Tag Archives: Washington wine

Washington: Bringing Water To The Mountain

The Red Mountain AVA (American Viticultural Area) is a small but Red Mountain, Washingtonburgeoning wine region in southeastern Washington state. However, with growth and new plantings comes the need for water. In a region that is stark in comparison with the rest of the state – whose nickname is the Evergreen State – this semi-arid area needed more water for irrigation. That has been accomplished with the Kennewick Irrigation District (KID).

As part of the larger Yakima Valley AVA, this particular appellation near Benson City, is a hot-spot for new vineyards. In-turn, this necessary water has been diverted from the Yakima River to Red Mountain and the $19.2 million project will increase the popular wine growing area by more than 1,750 acres.

With Red Mountain rising to the west, the Yakima and Snake Rivers join the mighty Columbia River in the Tri-Cities area (Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland). The region has a lot of outdoor activities and the Tri-Cities has already been noted for its solid economy and a great place to raise a family. Now this water project should make it a boom area.

Yakima Valley, Washington

Washington’s Yakima Valley

If you were wondering, the name Red Mountain describes the color of the mountain in the spring and early summer when an invasive bunchgrass known as drooping brome, flowers with a rusty hue – the mountain also is pocked full of sage.

Unique weather

The relatively sunny weather with vast diurnals not unlike Paso Robles, offer the grapes the ability to present great and intense flavors. Most vineyards of the very young 14 year old Red Mountain AVA are south facing. Almost desert-like, the days can be hot in the summer, but the nearby Yakima River helps to moderate the temperatures plus cool air heading downward from the mountain top in the afternoons keeps the vines from wilting. This breeze or air current also keeps the grapes from frost in early spring and fall.

At the southeastern end of the Yakima Valley, Red Mountain is certainly the smallest appellation in the state, but is already the most well-known wine growing region in Washington. Acknowledged mainly for its reds, Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely grown and although less fruity than other Cabs in the state, they tend to be more structured and therefore age better – this isn’t unlike Cabs on the Central Coast.

Col Solare Winery

Col Solare Winery is considered by some the top wine producer in Washington.

The Kiona and Col Solare Wineries originally established vineyards here with Ciel du Cheval infamous for their grapes and Col Solare renowned for their wines. With notoriety, the wines created on Red Mountain are some of the most expensive from the state of Washington. That isn’t likely to end anytime soon with this new water project sending water costs soaring. It’s estimated that the assessment cost per acre from KID to the farmers will be roughly $50 a month.

KID was developed six years ago to improve water needs and expansion. Bringing the water to Red Mountain will produce more of the best Washington has to offer when it comes wine. Fans of vino around the world will surely look forward to and welcome such expansion.

State of Washington - Red Mountain AVA

State of Washington – Red Mountain AVA



Daryle W. Hier





What Do NFL Quarterbacks And State Of Washington Have In Common?

The Evergreen state is attracting former National Football League quarterbacks for something entirely unrelated to their profession: wine.  Yes, gridiron signal callers are calling a life audible and becoming winemakers of sorts, moving from the football fields to fields of vines.

Drew Bledsoe - Doubleback

Former New England Patriot star quarterback Drew Bledsoe has a small but successful vineyard in Walla Walla, Washington.

Drew Bledsoe, Dan Marino and Damon Huard have found themselves in the southern reaches of the state of Washington, growing grapes and making wine.  Bledsoe has established a successful winery in Walla Walla called Doubleback, while Marino and Huard teamed up to start a winery called Passing Time (Vimeo video) – it will be based in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA near the Columbia River.


Why southern Washington and why wine?  The region is part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA that has over 40,000 acres of vineyards.  The area is well known for its winemaking with almost a cult following including wineries such as Alexandria Nicole and Columbia Crest.  Washington wine is ever-growing in popularity.

Damon Huard and Dan Marino - Miami Dolphins

Damon Huard and Dan Marino first hooked up as teammates with the Miami Dolphins.

The connection to the area revolves around the fact that two of the quarterbacks are from the state of Washington: Bledsoe from Walla Walla and Huard from Puyallup.  Also, Huard’s father had a farm in Horse Heaven Hills.  Marino’s connection is that Damon was his backup on the Miami Dolphins for four seasons.  By the way, somewhat ironically, Huard would become Bledsoe’s backup with the New England Patriots.

As far as why these quarterbacks felt inclined to be in the wine business, with Bledsoe (New England Patriots) having grown up in Walla Walla – a city known for its farming including onions and grapes – it was a natural progression for Drew especially considering his longtime friend Chris Figgins was a excellent winemaker.  As for Marino, he had been a fan of wine from the time he could first drink and that passion brought Huard along when they were teammates.  That friendship between the quarterbacks, developed into finding a winery they could call their own.  Also, the Hall of Famer Marino is no longer working on television as a NFL analyst and will have more time on his hands for new ventures like Passing Time.

Dan Marino and Damon Huard

Dan Marino and Damon Huard as vintners.


Bledsoe has created a small but successful winery with Doubleback, while Marino and Huard just bottled their first vintage, a Cabernet Sauvignon, which will be made available in 2015.  Both of these wines are being marketed as higher end quality boutique wines with prices in the $75 to $100 range per bottle.

Making money is not likely the goal here, at least not right now, but both of these businesses are set up to reach big heights.  In the mean time, these former football stars will continue to market and improve their Washington wine on the Columbia River Plateau – a long ways from the glitz and glamor of playing as a quarterback in the NFL.


Daryle W. Hier