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.
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.”
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.
Underwood Mountain rises into view on the Washington side of one of the Pacific Northwest’s most iconic landscapes: the Columbia River Gorge, a playground for windsurfers, hikers, skiers, and those in search of one of the prettiest drives in America.
If Thane Hawkins has his way, this mountain and gorge will soon be as big a draw for another kind of activity: wine tasting. He’s so convinced he’s started growing grapes on Underwood Mountain. Last fall, his Hawkins Cellars winery opened a tasting room and patio in Underwood with epic views of Mount Hood. If he and a handful of neighbors succeed, they’ll put an otherwise obscure region on the map, and offer a welcome respite to the often traffic-choked interstates that deliver wine lovers from Portland to the Willamette Valley. But wine is a competitive business, and finding a way to rise above the noise won’t be easy.
The Columbia Gorge American Viticultural Area is about 4,500 acres, while Oregon’s more famous growing region, the Willamette Valley, covers 3.3 million acres and contains six sub-appellations. The Gorge straddles both Oregon and Washington, with a wide variety of terroir relative to its size.
“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.” The range of microclimates in the Gorge makes a case for Underwood Mountain to be its own AVA, Hawkins says. “We have a harsher climate with a shorter growing season on Underwood Mountain, and the fruit doesn’t ripen without a strong human element. But 30 miles away, they’re ripening Zinfandel,” Hawkins says. “The slam dunk would be for Underwood Mountain to be its own AVA.”
Hawkins is a newcomer to Underwood; he and his business partner Debra Michelson started growing grapes here in 2013. See the full article on VINEPAIR by VinePair.com (Published: January 4, 2018).
What awaits you in Underwood?
Our Underwood tasting room is located in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, one of the many wineries located on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge AVA. From here, you can enjoy all the outdoor activities in the Gorge: hiking and exploring the famous “Waterfall Alley” in the Gorge, whitewater rafting, fishing, mountain biking and, of course, windsurfing and kite boarding! The charming towns of White Salmon, Stevenson, and Hood River offer an array of restaurants, brew pubs, shopping and art galleries. Sip and stay! The Hood River area has many lodging options, including vacation rentals, bed & breakfasts and hotels. The beautiful Skamania Lodge is less than 30 minutes from Underwood Mountain.
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