Avennia purchases vineyard, tasting room on Red Mountain

By on August 10, 2021
Larry Pearson and his wife, Jane, entertain Hugo, the youngest of their two standard poodles, on their Red Mountain patio at Tapteil Vineyard and Winery in Benton City, Wash.
Larry Pearson and his wife, Jane, owners of Tapteil Vineyard Winery, have sold of their Red Mountain vineyard, production facility and residence to Avennia Winery in Woodinville, Wash. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Longtime Microsoft executive Marty Taucher attracted attention ahead of the first crush in 2010 for Avennia Winery by partnering with acclaimed Chris Peterson winemaker on their new project in Woodinville, Wash.

As a result, Avennia became an overnight success among critics and consumers. This month, Taucher, Peterson and their wives added another feature to their business by purchasing Tapteil Vineyard in the famed Red Mountain American Viticultural Area from Larry and Jane Pearson. It will be Avennia’s first estate vineyard, and it includes 22 acres, a tasting room, small production facility and the Pearsons’s 5,600-square-foot house near Sunset Road.

“We were very familiar with the pedigree Larry and Jane have created at Tapteil, as we have been sourcing fruit from neighboring Red Mountain vineyards including Kiona, Klipsun and WeatherEye,” said Taucher in a news release. “We are very excited to now be working with Red Mountain old vine fruit and varietals that are important to us as we grow.

“Plans are underway to fully utilize the buildings on this property that will include opening an Avennia Tasting Room next year,” Taucher added. “We look forward to being a part of the Red Mountain community and having a base of operations in the heart of Washington Wine Country.”

Pearson’s grape customers across Washington and Oregon have included stalwarts such as Quilceda Creek, Woodward Canyon, Long Shadows, Barrister, Isenhower, Cana’s Feast and Lady Hill. Cadence and Tamarack Cellars have a history of Tapteil Vineyard-designate wines. After the 2021 vintage, decorated viticulturist Dick Boushey will take over for Pearson as the vineyard manager. The Avennia-owned site is dedicated to Bordeaux varieties, led by Cabernet Sauvignon and followed by Merlot and 2 acres of Cabernet Franc.

“We couldn’t think of a better steward of this property than Chris Peterson, Marty Taucher, and the team at Avennia,” Larry Pearson said. “As one of the first to plant vines in the Red Mountain AVA, Jane and I have a lot of fond memories wrapped up in this property. We can’t wait to taste the great wine Avennia will produce from this vineyard.”

Taucher and Peterson launched a sister label — Lydian — in 2019 that carries the Columbia Valley AVA. This year, the two brands combined for about 6,500 cases of bottled wine.

“The focus will be on Avennia wines at the Red Mountain location, but we do occasionally feature the Lydian wines in Woodinville and expect that to continue with our Red Mountain location,” Taucher said.

Pearson began in ’85 with Cab cuttings from Cold Creek

Larry Pearson established Tapteil Vineyard on Red Mountain soon after he camped on the property overlooking the Yakima River and Benton City, Wash.
Larry Pearson established Tapteil Vineyard on Red Mountain in 1985, a year after he purchased and camped on the property overlooking the Yakima River and Benton City, Wash. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Pearson first camped on the property near the top of Sunset Road in the spring of 1984, and he began planting in 1985, a year after Klipsun Vineyard and Blackwood Canyon were established and 10 years after the Williams family and Jim Holmes first planted Kiona Estate Vineyard.

The University of Washington aeronautical engineering graduate started with 4 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. As luck would have it, the clone 8 cuttings Pearson purchased from a Prosser nursery came from historic Cold Creek Vineyard, a site west of the Wahluke Slope recommended to Ste. Michelle by the late Walter Clore – the storied Washington State University researcher.

Over time, Pearson established 30 acres of vineyards along the slopes of Red Mountain, and his plantings include Syrah, Grenache, Mourvédre and Riesling. The first wine he produced under his Tapteil Vineyard Winery brand was a 1998 Merlot, and according to the Pearsons, their Cabernet Franc vines are the oldest on Red Mountain.

As part of the transaction — orchestrated by Walla Walla-based Metis — the Pearsons retain the Tapteil name and they plan to produce small lots for direct-to-consumer sales. So Taucher, Peterson, their wives and their team will rebrand their new property.

“We haven’t made a final determination on the vineyard name, but we will bottle Estate wines from this site under the Avennia label,” Taucher noted.

And according to Metis, which initiated the transaction at the request of the Pearsons, the sale did not include Alayt Vineyard — the Pearsons’s site for Riesling just above the Yakima River and across from Benton City.

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 magazine with Andy Perdue and served as its managing editor for a decade. He is a frequent wine judge at international wine competitions throughout North America and orchestrates 10 Northwest competitions each year.

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