To quote our winemaker, Justin Neufeld, “Winemaking is a science and an art.” Gilbert Cellars wines are handcrafted using up to 70 percent family-grown fruit, and our Washington vineyards thrive in three celebrated American Viticultural Areas: Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope and Columbia Valley.
HORSE HEAVEN HILLS AVA
Among Washington Vineyards, vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills are widely celebrated. Some of Washington’s cult wines are produced from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in this AVA including the 2002 and 2003 Quilceda Creek Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon, which scored the rare 100 point rating from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate. We certainly feel fortunate to source many of our grapes, with vines owned by The Gilbert Family, from this special viticultural area.
River Ridge Vineyard
Featured wine: 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
Among the newest of our vineyards, with its first lots vinified in 2011, River Ridge overlooks the Columbia River to the south. It features Bordeaux varietals, all densely planted to make use of the Horse Heaven Hills low-fertility soil.
Nine Canyons Vineyard
Featured wine: 2013 Pinot Noir
A stone’s throw from the Columbia River, Nine Canyons Vineyard is tucked amid 250 acres of cherry and apple orchards, just south of the thriving city of Kennewick. Curtiss Gilbert planted its deeply terraced hillsides with grapes in 2009. Pinot Noir lines the vineyard’s north-facing slope, while Malbec, Chardonnay, and Carménère fill out its much warmer south-facing slope.
The soil here is Starbuck loam, a stony, shallow layer of silt that covers a solid layer of basalt. Exceptionally well drained and nonfertile, the loam helps minimize vigor in the vines, allowing for a balanced canopy in the production of low-yield wine grapes. Our first Horse Heaven Hills vineyard, this gem should grow in quality and intrigue.
Featured wine: 2013 Malbec
Chukar is planted with Chardonnay, Carménère, Grenache, Malbec, and Pinot Noir.
WAHLUKE SLOPE AVA
Doc Stewart Vineyard
Featured wines: Syrah, Left Bank, Allobroges, Chardonnay
Doc Stewart Vineyard is the one that started it all for our family. The Vineyard was farmed continuously by George “Doc” Stewart and family from 1972 until we Gilberts bought it in 2002. Located in the farming town of Mattawa, its parcels of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay date to the early 1980s. Other vines were replanted in the early ’90s. Today, the vineyard includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah, Malbec, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.
A surgeon turned farmer, Doc Stewart was among the first to see the agricultural potential of the Wahluke Slope, then a wasteland of tumbleweeds and dust. Doc saw deposits of sand and silt, gravel deposited from the Missoula Floods, and higher-than-average days of sunlight, which promised a vineyard producing deep fruit and intriguing mineral flavors. Happily, botanist Walter J. Clore—posthumously recognized as none other than the “Father of Washington Wine”—assured Doc he was on the right track.
In 1972, while it was flush with reclaimed water from the Columbia Basin Project, Doc planted a couple dozen acres of vines in the middle of what became the Wahluke Slope—today one of the most important viticultural areas in Washington.
Featured wine:Rosé of Grenache & Mourvèdre
Planted by Curtiss and Cragg Gilbert in 2007, 24K presides just a few miles from the Doc. An alfalfa farm in its past life, this vineyard got its name from its location in Mattawa at the corner of 24th and K streets (though we do hope to find gold there one of these days…).
Here, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo, and Cabernet Franc vines grow in soil subtly finer than the Doc’s—more loam than sand, and higher in clay content. As of 2012, most of the vines are starting to realize their varietal characteristics. So far, they show amazing potential for producing deeply structured wines with bright, highly aromatic fruit.
COLUMBIA VALLEY AVA
Part of the Hackett Ranch, what was once a working cattle ranch bought by H. M. Gilbert in 1920, Sunrise Vineyard was planted to apples for 90 years. That is, until 2003, when we decided a few parts of it might make a fine location for grapes. The altitude of the vineyard—at nearly 1,400 feet—seems to agree with our aromatic white varietals: Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Chardonnay.
Sunrise sits at the base of the Cascade Mountains, with Ahtanum Ridge to the south. The site’s warm days and cool nights gently ripen the fruit, preserving its natural acidity and elevating the aromatics.
The vineyard is named for a group of hiker cabins built in the 1900s at the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier. Brought off-mountain to the Gilbert family farm in the 1940s as housing for seasonal workers, the cabins now serve as guest quarters for visiting family and friends.
Peach 10 and Tissel Place
Both of these promising vineyards were planted with Chardonnay in 2010. Peach 10 is in Yakima, and Tissel Place is just west of Sunrise Vineyard on the Hackett Ranch.