The Columbia River Gorge area is a treasure in America’s landscape. The point where the mighty south- running Columbia River turns west towards the Pacific Ocean, the magic is seen. The Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area encompasses views of Mount Hood, the Columbia River Gorge where sail boaters and windsurfers abound, and hikers check out the evergreen terrain. At this location at the edges of Washington State and Oregon, winemakers make wines from both states, a huge advantage for the avid wine connoisseur. We visited the highly acclaimed Hawkins Cellars during this visit as part of my “Wines of Washington tour.” Yet, the active vacationer will not be disappointed. Zip-lines, obstacle courses, golf resorts, and boating are flourishing once again, post-Pandemic. For newsletter #1, “Wines of Washington,” seeWashington State’s Gilbert Cellars: Unique Wine Blends Made in a Vineyard/Orchard Setting.
Meet the Winemaker: Thane Hawkins
Hawkins Cellars, Underwood, Washington, brings the best of the nearby Oregon Willamette Valley AVA grapes, the Columbia Gorge AVA (American Viticultural Area) and the Hawkins Cellars estate grapes to his winemaking portfolio. The 2010 Hawkins Pinot Gris won “Best of Show” at the Bite of Oregon Wine Competition. His 2014 Caldera Red won Double Gold -94 Points-at the San Francisco International Wine Competition (SFIWC.) The winemaker, Thane Hawkins, originally had a successful career in the animations industry working on groundbreaking films like Shrek, Monster’s Inc, and ANTZ. When he felt it was time for a change, Thane studied viticulture, worked as an assistant winemaker for Methven Family Vineyards, and the had the opportunity to start his own winery. What a location he found for his winery on the cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge and in view of Mt. Hood! Join the team for weekend live music events complete with food pairings.
Many of the grapes Thane Hawkins sources, like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, come from warmer AVA’s in Washington, like Yakima Valley. His estate grapes are grown high on the cliffs of the Columbia River, however. These grapes are growing in an Alsace-like climate, almost sub-alpine. The Riesling and the dry TruNorth White blend (Pinot Gris and Gewurtztraminer) show the aromatic characteristics of alpine white flowers and orange peel along with the flavors of peaches, apricots, and smoke. The 2017 Caldera Red blend is considered their signature wine and is created in the Rhone River-style of a GSM – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre – blend, but in reverse order with the Mourvedre taking the star position. The Hawkins wine portfolio even includes and “Pet-Nat” sparkling Riesling, a truly thoughtful, well-curated menu.
Hawkins Cellars is only ten minutes from the Hood River, and a stone’s throw from the quaint town of White Salmon on the Washington side of the Columbia River. Travel and Leisure Magazine rated Hawkins Cellars one of the Top-Rated wineries in Pacific Northwest, and #17 in the United States. Hiking, ziplines, obstacle courses, and boating activities surround the winery. Nearby Skamania Lodge, Stevenson, Washington, offers these outdoor activities, and the choice of traditional lodging or treehouse cabin accommodations. Don’t forget to try the 900 ft. zip-line, an exhilarating experience.
Pruning decisions made in the late winter and early spring affect vine canopy and grape ripening throughout the year. In this video our winemaker demonstrates how we take the previous year’s growth and turn it into the foundation for this year’s harvest.
GSM. Rhône-style Blend. Châteauaneuf-du-Pape. Cote Rôtie. If you’ve spent any time in the wine world (which, if you’re reading this, you have), you’ve heard these terms liberally sprinkled around, especially when talking about blended wines.
Centuries of practice, of trial and error, have taught winemakers in the “old world” a thing or two about whether to blend or not to blend. In Burgundy no one is messing with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. These two varietals are perfectly grown, harvested and produced with only as much human intervention as is needed to correct anything the vineyard or weather flubbed up in delivery. Subtle and supple, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir deliciously whisper.
The Rhône varietals that make up the GSM blend (shorthand for Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre), on the other hand, SHOUT. They are daring, dynamic. Syrah is a hot wind, a warm blanket, purple on the teeth, on the pallet, down the throat. Firm Mourvèdre, terrifically tannic, crackles with black pepper, roasted meat and cocoa, earth wind and fire. While lithe Grenache is all crowd pleasing personality, holding a bouquet of fruit forward lusciousness, smelling of warm strawberries or candied cherries. Each of these three varietals can stand strong all by their lonesome. But bring them together with care, and they harmonize. They blend. A fourth dimension is discovered!
In most of the Rhône region of France 18 red varietals are grown and blended, a veritable alphabet soup of outsized personalities. Little vineyards, small plots, small farms, multi-generational grape growing and wine making. Practice practice practice. In the cooler northern Rhône regions, white wines are more prevalent. In areas such as Cote Rôtie, the dominant theme is blending of Syrah with smaller amounts (20% or less) of Viognier. Other northern Rhone regions may replace Viognier with Roussanne or Marsanne. The enzymatic reactions that occur when these aromatic white wines are blended with Syrah provide a softening and olfactory lift to the meaty and peppery Syrah, as well as enhancing color stability.
In the most famous regions of the southern Rhône it’s all about Grenache. While the number of small AOC’s (the equivalent to AVA in the US) and the blending rules within are too complex to even begin to untangle here, the one constant is that Grenache is the anchor. The star of the show, with a rotating cast of characters to surround its star.
Jump to the “new world”, the wild west; to California, Oregon and Washington. Blend it all, blend anything. Cruise Safeway, Costco, the big names abound even if they look like little names. Charming names like Sea Glass and Little Bunny are there in that big box store, and they are owned & operated by the Big Guys. Consistency of product (wine) and craft is Manna. No wonder the consumers’ eyes glaze over when they are looking for a nice blend to drink with their pork chop. A blend in the hands of a conglomerate-owned winery generally means a boozy soup made of leftovers, nothing that resembles the intention from the Rhône region.
The ideal way to make a beautiful, balanced, blend is to bring together the perfectly ripe, carefully hand sorted fruit together. But who will be the star of the show? In Napa, it’s Cabernet Sauvignon. And while all of those high scoring Cabs often don’t want to admit they had any help, a sneaky little fact- that any Napa winemaker will tell you after a few glasses- is that Merlot is the key ingredient to making the whole thing pop! That much maligned varietal (let’s move beyond Sideways already) provides just the right amount of softening effect to round out the rough edges. State laws do allow 10 to 20 percent of blending while still allowing the wine to be designated as a single varietal.
Beyond that, in the new world we have no guard rails- very few rules- especially when it comes to planting vines. In many vineyards in California, southern Oregon, and eastern Washington you could have Cabernet planted next to Syrah, with Sauvignon Blanc just across the street. What? Talk about confusion! Finding the right site growing the right varietal is tricky. First rule of thumb: Just because it ripens doesn’t make it right. Second rule of thumb: Make what you love.
For Thane Hawkins, winemaker at Hawkins Cellars, it all came together during a trip to France a decade ago. And specifically, a journey to a small, enigmatic region in southern France called Bandol. See, Bandol is the only area in France allowed to produce 100% Mourvèdre. In Bandol, they don’t even think about releasing a wine for public consumption that is under four years old. Rustic and tannic in its youth and young adolescence, over time developing floral notes of crushed violet, lavender, and dark fruit. Spending a couple of days lost in Bandol, with its jagged hillsides of terraced vineyards, Thane was “glammed”.
But how to take this brooding show stopper and make it palatable to a wider audience? Finding the star was easy. Thane has worked with Kiona Vineyards since our first vintage in 2007, and the Red Mountain region is, as the kids might say, “in the pocket” when it comes to growing bigger, more robust red wines. Check.
Syrah, meanwhile, has been with us since our first vintage, and we began co-fermenting Syrah and Viognier shortly after. Check. And, as luck would have it, a block of Grenache came online at Lonesome Spring Vineyard, the same location where we source our Viognier. Seeing as there is very little Grenache being grown in the Yakima Valley, Thane jumped at the opportunity to work with this fruit. And thus, the Caldera Red was born.
For our Caldera Red blend, Mourvèdre is the star of our show. Our Lizzo. Bombastic, in your face, can’t look away. Supported by a soulful cast of characters that make the whole groove undeniably catchy. But with an edge. This is not easy listening; rather, it’s an original. However, if you keep an open mind- and have some pulled pork or thinly sliced steak with blue cheese on hand- you might just have an out-of-body experience. The fourth dimension!
Our 2017 Caldera Red Blend recently received a Gold Medal from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Our “all-natural MSG” blend contains:
As a small winery, our Caldera Red is only available online or at our tasting room in the Columbia Gorge. Visit www.hawkinscellars.com to learn more about us and to order online.
Every Sunday from 11-12pm Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend.
Join us for a gentle flow yoga session in the good old outdoors with a beautiful mountain view. We have plenty of room to spread out to keep everyone safe while getting their yoga on. After class, enjoy a refreshing and well earned glass of wine at our tasting room. All abilities and non-experienced yogis are welcome!
Reserve HERE to book your spot today! $20 per class, includes the 1 hour yoga class and a glass of of wine after the yoga session.
Only $10 for wine club members! Make sure you are logged into your account when reserving to receive special pricing.
Call our Underwood tasting room with any questions at #503.505.4359.
Meet our Yoga Instructors
I started my path in health and wellness 30 years ago in the nursing profession. I have continued to build on the mind-body-spirit connection by immersing myself in understanding alternative health practices that heal the body. Yoga has changed my life in so many positive ways and I am honored and privileged to share the wonder of this practice with all. The Columbia River Gorge is a place of magnificent beauty and doing yoga at Hawkins Winery deepens the practice with the magic of the beautiful area.
I bring a balance of challenge, playfulness, and approachability with the intention of bringing awareness together. Come experience this magic with me.
Om Shanti, Lisa
Susan is the ownder of Colubia Gorge Dance Academy in Hood River, and loves to not only teach dance but yoga as well. She holds a BS in Education, specializing in Physical Education and Dance, from Texas Tech University. She studied at Southern Methodist University, Texas Tech University, Brookhaven College, Moonslice Dancer Theatre, Buster Cooper School of Dance, and Houston Ballet. Mrs. Sorensen taught P.E. and Dance for the Dallas Independent School District for 7 years. She also worked as an independent artist, performing with Contemporary Dance/Ft Worth, Brookhaven Dancer’s Theatre, Donna Marie-Moham Dancers, Diana Taylor Dancers, Lubbock Civic Ballet and e. donnette durham & dancers.
She teaches Jazz, Modern and Hip Hop at CGDA and also works as a freelance choreographer for local theatre groups. Choreography credits include, Carousel, How to Succeed in Business, 100 Degrees in the Shade, On the Verge, Private Eyes, Zombie Prom, West Side Story, Beauty and the Beast, Guys and Dolls, Avalon, Legally Blond, Chicago, Mama Mia and Grease.
Live music outdoors on our lawn with a mountain view and tasty wine!
Join us every Saturday from 3-5pm at our Underwood tasting room and rock out while sipping in the sunshine.
Reservations are highly recommended. Please click HERE to reserve your table. We offer wine by the glass or bottle purchases during live music. No tastings available, if you would like to come in for a wine tastings, please schedule at another time.
August 13th: Hwy 14
The Hwy 14 are a bluezy group playing in and around the Columbia Gorge. Scott Denis on Vocals and Guitar, Michael Rockwell on the harmonica, and John Cyparski on the sax and flute. We often have other visiting musicians.
August 20th: County Line
County Line is Kerry Williams on mandolin and guitar, Jeremy Hadden on bass, Tim Ortleib on drums, and Matt Mesa on rhythm guitar and vocals. They have been playing together for many years and are a Gorge local favorite, come check them out!
August 27th: Ravin’
If you like irresistible rhythm, soulful blues and upbeat rock, you’ll love Ravin’. This four piece band brings all this and more to every performance, with Susie Sinclair on keys and vocals, Bill Irish on guitar and vocals, Bob Hagen on percussion and Mal Brown on bass and vocals. Sit back and relax or jump up and dance, either way you will have a good time with these talented musicians. We look forward to playing for you!
September 3rd: Chic Preston & Brian Litt
This will be our last Music on the Lawn series for the summer. Chic Preston and Brian Litt are local Gorge favorites and will be rocking out with us from 3-5pm.
September 24th: Fall Club Release Party, Live Music w/ Al Hare
Born and raised in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, singer- songwriter and guitarist Al Hare draws inspiration for his music from the majestic views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams, the incredibly scenic waterfalls along Interstate 84 through the Gorge, and from the green and gold hills that surround The Dalles, where Eagle Caves look down upon “Little Music City”.
Al’s performances display a comprehensive mastery of a very broad range of styles. You will hear classic 90’s and newer Country, Rock from the 80’s to today, all colors of Blues spiced with modern Pop, and everything garnished with touches of Bluegrass, Jazz, and Reggae.
Sure, a few wine lovers start their wine journey at age ten at their parent’s dinner table with an ounce of Sancerre to pair with the steamed mussels. However, most of us started out at sixteen at a friend’s house with something like Sutter Home White Zinfandel sipped from a coffee mug. It tasted alright. It did the job. As our sweet tooth switched to a preference for potato chips, so did our wine of choice evolve in to something less cloying. Soon we turned up our noses at beginner wines in favor of a Pinot Gris, then an oaky Chardonnay, until finally, as “grown ups” we demanded BIG. BOLD. RED. Teeth staining, pallet ripping, take-no-prisoner wines that shouted: drink drink drink me! Until our tongues turned to leather and four aspirin couldn’t quiet the morning-after head pounding.
Surely there must be more to wine than the buzz; wines that whisper and delight, wines a white wine lover can enjoy with a red-wine loving friend. Something subtle, flavorful, charming, quiet, soft, reasonable.
Enter dry Rosé. The red wine drinkers white wine. The white wine made from red grapes. Done dry (without any noticeable sugar) a dry rose speaks, quietly, of spring, of summer nights; a wine delicious with cheese and strawberries, delicious with a medium rare filet mignon. Or, tasty all by its lonesome.
Real rosé isn’t baby stuff, it’s not a liquid Pop Tart. France makes gorgeous rosé out of Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cinsault, Syrah. So does Italy. So does Spain.
And so do we.
Hawkins doesn’t make a lot of any wine. We make wine we love and we love Rosé and so we make just a few barrels of it, carefully. There are two ways to make pink wine. The first method is known as Saignée, which is basically a by-product of making red wine by pulling the juice out of the fermenter after a day or two on the skins, with the goal of trying to “concentrate” the red wine (this is extremely common with lighter bodied reds such as Pinot Noir). This style of rosé tends to be more concentrated, with darker color and riper flavors (think raspberry and blackberry).
Why do we avoid making this style of Rosé?. For one, saignée rosé tends to be higher alcohol. After all, the winemaker has harvested the fruit with red wine in mind. There is a basis for the term “rosé all day.” The spirit of rosé is that you can sit on your porch with a friend and knock back a bottle, without feeling like someone slipped you an Ambien.
For us, Rosé is not an afterthought in the winemaking process. Unlike the Saignée style of making Rosé, the preferred style by winemakers in places like Provence, and by yours truly, is by direct press maceration. It is a technique that is intentional and stylistically purposeful. We take extremely high quality red grapes that are specifically targeted for Rosé production, and make pink wine by dumping the grapes directly into the press, letting it sit for a few hours on the skins to pick up some color, and then gently pressing the juice off the skins. We then ferment the wine until dry (no residual sugar) and rack the wine off of the lees before bottling. Pink wine made from this method tend to be lighter, as the fruit was specifically targeted for white wine production, and therefore (generally speaking) lower alcohol.
Our Willamette Valley Rosé comes from the gorgeous Stormy Morning Vineyard in Banks, Oregon. While we could make more money turning the pinot noir from this vineyard in to, well, Pinot Noir instead of Rosé – our love for pink wine is such that we just can’t resist the temptation to treat ourselves, and you, to spring, to sunshine, in a glass. Our 2019 Stormy Morning Rosé is available now either at our tasting rooms, or at our website www.hawkinscellars.com .
We are open for wine tastings! Both Indoor and Outdoor seating available. Reservations strongly recommended. Open Thursday – Monday, 12-6pm
Please review prior to your visit
We’re thrilled to be uncorking bottles and sharing our wine with our guests!
Reopening Policies Seating is limited and we recommend making a reservation to guarantee your spot for tastings. Children are allowed but must remain seated as much as possible and count towards your total group count. You can reserve online for groups of 6 or less, and for groups larger than 6 please call or email to reserve your spot. Friendly leashed dogs are also welcome anytime.
Please note that at this time there is no wheelchair access to the tasting room or for restroom use. We are a small, family owned tasting room serving at a mountainous location and unfortunately unable to provide wheelchair access. The pathway to our tasting room is a flat, woodchipped walkway that is about 2 feet wide.
Wine and Flight Details
Our current tasting menu is a flight of 5 wines, 1.5oz each, for $20.00 (tasting fee waived with 2 bottle purchase). Tastings are complimentary for club members and up to 3 additional guests. Sip wine by the glass or purchase a bottle of your favorite wine and enjoy onsite.
We offer picnic baskets of pre-packaged savory goods that can be purchased during your tasting. Our picnic basket includes 2 cheeses, 1 salami, crackers, and chocolate. We will provide a cutting board, knife, and paper plates and napkins. Bring in your own picnic if you prefer; however, we ask that whatever you pack in, you pack out.
Time Allotted for Each Reservation
We ask that you keep your time at Hawkins to about 1.5 hours so we can follow regulations and allow for other groups to come in and experience our wines. However, if there are no reservations coming in after you, you are welcome to stay as long as you like until closing at 6pm.
Make a reservation if you want to guarantee a seat for tasting, especially on Saturdays.
Wear appropriate clothing for the weather as most of our tables are outside. We have fire pits and a few propane heaters available for cold days, and shady spots for hot days.
If bringing your own picnic, please bring all your own utensils and other items you may need, and please pack out everything you pack in to ensure the health and safety of our staff and customers.
Thank you and we look forward to hosting you soon!