George-Anne Robertson’s path is that of a renaissance woman, having reinvented herself a time or two after growing up on the prairies of Saskatchewan.
She’s been a mountain biker sponsored by Cannondale and a student of fashion at Parsons — The New School of Design in Greenwich Village, wanting to be the 21st century’s Claire McCardell. She raised two children, piloted the Piper Malibu Mirage once owned by football great Joe Montana and became a fitness instructor after her divorce.
“But I didn’t want to be an old lady personal trainer, so I started studying wine on the side,” Robertson says with a chuckle.
While she couldn’t have imagined becoming the bubbles maven of Walla Walla, here she is — standing on an 84-acre stage that’s about to blow up the valley with sparkling wine on behalf of Yellowhawk Resort and restaurateur Dan Thiessen, who leads the ownership team that purchased the former Basel Cellars property in late 2020.
And five years ago, living in Sun Valley, Robertson re-imagined herself and invested in her future.
“I was researching schools for my son, and I said, ‘You should go to this wine school in Walla Walla. I think you’d really like it.’
“And he said, ‘I think YOU would really like it. That’s your thing, not mine.’ ”
So in 2017, Robertson left her friends in Sun Valley and dedicated her energies to the Walla Walla Community College winemaking program. To the delight of then-instructor Tim Donahue, she took a special interest in sparkling wine production. Had it not been for the pandemic, she’d now be making bubbles for Fujisan, the company in Japan that hired her out of college.
“And then Tim called me and told me these guys wanted to do sparkling wine in Walla Walla,” she says. “I told him that I would only do it if he would be my consultant.”
Her sources include Celilo in the Columbia Gorge, Gamache in the White Bluffs, Breezy Slope in the Walla Walla Valley and the vines that surround Yellowhawk, yet the program’s growth for the traditional tirage style of sparkling wine is linked to the continued collaboration with Four Feathers Wine Services in Prosser. Early on, Robertson spent a fair bit of time on the road to the Yakima Valley, and that’s noted on the back label where it reads “Bottled by Yellowhawk, Prosser, WA.”
At this point, Yellowhawk has six expressions of sparkling wine with different approaches. At the high end — at the moment — is the 2019 Sparkling Sèmillon ($48), the only vintage bottling and pulled from Double River Vineyard, the original name for the 1997 planting between the Walla Walla River and Yellowhawk Creek. Robertson’s lineup includes the Bubbles White, Bubbles Red, Bubbles Rosé, Sparkling Rosé and Sparkling Chardonnay.
Her Sparkling Rosé (1,400 cases produced, 11.5% alc.) comes topped by the traditional cork and cage, and while it’s made with Malbec — not a Champenoise grape — it’s done using traditional methods and with zero dosage, making for a bright profile of strawberry and boysenberry that’s finished bone-dry. It’s grown at Gamache, which means Robertson works with viticulturist Lacey Lybeck of Sagemoor Farms.
Earlier this year, Yellowhawk’s entry-level Bubbles Rosé received a gold medal in the forced-carbonation class at the Experience Rosé Wine Competition in Sonoma. And while that wine is available beyond the Walla Walla Valley, sale of the Sparkling Rosé is limited to the Walla Walla Steak Co. and the tasting room at Yellowhawk. Burgers, sliders and shareable plates such as Baked Wagyu Meatballs are now available at Yellowhawk on the scenic patio or in the tasting room.
- Yellowhawk Resort and Sparkling House, 2901 Old Milton Highway, Walla Walla, WA 99362, YellowhawkResort.com, (509) 522-0200.
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