The Columbia Gorge is a distinctive American Viticultural Area (AVA). It straddles Washington and Oregon along the Columbia River, around Lyle, WA and Hood River, OR. The climate is transitional, between the dry region to the east and the cooler, wetter area to the west. Much of the terroir is volcanic, from ancient eruptions of Underwood Mountain and Mount Hood. The slopes offer good drainage, and cooling breezes from the Columbia River temper the summer heat. All this adds up to a highly suitable are for wine grape growing, especially, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Grüner Veltliner.
On Thursday, June 23rd, we drove westward from Walla Walla to Lyle. Our first stop was at Tetrahedron Cellars on Highway 14, just as one enters Lyle. This new winery is owned by Darren Michaels and his fiancée, Kelly Johnson. Its inaugural releases include a Chardonnay and a Charbono, to be reviewed in the August issue of the Review of Washington Wines. Also on State Street (Highway 14) is the Memaloose tasting room which features wines from the Idiot's Grace and Mistral Ranch estate vineyards. Then we drove up above Lyle to the Cor Cellars and Syncline wineries on the Old Highway 8. Up there, the view of Mount Hood and the Columbia River is breathtaking. Reviews of these and other wines tasted on our trip will be in the August issue. Then, we drove about 17 miles west to Little Buck Creek Road on Underwood Mountain to visit AniChe Cellars, owned and run by Rachel Horn and Anïas Mera.
We spent the night at the Best Western Hood River Inn where we had a delicious Columbia River King Salmon dinner at the Riverside Restaurant with a nice Oregon Pinot Noir. The next morning, we drove back up above Lyle to Domaine Pouillon. There, we tasted several wines, current and future releases, with Alexis and Juliet Pouillon, including an Alsace-style blend of Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Riesling called "Edelzwicker" (to be reviewed, with others, in the August issue). Our last stop was on the Oregon side at Analemma in Mosier. There, we tasted some fine Gewürztraminers, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Atavus and Oak Ridge vineyards. Afterwards, we drove eastward to home in Walla Walla.
Watch for the July issue of the Review of Washington Wines, on line July 22, for reviews of wines tasted.