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Press/Blog

Syrah: From the Rhone to the Columbia

Syrah: From the Rhone to the Columbia

When I started making wine back in 2007, I quickly realized that Syrah and I would form a lifelong connection. Of all the classic Rhône wines like Grenache, Mourvedre, and Viognier, Syrah grapes provide unmatched versatility and character. Syrah is a true “winemaker’s wine,” producing dramatically varying wines despite all coming from the same grape. Variables like climate, geography, and time of harvest, along with winemaking decisions like the use of newer or older oak barrels, whole cluster fermentation, and length of aging mean two winemakers using grapes from the exact same vineyard can produce vastly different wines. Today, Hawkins is proud to offer three separate Syrah expressions, each reflecting and highlighting the diversity of this spectacular grape. 

History of Syrah

Syrah’s roots trace back to the ancient vineyards of the Rhône Valley, where it gained prominence in the northern Rhône regions of Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie. The grape’s journey across the globe began in the 18th century when French explorers and settlers transported Syrah vines to various corners of the world, including South America, Australia (where it’s called Shiraz), and most importantly from our perspective, the Pacific Northwest. 

Washington’s viticultural history dates back to the mid-19th century, but it wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that the wine industry in the region really began to flourish. Syrah found a foothold in the hot and dry Columbia and Yakima Valleys, and winemakers soon recognized the state’s potential to produce high-quality wines due to its diverse microclimates and fertile soils.

Washington State Syrah

Washington has become a notable player in the global Syrah scene, with its diverse terroirs and climatic variations contributing to the unique expression of the grape. The state’s key Syrah-producing regions include Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Red Mountain, and Horse Heaven Hills. The Columbia Valley, encompassing many of these sub-regions, serves as a broad appellation known for its versatility and ability to produce a range of grape varieties, including Syrah.

Yakima Valley:

Yakima Valley, one of Washington State’s oldest and most diverse wine regions, is home to numerous vineyards and wineries specializing in Syrah. The warm days and cool nights of the Yakima Valley contribute to the development of ripe, fruit-forward Syrah with a good balance of acidity.

Horse Heaven Hills

Horse Heaven Hills, situated in Southeast Washington near the Oregon border, has gained acclaim for its Syrah characterized by intense flavors, robust structure, and excellent aging potential. The region’s well-drained soils and distinct temperature variations contribute to the concentration and complexity of Horse Heaven Hills Syrah.

Red Mountain:

Red Mountain, known for its warm climate and rich, red soils, produces Syrah wines with deep color, bold fruit flavors, and a firm tannic structure. The small size and unique terroir of Red Mountain contribute to the distinct expression of Syrah from this region.

Hawkins’ Syrah Offerings

Reserve Syrah: This is the wine that started it all: the first bottle of Hawkins Cellars wine ever produced was a bottle of Reserve Syrah. Over 15 years later, this is still the backbone of our winery and a personal favorite of your winemaker. The theme of this wine is richness. Generous with aromas and velvety tannins, this wine improves for a full 24 hours after pulling the cork, proving it to be a great wine for the cellar. We employ around 20% new French and American oak and use between 50 and 75% whole cluster during fermentation for all our Syrah wines. Whole cluster means that we do not take the stems off when we start fermenting the wine.  This process tends to take Syrah from a fruit forward offering to something with more structure and tannin.  Often whole cluster Syrah is defined by notes of tobacco and clove.

Coyote Canyon Vineyard Syrah: Experience the essence of Horse Heaven Hills AVA with our Coyote Canyon Vineyard Syrah. Grown in the sun-drenched hillsides of Southeast Washington, this single-vineyard Syrah reflects the region’s unique terroir. Savor bold notes of blackberries, dark cherries, and a hint of dark chocolate. With bold, structured tannins and balanced acidity, our Syrah is a refined expression of craftsmanship, capturing the spirit of Horse Heaven Hills in a bottle. This is one of our most age-worthy wines, as the bold tannins soften over time to create lush and complex notes of leather, meatiness, and smoke.

Boushey Vineyard Syrah: Legendary grape grower Dick Boushey first planted his vineyard in the Yakima Valley over 40 years ago and was one of the first people to grow Syrah in Washington post-Prohibition. Today, the Boushey Vineyard produces some of the finest grapes grown anywhere in the world. Hawkins’ Boushey Vineyard Syrah captivates with a symphony of flavors, including dark plum, blackberry, and subtle notes of white pepper. The vineyard’s high elevation and well-drained soils contribute to a wine with impeccable structure and a velvety texture.

Bottom Line

Syrah’s journey from the vineyards of the Rhône Valley to the farthest reaches of the wine world is a testament to its adaptability and allure. The grape has flourished in diverse climates and soils, producing wines that captivate enthusiasts with their complexity and depth. We invite you to explore the world of Syrah with us by tasting one of our unique expressions of this charismatic grape.

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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.

Categories
Press/Blog

Chardonnay: A Blank Canvas to Explore a World of Terroir

Chardonnay

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.

 

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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.

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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 www.hawkinscellars.com to learn more about us and to order online.

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

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Press/Blog

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 www.hawkinscellars.com .

— Written by Thane Hawkins and Holly Evans-White

Categories
Events Press/Blog

Wine Tasting Details

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

Open Wednesday – Sunday, 12-6pm

*Closed Monday & Tuesday

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!

Cheers,
The Hawkins Cellars Team

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

Sample Tasting Menu 2023

 

Categories
Our Wines Press/Blog Vineyards

Wine Tasting in the Columbia River Gorge

Tasting Wines in the Columbia Gorge, Adventuring, and the Great Outdoors: Our Hawkins Cellars Winery and Tasting Room is located at the entrance to the Columbia Gorge.  Less than an hour’s drive from Portland, the Columbia Gorge is a great location for wine tasting. Not only does the area present diverse world class wines in a breathtakingly beautiful setting. The Columbia Gorge also offers a diverse terrain for growing different varietals that offer virtually limitless options for wine tastings.The Columbia River Gorge is designated as the largest National Scenic Area in America. The vast landscape, defined by the Columbia River, is full of stunning waterfalls to marvel at, amazing trails to hike, and intriguing sites to explore.

The Columbia Gorge and its Diverse AVA

The Columbia Gorge encompasses the river valleys of the Hood River and Deschutes River in Oregon, and the Klickitat River and White Salmon River in Washington. Within the Gorge lies the Columbia Gorge American Viticultural Area (AVA). This AVA exhibits a wide range of terroir in a relativity small region and is known as a “world of wine in forty miles.”  The Columbia Gorge AVA was established in 2004 and the total area covers 4,500 acres, 300 acres of which are planted with vines. The AVA runs along both sides of the Columbia River, encompassing vineyards and wineries on both Washington and Oregon. Moving west to east, the region extends from Hood River to Rowena in Oregon and Underwood to Lyle in Washington.

One key feature of this AVA is the immense difference in climates between the east and west of the Columbia Gorge, resulting in a wine region that is “between two worlds.” The western end of the Columbia Gorge AVA is very similar to the cool and wet Willamette Valley, with an average rainfall of about 36 inches a year. This climate favors cooler climate grapes like Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, all of which do well here. Move to the east side of the Gorge, however–toward The Dalles—and things begin to change. The average rainfall here is only about 10 inches a year. This drier climate creates optimal conditions for bigger varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, and many other Rhone and Bordeaux varietals such as are found in Hawkins Cellars wines. “People don’t immediately think of this as a growing region,” Hawkins says. “This is one of the few areas that has yet to be really discovered, both from a winemaking and a wine-growing perspective.”

Group of people tasting wines in the Columbia Gorge

Hood River Wine Tasting

The Columbia Gorge is blessed by its small towns. The two closest and most popular towns are Hood River and White Salmon. Hood River is on the Oregon side of the Columbia Valley and it is an intriguing town to stop at and explore. The town of Hood River is about 30 miles north of Mt. Hood, the tallest peak in the state. In addition to the beautiful views it offers of Mt. Hood and the Hood River, this small town is abundant in restaurants, breweries, shops, and jumping off points for recreational activities and fruit. Yes, fruit! Hood River is among the largest fruit-producing regions in the nation. Many of the country’s apples, pears, and cherries come from this area. To experience these, set off to drive the Fruit Loop. This 35-mile scenic drive takes you through fruit orchards, small towns, and back roads of the Hood River Valley. You will get to stop at any of the approximately 30 member stands that offer a variety of wines, fruits, vegetables, flowers, ciders, and food.

Across from Hood River on the Washington side is White Salmon. Here you can look across the Columbia Gorge to view Mt. Hood while sampling some fine local brews and food from its eateries and food trucks. Then hop on a mountain bike or lace up your boots for a hike at a nearby park, or drive just an hour to the trailhead for Mt. Adams.

Tips for planning a memorable wine-tasting trip at Hood River

A wine cognoscente is never satisfied; he/she keeps looking for new tastes and types of wines to explore. In this quest, Oenophiles love to go for wine-tasting vacations. But before heading to this exploration, planning the right course here becomes of utmost vitality. To ensure that you have a seamless wine-tasting experience at Hood River wineries, we have enlisted a few things you need to do.

1. Prioritize making an all-inclusive budget

It is easy to be overwhelmed and overspend on such trips owing to pure interest and curiosity. Well, to avoid such a scenario, you need to create an all-inclusive budget for yourself. Gauge the cost of travel, food, and stay for Wineries near Hood River. Next, set a budget that you would solely spend on wine tasting and purchasing. Lastly, assign an amount that you would dedicate to shopping and visiting around the region. Voila! You are all set for your dream wine-tasting trip without weighing heavy on your pocket.

2. Make prior reservations

Columbia Gorge Wineries are occupied by Oenophiles at all times. Hence in order to avoid last-minute inconvenience, you must make prior reservations! This helps us ensure a seamless experience for you. Click here to make prior reservations and enjoy our remarkable wines at a scenic picnic spot ready for you without any inconvenience or waiting line.

3. Gain Info About Booked Wine Tasting Spots in Hood River 

Apart from sipping wine in our facility, it is also recommended to have insights into an itinerary of the popular places to explore in the gorge and make the most out of your wine-tasting trip. Here, you can enjoy freeride mountain biking, water surfing, good food at the Three Generation One Cabin Getaway, and much more.

Frequently Asked Questions:

The Columbia Gorge is renowned for crafting premium wines sourced from top-tier grape varieties cultivated within the region. Its inviting WashingtonWine Tasting rooms, breathtaking landscapes, and exceptional recreational opportunities converge to create an unparalleled wine-touring in the Pacific Northwest.
Yes, at Hawkins Cellars, you can get a guided tour under the supervision of wine experts. These guided tastings offer an immersive experience through the stunning Columbia Gorge region, allowing visitors to explore the vineyards and wineries learning about the unique terroir and wine production processes while enjoying Wine Tasting in Hood River and the wider Gorge.
The optimal period for exploring wineries in Hood River falls within the summer season, specifically between June and August, characterized by minimal rainfall. During this time, temperatures typically range between 75° and 80°, and many Columbia GorgeWineries provide indoor tasting rooms with air conditioning or outdoor seating areas shaded from the sun.
Yes, you can purchase wines directly from our winery in Underwood.

At Hawkins Cellars, we host Club Cuvée events, where new wines are released, and events are held along with member activities. All you need to do is get our Wine Club Membership to be a part!

I am 21 or Over

Yes – take me to the site