 

Each bottle can be washed and reused at least 25 times instead of being crushed and recycled like a typical glass bottle, which consumes a huge amount of energy. Supply shouldn’t outpace demand as the winery also operates a taproom on premise.

Editor’s note: This week, VineLines Dispatch photojournalist Richard Duval is roaming Oregon wine country, an assignment that includes the 33rd annual International Pinot Noir Celebration. He’s on the lookout for story ideas for future issues of Great Northwest Wine. Watch for him – the camera on a monopod is certain giveaway.

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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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