West Coast Wine Industry Growth

Is the industry saturated? Not according to these hopeful entries

by Jane Firstenfeld

San Rafael, Calif. -- Many would-be winemakers see room for their new ventures in emerging, sometimes untried regions across the continent, as we reported here yesterday. But the West Coast, where most of North America’s wine comes from, has thousands of established producers. With some growers suffering surplus supplies of premium grapes this year, it might appear to be overbuilt. Not so, according to budding vintners we meet, and press releases and news reports we read every day: New wineries and custom-crush facilities open doors; others expand or revamp their operations from Canada to California. Here’s a roundup.

British Columbia

Credit: Stuart Bish Photography 
Hester Creek Estate Winery is one of the oldest in Oliver, B.C.’s “Golden Mile” region; its founders planted vinifera vines there in the 1968. In September, however, Curt Garland, who purchased the estate in 2004, held a grand opening on a new winemaking facility and a 4,000-square foot guest center with tasting bar, wine library, demonstration kitchen and VIP lounge. Meanwhile, the winemaking team headed by Rob Summers, moved into a 23,000 square foot production facility with a 35,000 case capacity. The winery is partially buried to take advantage of the earth’s natural temperature control. Learn more at hestercreekwinery.com.

Joe and Connie Serka hosted a grand opening this month for their new Olalla Valley Vineyards and Winery in Olalla, Wash. (Not to be confused wit Olalla Valley Vineyard in Winston, Ore.) New to the grape and wine business, they have 3 acres planted to Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Merlot and the Hungarian grape Agria on their estate near Port Orchard in western Washington. The 50-100 cases they produce, including estate-grown blackberry and raspberry wine, sell for $20-30 per bottle at the winery. The website’s still a work in progress, but you can reach the Serkas at (253) 851-4949.

Wallula Slope
Den Hoed sources grapes from the Wallula slope.
 Den Hoed Wine Estates, a joint venture of grapegrowing brothers Bill and Andy Den Hoed, Grandview; Washington wine pioneer and Long Shadows founder Allen Shoup, and Boudreaux Cellars owner/winemaker Rob Newsom, released its first wines this fall. Only 124 cases of 2005 Den Hoed Marie’s View red blend and 187 cases of 2006 Den Hoed Andreas Cabernet Sauvignon are sourced from the partners’ vineyards on the Columbia Valley’s famed Wallula Slope. Marie’s View is a blend of 36% Syrah, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 12% Sangiovese; Gilles Nicault, Long Shadows’ in-house winemaker created the 2005 vintage, which retails for $80. For details, visit denhoedwines.com.


Gary Gouger bottling

At the mouth of the Columbia River, Gougér Cellars Winery opened in Vancouver (that’s Vancouver, Wash.) last week. Owners Gary and Bonnie Gougér were wine hobbyists with a food business, “Brownies from Heaven.” In their 900-square foot space in the city’s Cellar 55, Gary will concentrate on blends of both red and white wines, and will produce 500 cases this year, sourcing grapes from eastern Oregon and northern California. Gary is a former pharmacist and optometrist from Santa Rosa, Calif. Learn more at gcwinery.com.

Winemaker Ryan Harms and vineyard operator George Hillberry, both industry veterans, recently opened Union Wine Company in a 10,000-square foot Tualatin warehouse. Previously, they’d purchased the Kings Ridge brand from Rex Hill Vineyards, and made Underwood Cellars and Alchemist Cellars wines in rented facilities. In March, they hired winemaker Greg Bauer, and plan to produce some 38,000 cases this year, retailing from $10-$18 per bottle. Union Wine facilities will also serve other brands as a custom-crush. For details, visit kingsridgewines.com.

Pallet Wine Co.
Pallet Wine Co.
 Pallet Wine Co., in Medford, was featured in our Headlines while it was under construction in April. Now, Southern Oregon’s first dedicated custom-crush winery is processing more than 180 tons of grapes, ahead of first-year projections. The urban winery in the historic 22,000-square-foot Cooley Neff Building, is owned by winemaker Linda Donovan and Dan Sullivan. Quail Run Vineyard, the region’s largest grower, is making several wines at Pallet this year, for sale in its South Stage Cellars tasting room in Jacksonville, a nearby tourism magnet. Additional clients include Slagle Creek, Madrone Mountain and Soloro vineyards, and new brands Philanthropie and Footstone Jive. Consulting winemaker Eric Weisinger is using Pallet for his Oregon clients. The Southern Oregon Wine Institute at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg is producing a Merlot wine there to be sold through the UCC Foundation in support of the Wine Institute. For more information, visit palletwine.com.


Inman Family Wines broke ground in July for a new winery on its Olivet Grange Vineyard in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley. Owner/winemaker Kathleen Inman specializes in Pinot Noir wines; she recently hired her first full-time employee, Kevin Burton, as director of sales and hospitality. Previously, Burton was retail operations director at J Vineyards & Winery. At Inman, he’ll focus on sales in the new tasting room, scheduled to open this winter. Meanwhile, the tasting room in Windsor remains open. For details, visit inmanfamilywines.com.

Grieve Family Winery released its inaugural vintage, a 2008 Sauvignon Blanc from its 60-acre estate vineyard in the little known Lovall Valley. The valley straddles the Napa/Sonoma county line, north of Carneros, west of Mt. Veeder, east of the town of Sonoma, and is mostly within the Napa Valley AVA. At 554 feet, the secluded valley is only accessible from the Sonoma side. Owner David Grieve plans to concentrate only on Sauvignon Blanc, which is picked as late as mid-October there. Michael Terrien, formerly with Hanzell, produced in 620 cases in 2008; retail price is $40 per bottle. For more information, visit grievewinery.com.


Six partners joined to create FUSE, a Napa Valley blend of 25% Syrah with Cabernet Sauvignon. Ray Signorello, Signorello Estate and EDGE Cabernet; consultant Michael Updegraff; attorney James Beadle; travel executive Denny Hopp; food and beverage veteran Greg Karamanian and insurance expert Thomas O’Neil sourced grapes from Napa Valley growers to create 6,000 cases of 2006 FUSE, retailing for $20 per bottle. For more, visit fusewine.com.

Carneros Vintners Inc. opened earlier this month; it’s considered the largest custom-crush facility in Sonoma Carneros. Winemaker David Dobson expected to crush some 1,000 tons of fruit this harvest. It has an elevated gravity-flow crushpad, and 52,000-square feet of temperature-controlled storage. It’s a division of The Vintners Group, which operates the Lodi Vintners custom-crush in Woodbridge. For information, visit carnerosvintners.com.

Castillo’s Hillside Shire Winery opened its tasting room in Morgan Hill this summer. Owners Jess and Roni Jo Castillo have a total of 8 acres of vineyards at the winery and produce varietal wines in minuscule amounts, from 26 cases of estate Cabernet to 55 cases of Syrah. The tasting room is open on weekends. For more, see castilloshillsideshirewinery.com.

Guglielmo Winery is hardly new to the industry: Three generations of the Guglielmo family have been producing wine in the Santa Clara Valley since 1925. It’s worth noting, however, that the Morgan Hill winery re-opened a newly refurbished tasting room and event center last spring, and can accommodate wedding parties of up to 400. For details, visit guglielmowinery.com.  


Terravant Wine Company, the huge custom-crush winery in Buellton, Santa Barbara County, opened its new tapas restaurant, wine bar and wine shop, Avant, for tasting, lunch, dinner and grazing. It features 32 self-serve Cruvinet-style wine dispensing machines. Thirty-some vintners make their wines at Terravant. For more information, visit terravant.com.

Channel Island Winery received unanimous approval for a new winery and tasting room from the Oxnard Planning Commission this month. The winery would be in a 47,000-square foot warehouse in the city’s industrial section, near the Herzog Wine Cellars and Rancho Ventavo Cellars. Plans call for a cafe, two wine tasting rooms and an outdoor patio. Owner Doug Scott was previously involved in the wine industry in Santa Ynez.

Designer and fine artists Cosimo Pizzulli launched Pizzulli Family Winery with the release of 2007 Sangiovese sourced from Los Alamos Valley Vineyard in Santa Barbara County. Later this year, Pizzulli will release 2007 Barbera and Nebbiolo. There will be 100 cases of each varietal from Pizzulli, based in Pacific Palisades. See pizzulli.com for more information.


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