Small Tract Of Northwest Wine-Growing Soil Attracting Big Outside Investment

Sep 2, 2014

Wine harvest is underway in a small growing region in southeast Washington called Red Mountain. The dusty wedge of earth has been attracting an increasing amount of investment from winemakers from Napa, Canada and even Italy.

Gewurztraminer grapes at Kiona Vineyards on Red Mountain. The winery founders were some of the very first to try growing wine grapes in the small southeast Washington appellation.
Credit JJ Williams / Kiona Vineyards

In the late-1970s, Red Mountain was mostly sagebrush and a primitive road slashed through the desert. Today, there are only small islands of desert peeking out from a sea of green grape vines.

One of the recent additions is Duckhorn Wine Company from Napa Valley. Company president and CEO Alex Ryan said Red Mountain's sloping southwest exposure, dry desert climate and 40-plus degree swings between day and night make it ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon wine grapes.

And at about 4,000-acres in this area, there just isn’t that much of it.

“If you look at the great wine growing regions around the world -- and there really aren’t that many of them -- they’re all very small, relatively speaking, and really limited in land,” Ryan said. “Just take Boudreaux, Burgundy, Napa Valley, Sonoma.”

The company is releasing its first Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Red Mountain this week. It’s a 2012 vintage called Canvasback.

Duckhorn has planted 20 acres of vines on Red Mountain. A Canadian company, Aquilini Properties, snapped up nearly $16 million worth of Red Mountain land last year. And the famous Italian Antinori family, along with Washington’s Ste. Michelle Estates, debuted a massive winery and vineyard on Red Mountain in 2007.