Our Story

Great Wine, Good Fun, and the Gravel Road Less Taken

Video: Farm to Glass

 

We are a small family winery in Yakima, WA that handcrafts true-to-varietal Washington wine. We love the way wine evokes community, hospitality, and beauty. Our family is excited to share our wines with you, where ever your gravel road takes you.

Here in Yakima, Washington, our ancestors chose the agrarian life in 1897. The simple joys of our rural community, and the products it bears, still speak to us today. We come from a long line of Yakima Valley fruit growers, and have chosen to honor that legacy through winemaking. We believe that what we’re doing matters—creating wines that share a place that we love. Our work and our play are closely intertwined. Besides making our own wine, we like to make our own fun, hosting tastings, dinners and special events, especially when we can invite our favorite artists and musicians.

Outside of that, at day’s end we’d rather enjoy a meal at home on the patio, candles lit, with a bottle of wine than do almost anything else. Dinner-table conversation — enhanced by, say, a lovely Riesling or Cabernet Sauvignon — often wanders from viticulture and geology to music and the arts to mountaineering and travel tales, and a few good yarns

Which is not to say that the pace around Yakima is strictly pastoral and bucolic. Adventure? We love it — hiking, biking, rock climbing. We even have our own landmark to scale. The turf of a herd of spry mountain goats, 8,200-foot Gilbert Peak is named for Curtiss R. Gilbert, grandfather of our winery co-founder, Curtiss M., and great grandfather to some of the rest of us.

Family Winery, Gilbert Peak Legacy

Grannie Annie Aunt Margaret

When you open a bottle of Gilbert Cellars, we hope it evokes the same sense of place and sense of adventure that we feel when we create it. The Gilbert family legacy is one of commitment, community and adventure, and Gilbert Peak is the perfect symbol to celebrate our history and our future. Our first wines featuring the new Gilbert Peak label were released in March 2014, the same year we celebrated ten years of our family winery,  and 117 years of farming in Yakima, Washington.

The Gilbert Peak Label merges the elements of legacy, inspiration, vitality and terroir that are present throughout Gilbert Cellars’ family winery. 

LEGACY | In 1918, Curtiss Richey Gilbert returned to Yakima from the trenches of World War I, determined to lead the next generation in developing their orienteering skills while spending his time in the beautiful Cascade Mountains — especially the Goat Rocks Wilderness. He became an avid hiker as well as a respected local scout leader. Among his many descendants are Meg Gilbert Bradford, Laura Rankin, and Charlie Gilbert — Gilbert Cellars’ partners (and cousins).

When Curtiss died in 1947, his most frequent hiking partner, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, decided to name the highest point in the Goat Rocks Wilderness in Curtiss’ honor. Mt Curtiss Gilbert, aka Gilbert Peak, was officially dedicated in 1949. The family celebrated the 10th anniversary of the dedication with an organized hike, which continued each decade following. In 1997, the centennial anniversary of the Gilbert’s move to Yakima vibrant 80 member hiking party marked the occasion. An annual tradition took hold.

INSPIRATION | The mountains were a special place for Curtiss, as well as Justice Douglas. Gilbert Cellars is formed in the same spirit of adventure and exploration. In Of Men and Mountains, Douglas wrote,

“If throughout time the youth of the nation accept the challenge the mountains offer, they will help keep alive in our people the spirit of adventure….A people who climb the ridges and sleep under the stars in high mountain meadows, who enter the forest and scale the peaks, who explore the glaciers and walk ridges buried deep in snow—these people will give their country some of the indomitable spirit of the mountains.”

VITALITY | Gilbert Peak is more than just a place, or even a family honor — it is also inherently linked to the vitality of agriculture in Yakima. As the main watershed for the upper Yakima Valley, Gilbert Peak’s glacial melt forms the Tieton River — the water that feeds acres of vineyards and orchards and supports the agricultural bounty of this beautiful region.

TERROIR | On an even bigger scale, Washington’s viticultural ties to the mountains are indelible. As Jancis Robinson reminds us, “Washington’s wine story really began fifteen million years ago, when the region experienced chaotic volcanic activity. Lava flows hardened into the basalt bedrock that covers much of the Northwest today. Cataclysmic floods followed, resulting from glaciers moving south from Canada and stopping at the Clark Fork River in the Idaho Panhandle. This enormous piece of ice formed a natural dam, creating Lake Missoula. The dam eventually burst with the “Missoula Floods” depositing sand, silt, granite, and quartz throughout the region — a cycle that would repeat itself many times over. Winds spread this matter to the surrounding hills, and volcanic eruptions in the Cascades added ash to the already-complex soils.”

The Ahtanum Ridge, which is prominently featured in the view from The Hackett Ranch where we produce our wines, was created by these ancient laval flows. The east-west Ridge, one of many in our region, creates near-ideal vine growing conditions. South facing slopes get the best sun and the steep ridge creates great drainage conditions. 

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