Featured Press/Blog

Best in Class: 2022 Caldera Red

Our much loved Caldera Red, a harmonious fusion of Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Syrah, has clinched the coveted Best of Class at the prestigious San Francisco Chronicle Wine Awards!

With over fifty judges, blind tasting over 5,500 wines from nearly 1,000 wineries for the 2024 competition, this is North America’s largest wine competition

With only 12 barrels produced, order yours today.  Drink now or cellar and sip for tomorrow.

Read more about the Art of the Blend for our Caldera Red and how we found our passion for this wonderful wine.

Featured Press/Blog

Chardonnay: A Blank Canvas to Explore a World of Terroir


When we released our first Underwood Mountain Chardonnay back in 2017, we heard a lot of comments to the effect of, “I don’t like Chardonnay.” This was especially true amongst younger drinkers and considering how diverse and plentiful Chardonnay is around the world, this surprised us.  Perhaps Chardonnay was too mainstream to the younger generation, who wanted to explore wines that were more expressive and obscure?  There is certainly a trend (or at least more acceptance) toward natural wines and wines that would be considered in more snobby circles, “flawed.”  

Over the course of several vintages of our Chardonnay, we began hearing more “I USUALLY don’t like Chardonnay, but I like this one.”  We ascertained that American taste buds have been exposed to a very limited style of Chardonnay.  In fact, ever since Chateau Montelena won the prestigious Judgement of Paris back in 1973, California has dominated sales of Chardonnay in the US.  The particular style of Chardonnay that befits its warm, marine climate was higher alcohol, low acidity, ample use of new barrels, and full completion of the secondary (or malolactic) fermentation that gives the wine a creamy flavor and voluminous mouthfeel.  This is what most Americans consider Chardonnay, and so it is no wonder that Millennials and younger drinkers in general have rejected this Chardonnay as “mommy juice.”  

Unbeknownst to many of them, there is a whole world of Chardonnay out there to explore, and we are here to set the record straight. In fact, we would argue that, of all the places where Chardonnay is widely planted, California’s climate is LEAST suited to making high quality Chardonnay.  Yet that’s what the consumer has been drinking, decade after decade.  We believe the tyranny of the buttery Chardonnay is at its end, and we have some mouthwatering alternatives for you to explore.

As we explore this world of Chardonnay, we imagine the grape as a blank canvas, ready to absorb the influences of various regional terroirs, akin to the palette of famous painters, allowing for a vibrant exploration of the diverse expressions found in each wine-growing region.

Burgundy, France: Chardonnay’s Birthplace 

When I visited Burgundy in 2015, I was fairly certain that I had no interest in making Chardonnay.  By the time I had left Burgundy a week later, my opinion of Chardonnay was completely transformed, and I was determined to make a Chardonnay from Underwood fruit that could compare on some level to what I had been tasting in Burgundy.

Often regarded as the birthplace of Chardonnay, Burgundy epitomizes the grape’s elegance and complexity. Here, Chardonnay thrives in limestone-rich soils, producing wines that are often described as refined, nuanced, and expressive. The cooler climate imparts high acidity, allowing for a balance of flavors ranging from citrus and green apple in youth to richer notes of hazelnut and butter with age. Sub-regions like Chablis offer lean, mineral-driven Chardonnays, while those from Meursault or Puligny-Montrachet showcase greater richness and depth.

The canvas inspired by Burgundy’s terroir portrays a delicate yet intricate masterpiece. Imagine a canvas painted with soft strokes of pale gold and hints of green. The strokes represent the elegant acidity, mineral undertones, and layers of flavors—subtle citrus hues merging seamlessly with whispers of hazelnut and buttery richness. The overall painting exudes refinement and sophistication, akin to a Monet masterpiece.

California: New World Elegance

Alright, enough with the Cali bashing. There are millions of Americans who still love a lush and fruit-forward style Chardonnay. So let’s give Napa and Sonoma their due. And give me a top-notch Russian River Chardonnay any day and I’m happy. It is true that California crafts Chardonnays that embrace a fruit-forward style. The warmer climate results in riper grapes, yielding wines with flavors of tropical fruits like pineapple, mango, and ripe peach. These Chardonnays often undergo malolactic fermentation and oak aging, contributing to a creamy texture and notes of vanilla and toast, adding complexity to the fruit-forward profile.

In painterly terms the Californian canvas is bold and vibrant, swathed in rich golden hues with splashes of tropical colors. Picture a canvas where ripe golden fruits like pineapple, mango, and peach intermingle, creating a vivid and expressive artwork. It’s textured with strokes of creamy vanilla and toasty oak, akin to a vibrant, impressionistic piece by Van Gogh.

Australia: Sunshine in a Glass

Australian Chardonnay, notably from regions like Margaret River and Adelaide Hills, displays a spectrum of styles. Cooler areas emphasize acidity and minerality, showcasing citrus and stone fruit flavors with a crisp, refreshing finish. Meanwhile, warmer regions yield fuller-bodied wines with ripe tropical fruit flavors, balanced by oak influences, creating rich, buttery textures.

The Australian canvas is diverse, capturing a range of styles within its frame. Imagine a canvas with dual personalities: one side showcasing bright, sun-soaked tropical colors—ripe pineapples and lush peaches; the other side featuring cooler, mineral-driven strokes of green apple and citrus. This canvas evokes a sense of duality, reminiscent of an abstract artwork by Picasso.

Chile: Emerging Chardonnay Players 

Regions such as Casablanca Valley and Limarí Valley benefit from cooling influences, allowing for slower ripening and preservation of acidity. Chilean Chardonnays often exhibit vibrant acidity, accompanied by flavors of green apple, pear, and citrus. Some producers opt for stainless steel fermentation, resulting in fresher, fruit-focused wines, while others use oak to add layers of complexity and creaminess.

Chile’s Chardonnay canvas mirrors Frida Kahlo’s earthy palette. Imagine warm, terracotta hues representing the rich soils, overlaid with strokes of vibrant greens reflecting the lush vineyards. Subtle tones of azure blue signify the cooling influences from the ocean, while hints of gold and amber represent the sun’s influence on the ripe Chardonnay grapes.

Underwood, Washington | Columbia Gorge AVA: An Under the Radar Hotspot

And what to make of our own backyard? We can say without hesitation that our climate is cooler than any of the regions described above. So our Chardonnay has fruit profiles ranging from green apple to pear and citrus. The high acidity and minerality is similar in character to a Chablis, yet we ferment and age in oak to promote the softening of the acids and add some sweetness and texture to the wine.

Imagine the canvas for Columbia Gorge Chardonnay akin to Georgia O’Keeffe’s artistic fusion. The canvas begins with sandy hues representing the arid landscapes, while strokes of pale greens and blues symbolize the cooling influence of the Columbia River and the higher altitude. The canvas is punctuated by bursts of golden yellows, akin to the sun-kissed Chardonnay grapes thriving in this unique terroir.

Similar to O’Keeffe’s ability to blend simplicity with vividness, Columbia Gorge Chardonnay captures both the elegance of a cooler climate and the vibrancy of ripe fruit. It’s a canvas that marries earthy subtleties with bursts of brightness, crafting wines that harmonize complexity with a crisp, refreshing nature.

Bottom line: Chardonnay exhibits remarkable versatility and adaptability to various terroirs around the world, yielding wines that showcase a spectrum of flavors, textures, and aromas. Its widespread cultivation in diverse regions across the globe has led to an intriguing array of Chardonnay styles, each expressing unique characteristics influenced by climate, soil, winemaking techniques, and regional nuances.  Come taste our newly released 2022 Underwood Mountain Chardonnay and see where our wine fits in the broad landscape of Chardonnay.



Hawkins Cellars Journey to Underwood Mountain -Mark Storer, WA Tasting Room Magazine-

Hawkins Cellars: Journey to Underwood Mountain

One of the first to stake a claim on Underwood Mountain in the Columbia Gorge AVA, Hawkins Cellars offers “flights through a world of wine” that include Burgundian-inspired Pinot Noir, tactful Rhônes, and minerally-driven whites

Written by Mark Storer and photographed by Michael Peterson
Wine Reviews by editor John Vitale

Aerial view of the Columbia River Gorge region that shows Hawkins Cellars on Underwood Mountain

ONE DOESN’T NEED to ask Thane Hawkins what brought him to Underwood. At 1,400 feet in elevation above the Columbia River Gorge, and with a chamber-of-commerce view of Mt. Hood to the south, our initial greeting included his saying to us, “turn around.” The entire view, on a blue-sky spring day with bright sun, flecks of clouds, light breezes, crisp, fresh air and temperatures hovering near sixty, makes tasting at Hawkins Cellars a trip worth taking.

Winery partners Deb Michelson and Thane Hawkins

It’s clear that the property he shares with his life-partner and business partner, Deb Michelson, is a gem on Underwood Mountain. Along with the wines themselves, they pose a strong draw to make the turn off of Highway 14 through the Gorge. The tasting room is cozy inside, with a rustic bar, wooden floors and a few tables. Rolling out the sliding door onto the sloping lawn are picnic tables and Adirondack chairs, all there to provide that inspirational view along with a taste of Hawkins Cellars wines. Thane’s self-starter entrepreneurial step into the wine industry completes the character of this place, with Deb handling the marketing and event side 
of the winery.

The couple met in 2010, while Thane was living and making wine in the Willamette Valley. “I think I always knew the Willamette Valley probably was not for me,” concedes Hawkins. “I love it—it’s beautiful and bucolic—but this area along the Columbia Gorge always spoke to my heart.”

Together, Hawkins and Michelson “started dreaming” about making wine on the mountain, and by 2013 had planted one-and-a-half acres of Pinot Noir grapes. By 2017, they opened the tasting room, and production has climbed to about 2,000 cases of wine per year now.

“We wanted to source grapes here and we’re committed to sub-Alpine, cool climate wines,” says Hawkins. 
“We were one of the first wineries to stake our claim on Underwood and focus on Underwood Mountain wines.” There were other vineyards, most prominently Celilo Vineyard, long famous for its Chardonnay and other cool climate varietals. AniChe Cellars’ vineyards were there as well. “They also had a tasting room in Hood River and were sourcing grapes from elsewhere, too,” Hawkins says.

The Mountains Are Calling
Bird’s-eye view of the peak of Underwood Mountain with Hawkins Cellars winery and vineyard property visible in the lower center portion of the photo

Hawkins’ path to Underwood Mountain, however, is not a traditional winemaking path. A California refugee who worked with Dreamworks and then Pixar animation studios, Hawkins developed the visual portion of films; things like shading, coloring and lighting of scenes. He worked on the films “Antz” and “Shrek” for Dreamworks and “Monsters, Inc.” for Pixar. He also was in charge of assembling the final shots of the films into a finished product. “It was a lot of responsibility, but I really did love the work,” Hawkins says. “Film making is a real blend of art and technology, and in that way not terribly different from winemaking.”

Hawkins took a break from his animation career and headed north to Portland, establishing roots there in 2001. He landed a job teaching graphics, animation and multimedia, but it wasn’t as satisfying as he’d hoped. Having explored Napa and Sonoma wines, Hawkins said he turned his attention toward Oregon wine.

It was in the Willamette Valley that he realized there was something more to it for him. “I started diving into the nuances of Pinot Noir and talking to farmers and it piqued my interest,” he says. “I found that the taste and aesthetic side really fueled my curiosity and creativity. It captured my imagination for sure, but I never imagined I could make a living at it.

“I really started falling in love with the Pinot scene. It was much different back then than it is now, and through meeting people I was able to get a harvest internship in the Willamette Valley in 2006.” In addition, Hawkins made wine in his own garage with mixed results. “I knew I needed to get more training, and I needed to do another harvest.” Luckily, he met Chris Lubberstedt of Methven Family Vineyards in the Willamette Valley and became an assistant for the harvest. “He became a mentor for me,” said Hawkins. “I learned a lot with him.”

Methven leased out a portion of its winery as a custom-crush facility and, surrounded by other winemakers, Hawkins was able to glean a lot of information. “I would taste their wine and think, Okay, I see what’s happening here. I’m a bit of a sponge and it might be one of my better qualities. You have to develop your own style within light of what has already been done,” he says.

Ample outdoor seating with incredible views of Mt. Hood
500 Cases of Wine And A Full-Time Job

Although Pinot is king in the Willamette Valley, Thane began to explore the idea of producing some of the varietals that he had loved while living in the Bay Area. An avid outdoorsman, his explorations had taken him around the Yakima Valley in Washington, where he quickly discovered that there were excellent wines being grown there, specifically Rhône varietals such as Syrah. “I love the complexity and versatility of Washington Syrah. I decided, why limit myself to just Pinot Noir?” For the next five years Hawkins would make small quantities of Pinot Noir and Syrah, while also working full-time at an animation studio in Portland.

By 2011, Hawkins had 500 cases of wine and a dilemma. The economy was in recession and his wholesale accounts had dried up. But he persevered. “I got a lead on a tasting room in downtown Dundee. The rent was cheap and people really responded to the fact that we were offering more than just Pinot Noir. We signed up a bunch of wine club members and were off and running.” By the following year he was able to quit his job in animation and make wine full-time.

The tasting room is cozy inside, with a rustic bar, wooden floors and river rock fireplace
Wandering From The Willamette to the Columbia Gorge

While the Willamette Valley had been fertile soil for learning and falling in love with Pinot Noir, Hawkins knew it probably wasn’t the ultimate destination for him. It was the previous year he’d met Michelson, and the pair thought about what they could do with the property Deb originally owned on Underwood Mountain. He’d spent time enjoying recreational activities in the Columbia Gorge and developed a love for the place, crossing the Washington border and feeling right about the possibility of grape-growing here. “People said, ‘yeah, but you’re doing Willamette Valley wines,’ and I replied, ‘not for long.’”

Hawkins began exploring cool climate white wines on the mountain, paying attention to the concerns about high acidity and other characteristics. “We were finding fun things to do with these cool climate varietals.” One offering is called TruNorth, a blend of Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris, grown in Underwood that has floral aromatics with off-dry notes and structured acidity. A distinct minerality wraps the core of the wine, and is a beginning to understanding the European wine characteristics that Hawkins focuses on in his winemaking.

Estate Pinot Noir

Still passionate about Pinot Noir, Hawkins brought that Burgundian sensibility to his estate grown Pinot. It may seem counterintuitive bringing Pinot Noir to higher elevations on the Washington-side of the Columbia, but Hawkins believes the climate and soils are perfect for the varietal. “It’s an interesting challenge growing Pinot Noir up here. I always think there will be too much acidity, but it ends up rounding out nicely in fermentation.”

Calling it his viticulture education, Hawkins said he learns more with each vintage of the Pinot Noir he makes. “It’s a matter of working with the vintage,” he explains. “2019 was cool and a sort of Burgundian and Willamette Valley kind of vintage. The temperatures weren’t as extreme. It is tough to grow world class wine grapes and I’ve developed a lot of respect for grape growers, that’s for sure.” That constant love of experimentation allows Hawkins to make his wine with attention to each vintage’s detail. “When I envision this business, I envision having a flight through a world of wine,” he says.

With a growing wine club and increased attention to wines from the Columbia Gorge AVA, Hawkins feels comfortable in Underwood. “There’s a clear story for us here. We’re a Washington winery making Underwood and Yakima Valley wines, and we are part of an up-and-coming region. This is a very good place to grow grapes.”

Editor’s Top Picks

Wine reviews by editor John Vitale

Hawkins Cellars specializes in Burgundian-inspired Pinot Noir, tactful Rhônes, and minerally-driven white wines

Hawkins Cellars 2021 Rosé of Pinot Noir, 92 pts.
Refreshing and zestful, brimming with ripe strawberry and white peach flavors cloaked with racy acidity, lime and mineral details. Slightly unctuous, resulting in a stylish combination of having an almost creamy feel that finishes with mouthwatering juiciness. Sourced from Celilo Vineyard. $26

Hawkins Cellars 2019 
Estate Pinot Noir, 95 pts.
Elegant throughout, with a refined, ethereal feel buoying the structure backed by a spine of supportive tannins and assertive acidity. Aromas of cherry and floral rose petal mingle seamlessly on the palate with raspberry and red plum flavors that show purity. Finishes gracefully, with underlying minerality and a dusting of chalk. Sourced from Cloud Cap Vineyard, Columbia Gorge AVA. 100 cases produced. $50

Hawkins Cellars 2019 Underwood Mountain Chardonnay, 93 pts.
Made with grapes from White Salmon Vineyard, this clean Burgundian-style white offers vibrant mineral and chalk details that flirt with appealing peach and lemon citrus, backed by crisp D’anjou pear and fresh apple. Notable structure throughout the lengthy finish, the minerality shows fine persistence, trailing with lime zest notes. $32

Hawkins Cellars 2018 Caldera Red, 93 pts.
Robust, with floral and earthen scents, teeming with classic Rhône-style garrigue, black and red berries, licorice and cardamon notes. Leather and violet accentuate the lively finish, offering medium-bodied weight backlit by a nice swath of acidity. Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache, Viognier. 150 cases produced. $36

Hawkins Cellars 2018 
Reserve Syrah, 94 pts.
A lush, velvety texture sets the stage for this Yakima Valley red with alluring aromas and flavors of blackberry and dark blue fruit. Red currant, white peppercorn, bay leaf, dried thyme and hints of black tea are edged in between the earth-infused flavors that resonate with length and concentration on the rich finish. Sourced from Chandler Reach Vineyard. 150 cases produced. $42

Hawkins Cellars 2021 TruNorth White, 91 pts.
A fragrant blend of Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer, abundant with honeysuckle, white fruit and spice aromatics. Lightly juicy with pleasing flavors of honeydew, Bartlett pear, lychee and hints of quince. Stony minerality flickers across the zesty finish. Sourced from the Columbia Gorge AVA. $24

Hawkins Cellars 2020 Barrel Select Viognier, 93 pts. 

A supple yet vibrant version, with floral and nutty aromatics and multi-layered flavors of dried apricot, nectarine, mango, macadamia nuts and orange blossom. Full-flavored, finishing with brisk acidity and lingering spice notes. Sourced from Lonesome Spring Ranch Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. Try pairing with grilled seafood or creamy cheeses. $28

Tour & Taste at Hawkins Cellars

Hawkins Cellars & Estate Vineyard
10401 Cook-Underwood Rd, Underwood WA
Phone (503) 505-4359

Hawkins Cellars: Journey to Underwood Mountain


Wine Wanderings -Tricia Conover

Fine Wines and Zip-Lines Define the Columbia River Gorge Area

Hawkins Cellars Boasts the Finest Views and Wine, 2nd in the “Wines of Washington” Series

Tricia Conover

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.

Recommended Wines:

2020 TruNorth White, $22, Underwood Mountain, Columbia Gorge

2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir, $24, Underwood Mountain, Columbia Gorge

2017 Caldera Red, $34, Yakima Valley, Gold Medal winner

2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, $42, Yakima Valley, Chandler Ranch

One of the Zip-lines at Skamania Lodge

Visiting Hawkins Cellars and the Columbia Gorge

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.

Tricia Conover, Zip-line at Skamania lodge

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If You Go:

Hawkins Cellars, 10401 Cook Underwood Road, Underwood, WA 98651, 503-505-4359

Skamania Lodge, 1131 SW Skamania Lodge Way, Stevenson, WA 98648

Skamania Lodge, Stevenson, WA

Editorial Calendar

The Wines of Washington Series:

Yakima, WA: Gilbert Cellars at Hackett Ranch, Orchards, and Golf Outings

Arbor Crest Wine Cellars: Concerts, Weddings, and Fine Wines

The Columbia River Gorge: Zip-Lines and Fine Wines with Hawkins Cellars

Wine Tasting in Spokane: Latah Creek Wine Cellars

Terra Blanca Winery & Estate Vineyard

“Live” from the Academy of Wine Business Research, Dijon, France

An Interview with Dr. Liz Thach, Master of Wine: Author, “Ten Hot Wine Trends for 2021 in the US Market”

Wine Castles of Sonoma County

Napa Valley: Adventures Post-Pandemic

Healdsburg and the Wines of Sonoma

An Interview with Dominic Chappellet, Pritchard Hill, Napa Valley

America’s Exceptional Wine Country Adventures

The True Cost of a Cocktail

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Press/Blog Vineyards

Let’s Talk Pruning

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.

Awards Featured Press/Blog

The Art of the Blend

The Art of the Blend

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.

The Stone “Galet” vineyards of Châteaunneuf du Pape

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”.

The terraced vineyards of Bandol

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!

2017 Caldera Red and its sister Grenache

Our 2017 Caldera Red Blend recently received a Gold Medal from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.  Our “all-natural MSG” blend contains:

44% Mouvédre

28% Syrah

25% Grenache

3% Viognier

As a small winery, our Caldera Red is only available online or at our tasting room in the Columbia Gorge.  Visit to learn more about us and to order online.

— Co-Written by Thane Hawkins and Holly Evans-White


Time to Think Pink

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 .

— Written by Thane Hawkins and Holly Evans-White

Events Press/Blog

Wine Tasting Details

We are open for wine tastings!  Both Indoor and Outdoor seating available.  Reservations strongly recommended. 

Open Friday – Sunday, 12-5pm (Pending Weather)

*Closed Monday-Thursday 

Please review prior to your visit

We’re thrilled to be uncorking bottles and sharing our wine with our guests!  

Tasting Room 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 is hard packed gravel, but may be hard for a wheelchair to roll down.  Sorry for any inconvenience. 

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. 

Picnic Options

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 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 5pm.

Sip Prepared:

  1. Make a reservation if you want to guarantee a seat for tasting, especially on Saturdays.  
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

The Hawkins Cellars Team

[email protected]
Tasting Room #: 503-505-4359

Sample Tasting Menu 2023


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