A Breadth and Depth of the Culture of Wine
The Columbia Gorge wine region seems to go out of its way to defy all Pacific Northwest wine culture stereotypes. Straddling both sides of the mighty Columbia River—with a foothold in both Oregon and Washington—this wine region represents different growing climates, and wine experiences, around every corner.
Defined by a topography formed through a series of cataclysmic floods from the Missoula Flood era—as well as the volcanic eruptions that formed the Cascade Range—the Columbia Gorge is a visually-stunning area. Abrupt cliff walls, etched from thousands of years of massive ice dam flooding, line the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The river expertly threads the needle between Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood. Apple, cherry, and pear orchards dot the landscape, alongside the vineyards, on the south side of the Columbia between Hood River and Parkdale. Across the toll bridge on the Washington state side, the environment transitions quickly from the lush forests of Underwood Mountain to the relatively arid landscape a few miles east in Lyle, Washington.
“AniChe Cellars is a legacy for my family that will provide for my children, grandchildren and so forth.” – Rachael Horn
AniChe Cellars, one of over 30 wineries located in the Columbia Gorge wine region, calls Underwood, Washington home. The winery is perched on the slopes of the family property, and visitors should set their car’s emergency brake before heading to the tasting room, housed in a yurt! Owner Rachael Horn is one of four winemakers at AniChe. Her all-female winemaking team sources grapes from four American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in Washington state, including the Columbia Gorge AVA.
Horn’s vision for the winery is not limited to making wine, however.
“AniChe Cellars is a legacy for my family that will provide for my children, grandchildren and so forth,” explains Horn.
Horn’s niece, Brittany, welcomes guests with a non-intimidating attitude and forthcoming information about the wines, which are crafted with attention to balanced acidity, reasonable alcohol levels, and little-to-no bitter components in the reds. Horn is also an author—as all the AniChe wine labels pay homage to literary giants—and her Sydney McGrath Mystery series, is set at the winery.
Many wineries in the Columbia Gorge have operations on both the Washington and Oregon sides of the Columbia River; AniChe Cellars also operates a tasting room in Hood River.
Heading east from AniChe Cellars to Maryhill Winery takes wine tourists from one dramatic landscape to another in just 45 minutes. As you pass through White Salmon and Bingen, the forest landscape transforms into a more arid beauty. The steep walls, lined with waterfalls, give way to more gentle gains in elevation. The Columbia River canyon opens up and the temperature rises.
The entrance to Maryhill Winery—named for its founder Samuel Hill—is grand. Hill purchased the land in 1907 with the vision of building a Quaker village. With sweeping views of the Columbia River and primed as a “destination winery,” a visit to Maryhill Winery is a must. Located just east of the renowned Maryhill Museum of Art, Maryhill Winery is anything but austere. In addition to being open seven days a week for tasting, Maryhill Winery has a 4,000 seat outdoor amphitheater that plays host to well-known acts during their summer concert series. Maryhill Winery is a family and dog-friendly tasting room and 2017 music bookings include Santana, ZZ Top and Steve Winwood.
Phelps Creek Winery
Swooping back to the Hood River area, on the Oregon side of the river, Columbia Gorge wine tourists are again surrounded by greenery at Phelps Creek Winery. The tasting room, literally located on the greens at the Hood River Golf Course, provides the perfect golf, lunch, and tasting getaway. A private tour and tasting at the house of owners Rob and Lynette Morus provides a behind-the-scenes peek at the complete Phelps Creek story. Winemaker Alexandrine Roy, a fourth-generation winemaker from Burgundy, France, brings an elegant and restrained style of winemaking to the wines produced at Phelps Creek. The Phelps Creek estate vineyard ranges from 900-1200 feet in elevation and sits above the level of deposits left behind the wake of the Missoula Floods.
The wildly scenic Columbia Gorge wine region, just 60 miles east of Portland, is also home to one of the most spectacular chains of waterfalls in the United States. A visit to the Columbia Gorge can easily be combined with other, non-viniferous activities, such as hiking the 2.4 mile round-trip trail to view Wahclella Falls, located near the Bonneville Dam and Fish Hatchery.