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.
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.
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.
— Co-Written by Thane Hawkins and Holly Evans-White
Yoga on the lawn at our Underwood Tasting Room
Every Sunday from 11-12pm Mid May 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 our Sparkling Riesling (or another wine of your choice) 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.
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.
May 29th, Memorial Day Weekend: Soul Prophet
We kick off our summer of music with Soul Prophet! Led by the amazing vocals of Amber Nelson, bring a wonderful mix of heartfelt originals and interesting covers. Mark Daly and George Bentz provide (guitar & bass) a background for a relaxing soulful musical experience.
June 5th: Chic Preston
Chic Preston is one of the Gorge’s favorite and best known musicians, appearing in local venues solo or with various groups. He is fluent in many music styles from folk to jazz and is known for his highly personalized book of original songs.
June 12th: Club Pick Up Party!
Join us for our quarterly wine club pick up party! Everyone welcome. Music from 3-5pm, and club members can pick up their quarterly wine shipment.
June 19th: Jess Clemons
Jess Clemons’ experience as a traveler, former island dweller, and small town girl have influenced her folksy homegrown musical style. Raised in Vermont, she attended music school in Nova Scotia where she was a side and front woman for various bands, touring around Canada in the summers. A big leap took her to Nantucket, working as a gardener & musician, rowing to and from a houseboat she called home for several years. After finding Baja in 2010 and subsequently the wind-loving community of Hood River, Jess now calls the Gorge home. Playing guitar & piano on stages around the Northwest and in Baja in the winters, she has become known for her powerhouse vocals, intimate originals and tasteful covers of folks like Patty Griffin, Brandi Carlile and Lori Mckenna, all of whom she has been compared to. Coming out of the woodwork after a long year of nearly no shows, Jess is excited to play for the Gorge community again this summer.
June 26th: Summer Soiree 5-8pm
Two Spirit Jazz
Two Spirit Jazz was co-founded by vocalist-rhythm guitarist-songwriter Suzanne Callaway and her partner, drummer Theresa Riccardi. Together they perform with other musicians as “Two Spirit Jazz”. Depending upon the venue, musicians include pianist Bill French, vibraphonist Connie Johnson, and a bassist. The current repertoire comes from the American songbook and from the vast supply of American jazz and blues. Vocalist Suzanne Callaway and other members are also active composers and often include some of their originals at performances. The band currently plays in and around the Portland area.
July 3rd: 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!
July 10th: Megan Alder
Hailing from the Columbia River Gorge, Megan Alder is a vocal powerhouse performing upbeat swing and Americana music. She delivers her original songs with raw grit and soul. Influenced by artists like Billie Holiday and Bonnie Raitt, Alder performs as a solo artist with live loops and kazoo flare. Her latest release, Quittin’ Time, features six original songs recorded live in Portland, OR. Quittin’ Time is available now on all platforms.
July 17th: Tyson Huckins
Tyson is a soulful, unique musician whose crafted songwriting, melodic instrumentation, and dynamic vocals guide us through lyrical journeys of loss, triumph, life, and shared human experiences. His captivating work is proven to connect to audiences with an eclectic fusion of Soul, Folk, and Americana that retains timelessness and familiarity.
Susie Sinclair, Portland native and long time Gorge entertainer, brings her unique style of blues, jazz, and contemporary music to every live performance. Her barrelhouse blues piano and powerhouse vocals, contemporary jazz with a soft touch, and traditional standards are all delivered in her own fun style. She has a diverse repertoire and wide range of keyboard and vocal talent, and always invites an accompanist, usually bass or percussionist, to join her in sharing the love.
July 31st: Jesse Meade
Jesse Meade is a singer-songwriter who accompanies himself with his own finger-style, acoustic guitar playing while performing both original material and an array of cover songs. His influences include musicians like Ray Charles, Hank Williams, Chuck Willis, Elizabeth Cotten, Otis Redding, Jimmie Rodgers, Louis Armstrong, George & Ira Gershwin, Aretha Franklin, Percy Mayfield, John Hurt, Cole Porter, Sam Cooke, Patsy Cline, Duke Ellington, Fats Domino, and Dinah Washington.
Currently he is performing all over the Northwest while also writing and recording new music.
August 7th: Robert Meade
Robert’s a singer/songwriter, solo acoustic musician who’s originally from the East Coast but has been entertaining Northwest audiences for almost two decades. His brand of covers, upbeat Rhythm ‘n’ Blues originals & Americana ambiance is bound to lift your spirit. Take a listen for yourself!
August 14th: Gabe Hess
August 28th: Kerry Williams
Kerry Williams has been performing in The Gorge for 20 + years on mandolin and guitar, as a soloist or in bands. Kerry plays many different styles of music which include swing, country, old time, bluegrass, folk, or Celtic and typically is high energy.
September 4th: Grateful Growlerz
The Growlerzz are a bluezy group playing in and around the Columbia Gorge. Scott Denis on Guitar, Michael Rockwell on the harmonica, Steve Ridout playing the fiddle, Mike Turley on bass guitar and Chris Palmer on drums. We often have visiting musicians.
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
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! For the health of our staff and all guests, we ask a few things of you and your group during your tasting. Please read the policies below and help us #stopthespread.
Seating is very limited, and no bar tastings are allowed. Reservations are recommended at this time. Children are allowed but must remain seated as much as possible and count towards your total group count. At this time we can only host groups of 6 in Underwood. We can no longer split big groups and need to keep group sizes as small as possible to maintain a safe environment for everyone. Friendly leashed dogs are also welcome anytime.
Please maintain a social distance of 6 feet with guests outside of your group and with our staff while at our tasting room. Our staff will be wearing face masks and it is required that everyone in your group does as well. Your mask must be worn upon arrival until seated at your table, then anytime you leave your seat or enter the tasting room or bathroom. We also ask that only one person from your party enters the tasting room to check in upon arrival and then remain seated at your table as much as possible. If you have any questions or concerns about our policies, please do not hesitate to reach out to us via phone or email.
Wine and Flight Details
We offer 2 flight options, Red or White at $10/tasting (tasting fee waived with 2 bottle purchase). 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.
- Bring your own mask. A mask is required upon arrival, whenever you leave your seat, and when inside the tasting room or bathroom.
- Wear appropriate clothing for the weather as most of our tables are outside. We have fire pits and a few propane heaters available, and you are welcome to bring your own blankets to stay comfortable.
- 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 for helping keep us and our guests safe so we can remain open, and we look forward to seeing you soon!
Curbside pick up and Wine Tastings in Underwood:
Thursday to Monday, 12 – 6 pm
Reservations are recommended, max group size is 6 people and please no splitting of big groups. Reserve your spot online HERE or please call 503-505-4359 to make a reservation or for curbside pick up.
FREE shipping with a purchase of 6+ bottles in OR, WA, and CA. Shop Here and get ready to pop open some bottles! An adult 21+ older must be present at delivery.
For all other states, FREE SHIPPING on 12+ bottles: Order here. Call Casandra with any questions about purchases at 503-505-4359
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.