This post is based on a seminar called Spotlight: Celilo Vineyard, which took place on Saturday, March 24, 2018, during Taste WA weekend. A panel of local experts explored the unique geography and weather conditions of Washington’s renowned Celilo Vineyard, including discussing samples of eight white wines made with Celilo grapes. Read on for more information, and see the full list of panelists and wines at the bottom.
What Makes Celilo Vineyards Special
The West Coast is home to many great wine regions. Among them, Celilo Vineyard, perched high above the Columbia River on Washington’s Underwood Mountain, is renowned for its unique climate and soil, and has become a favorite for growing white wine grapes that offer a distinctly zippy acid profile and desirable flavor intensity to the wines they produce.
Celilo Vineyards comprises two blocks on the Eastern flank of the Cascades, rooted in volcanic rock. At 1480-foot elevation, the Western block is about 80 acres, while the smaller Eastern block is around 50 acres, with an elevation of 930 feet. The vineyard’s soil is deeply weathered basalt, which forms small pebble-like clumps; this “shot” soil has a high clay content which in turn helps it retain moisture. Along with a generous rainfall of 30-40 inches a year, the retentive soil allows Celilo to dry farm.
Thanks to a gap in the Columbia Gorge, Celilo remains breezy and cool during the summer months, while abundant cloud cover keeps heat from escaping in the winter, resulting in relative temperature consistency. This cool climate and low fluctuation is notable, making Celilo perfect for growing many white varietals, from Pinot Gris to Chardonnay to Gewürztraminer. Respected winemakers throughout Washington, from Savage Grace Wines to Woodward Canyon Winery, vie for the chance to purchase grapes from Celilo, and the vineyard’s name on a label has become a good reason to impulse buy.
Celilo Wines To Try
Tranche Cellars Celilo Vineyard Estate Chardonnay. Panelist Andrew Trio, winemaker for Tranche, called Celilo the “crown jewel” of Washington’s white wine vineyards. His Celilo Chardonnay is native fermented and aged 11 months in 40% new French oak and concrete, undergoing partial malolactic fermentation. This estate wine balances notes of white peach, fresh brioche, and a flinty finish with a stunning sense of acidity.
Dowsett Family Winery Celilo Vineyard Gewürztraminer. Offering bold yet elegant aromatics of rose petal and lime, this dry Gewürz is packed with flavors of ruby grapefruit and lychee. It’s an outstanding, food-friendly example of the style. In fact, panelist Madeline Puckette, co-founder and content director of Wine Folly, called it “one of the best examples of American Gewürztraminer.”
Sean P. Sullivan, Wine Enthusiast & Washington Wine Report (Moderator)
Luke Bradford, COR Cellars
James Mantone, Syncline Wine Cellars
Kevin Pogue, PhD, Whitman College
Madeline Puckette, Wine Folly
Andrew Trio, Tranche
Ashan Cellars Chardonnay Celilo Vineyard Columbia Gorge 2014
COR Cellars Alba Columbia Gorge 2016
Dowsett Family Winery Gewürztraminer Celilo Vineyard Columbia Gorge 2015
Ross Andrew Winery Pinot Gris Celilo Vineyard Columbia Gorge 2016
Savage Grace Wines Chardonnay Celilo Vineyard Columbia Gorge 2013
Syncline Wine Cellars Blanc de Blanc Scintillation Sparkling Wine Celilo Vineyard Columbia Gorge 2010
Tranche Cellars Chardonnay Celilo Vineyard Columbia Gorge 2014
Woodward Canyon Winery Chardonnay Celilo Vineyard Columbia Gorge 2015