Share your Washington winery tasting memories from some of the OLD wineries (some now gone)...

Another discussion about McCrea wines in which Glen Fiona was also discussed brought back a flood of memories from my early days of wine enthusiasm. I was raised in the Yakima Valley and very fondly remember going around tasting at wineries with my parents and cousins whose parents were also really into Washington wine. I’d love to hear your stories or memories about some of those wineries that have been around for a long time, and might now even be gone. A few that came to mind for me:

-Seth Ryan. We used to start the trip up Red Mountain and Sunset Road with a stop at the bottom at Seth Ryan. They (I believe) focused on Rhone varieties as well and had really neat labels with lots of colors. We would also stop at Kiona right there too and taste. When we were under 21 (I can’t recall whether it was Seth Ryan or Kiona that tasted out of the garage below their house!), my cousins and I would shoot hoops in their driveway (they invited us to) as my parents tasted.

-Wineglass Cellars. This was a favorite stop, and we became quite fond of David and Linda. This was one of those wineries that, when you went in to taste, it was the owners and winemakers pouring, talking, and even ringing your up when paying. They were gracious and pretty frank about the challenges of growing grapes and making wine, which I appreciated. I remember visiting during Spring Barrel Tasting seeing David sitting on a stool aside a barrel of something with his pipette. We’d often time our visits around lunchtime, buy a couple bottles of NV Capizimo (an inexpensive blend of Bordeaux varieties) and have a picnic on the grass outside the winery. Every so often, they’d come out and have a sip or a bite with us.

-Portteus. Paul Portteus was a character that, depending on the day, was either cranky and tired from his work, or eager and excited to share with you what he was pouring. That’s part of what made tasting there enjoyable. My folks were big fans of his Reserve wines, but they always struck me as green and peppery. We liked the idea of his estate vineyard and controlling the process from bud to bottle. One year, we befriended his tasting room manager on a visit around the 4th of July and invited him to my folk’s place for dinner, and he showed up with like five magnums of wine. He was always welcome after that!

-Tefft. Fun wines, one of the few Sangiovese produced at that time, quirky little tasting room.

-Covey Run. Sweeping view of the Lower Yakima Valley with a vineyard below. Inexpensive and inoffensive but unremarkable wines, but I loved the labels and the tasting room. Did that place become Silver Lake Winery?

-CR Sandidge. Good Syrahs, but the tasting room was oddly in a strip mall-like place and it always seemed to be 115 degrees when we visited. Maybe it was the swaths of concrete surrounding the tasting room.

-Hedges. This one is still there, but I remember being struck by their impressive winery, and how it seemed to be at the way, way tippy-top of Red Mountain. Even thought it wasn’t.

Anyway, I had a good trip down memory lane. I’d love to hear any stories or memories from anyone who remembers those early days (think mid-90s to early 2000s in Washington Wine Country).


I remember drinking wines from those wineries. I believe Portteus is still open.

I was a big fan of the Reserve Cabernets from Paul Portteus, and always loved our visits. On one visit to taste through his new wines in barrel, and he didn’t have a thief, so he pulled a straw out of a Burger King cup sitting in the cellar and we promptly tasted through his new wines with the coke-stained straw. Another time he was dumping this horrible Rose/Chardonnay blend he had bottled a year earlier back into a tank, pulling cork after cork. He was planning on burying it in some cheap cuvee he was making for somebody.

Those days (20+ years ago) you would be hard pressed not to find at least a couple barrels of Paul’s Cabernet in other people’s cellars (Portteus sold a lot of fruit to his neighbors). There was a soft chocolatey-ness to his Cabernet (in a good vintage) that made for perfect blending.

And I was also a fan of Joel Tefft’s wines. His Merlot was consistently good, and always a great bargain and so was his Sangiovese. Tefft was also one of the first wineries on the West Coast to produce quality box wines.

I visited Wineglass Cellars back in 1999. Went to Covey Run on the same trip, as well as several others. There were some interesting things pretty much everywhere, but the fork truck disaster at Barnard Griffin will always top the story list.

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I used to enjoy the Chinook wines. I recall I stopped by their tasting room in Prosser one time. I also recall that Facelli was one of the first tasting rooms in Woodinville after Ste Michelle and Columbia.

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Great story about the straw, hilarious!

I forgot about the Tefft boxed wine. That was great and I wish more wineries would release some of their basic stuff this way.

I never visited Blackwood Canyon, but heard lots of stories from those that did.

Speaking of WA wine history, here’s a picture Will Camarda recently posted on Facebook. Let’s see if you can name them all!

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I just remembered stopping by once at Horizon’s Edge Winery and they had bottles of really old (at least compared to current releases) Chardonnay they were attempting to move. The color was…not ideal. Isn’t there a winery up on Red Mountain that will still open and pour 20+ year old Washington Chardonnay? Was that Blackwood Canyon, Chuck?

Yes, but they are now longer open, thankfully.

I think I have actually told this story before (and I don’t feel like searching), but my wife and I visited Barnard Griffin in fall 1999. We were having a lovely tasting, when it suddenly seemed there was an earthquake. The tasting room wall (which backed up onto the winery section) started shaking with stuff falling down and a massive noise of crash, smash, bash. Once we settled down a bit (Laura, I and the tasting room employee were OK), we opened the door to the winery, and there was a massive mess of broken glass, wine everywhere and a totally crushed bottling line. The fork truck driver had knocked over a pallet which sent even more stuff crashing. Thank goodness nobody was hurt, but that was the craziest event I have ever been around at a winery.

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-Hedges. This one is still there, but I remember being struck by their impressive winery, and how it seemed to be at the way, way tippy-top of Red Mountain. Even thought it wasn’t.

Rockstar Syrah recently: 2015 Descendants Liegeois Dupont Cuvée Marcel Dupont - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Red Mountain (10/2/2021)
Day 1: Very nice purchase for under $25.00. Will buy more. Dark purple. Roasted meats, smoke, earth, gravel, dark currants and coffee beans. Good concentration and medium to long finish. Should drink well through 2029. 92 points
Day 2: Really nice on day 2 featuring sour cherries, dried leaves, smoke, roasted meats, gravel and red currants. A little less intense as day 1. 92 points
Day 3: Not as good as day 1 and 2. A bit diluted. Sour cherries, minerals, lost the nice roasted meat character, spices, pepper and damp earth. Trust me there is nothing wrong with this wine on day 3 but it lacks the concentration of day 1. 90 points
Recommendation: This wine will age but really is best to consume on day 1 and possibly day 2. (92 points)

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Blackwood canyon cheese. Unforgettable, even if you try.


I was told that the owner most often was barefoot while hosting visits.

My one regret arriving in WA in 2008 was never visiting Blackwood Canyon. I did visit most on Brandon’s OP list. Hinzlinger, Chinook, BonAir, Paradisos, Oakwood Canyon, Eaton Hill, Steppe Cellars, Pontin, Vineheart, Massett, a few other names from those first days for me, many gone, some still kicking in The Yak!

Rick Small, dunno looks a bit like Dick Boushey, Chris Carmada, Norm Mckibben, dunno, dunno. Oh, the last “kid” is Will Carmada.

Pretty good, 4 out of 6. Not Dick Boushey between Rick and Chris. Might be the hardest to guess. But the guy between Norm and Will should be easy.

I cheated since I never had seen him, but by deduction and googling, the middle guy on right is Gary Figgins.

Correct. The final mystery man is JF Pellet of PepperBridge. I had not heard of him before.

Speaking of days past Chuck… Wasn’t your old wine storage place off of Denny Way in SLU? I think I was there when Jay Schiering was hosting a tasting. Fun times.

Great picture. JF Pellet (Pepper Bridge, Amavi, Artifex) and Norm Mckibben (sort of the Robert Mondavi of Walla Walla valley) are some of the nicest people on the planet. Rick Small as well. I don’t know and have never met Gary Figgins. Chris Camarda can be a little edgy, but always an interesting guy, with a lot of wine knowledge. He was part of my tasting group when I joined 20 or so years ago, although soon thereafter left. He has always been extremely generous sharing wine whenever I’ve bumped into him.

I remember drinking things from Portteus, Teft, Wineglass Cellars, Covey Run. I think I still may have a bottle of Wineglass Cellars Pinot Noir from the 90’s (I’m presuming grapes from Oregon). I still have a bottle of a MercerRanch cab from Steve Redfern (Myron’s brother) who unfortunately passed a way recently. It’s interesting that back at that time, Yakima Valley was a little more of the item than Walla Walla. Now it seems it’s all about Walla Walla, even though the grapes often come from the Yakima Valley.

In Walla Walla, in the earlier days, I remember tasting through nearly every barrel in the L’Ecole cellar with Eric Dunham when he was assistant winemaker there. I’m not entirely sure how we made it home. (actually several barrels of cab were labelled “Porteus”, which they used in their blend). At Rulo, I remember closing and locking the doors, to keep the riff-raff out while we enjoyed our wine and left over cheese on release weekend.

There has been tremendous change in the Washington wine world, with more of a Napa-tization in places like Walla Walla. There are still some tremendous bigger wineries. But there are some folks who have rotated/evolved and gone under the radar, who are still worth keeping track of. Specifically folks like John (and Molly) Abbot, who were at Abeja, now with their own venture Devona, which you likely have never heard of. Last time we visited with John, he had barrels of wine in his cellar from several other wineries that had major problems that he had been recruited to salvage, such was his talent, and willingness to help.

When we are in Walla Walla, in addition to visiting some well known places, we always try to tour the startups at the airport, to get a feel for what new and different is happening.

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