Voyage to Maryhill Winery
Traveling East through southern Washington, once you peak the Cascades, and the Pacific rain forest abruptly turns sunny and Mediterranean, you’ll find the charming Maryhill Winery nested on a high hillside above a lazy stretch of the Columbia River, skirted by peach and cherry orchards and vast rolling vineyards, a scattering of windmills and to the West a snow covered Mt Hood its’ only neighbors. I recently had the pleasure of touring the facility, and after, while relaxing on their vine-covered, Tuscan-style veranda, listening to live jazz and watching the Columbia roll gently by, I sampled many of their 40-odd spectacular varietals and blends.
Husband & wife owners, Craig and Vicki Leuthold Founded the winery in 2001. The surrounding vineyards were established by the Gunkel family in 1936, who continue to produce for Maryhill from the soils made rich at the end of the last ice-age by the Missoula Flood. Thanks to which, the Columbia basin is one of the most bountiful agricultural regions in the world (though, oddly, it did not impress Lewis & Clark who complained of having to eat so much fresh salmon.) The enterprising couple also built the adjacent Maryhill Amphitheater, which draws crowds from Portland, Seattle, and presumably much farther with top-shelf acts such as Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan. Fans of great wine as well as great music can watch from the overlooking veranda while they sip. (Styx and Foreigner will perform next month on my birthday.)
What was but an idea in 2000 has in less than 15 years has won hundreds of awards and even drawn the attention of Forbes magazine. Of the 1,400 plus wineries entered, Maryhill was just crowned “Winery of the Year” for 2014, at the San Francisco International Wine festival, the most prestigious wine competition held in America.
And speaking of those wines, not only are they delicious, but they’re a bargain as well. Innovations in their process, refurbishing and sometimes repurposing their own equipment, this in addition to wearing many hats, has kept their prices well below their price class.
Typically I am not a Zin drinker, but their Red Zinfandel I could drink continuously. It has all the spice and dimension you’d expect, yet is neither too sweet nor too lingering as Zin can often be. In which case, it pairs exceptionally well with most anything you’d desire to eat. Of course I enjoyed mine before and after dinner as well.
There immensely popular Winemaker’s Red is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Franc. Remarkably, they manage to caress the flavor from each, it is dry yet smooth with just a bit of spice. You’ll be inclined to finish it in one sitting whether or not you’re sharing with friends.
Regarding their delightful Maryhill Viognier they write; “Hints of dried pineapple, apricot, pear, vanilla bean and citrus rind will entice you into our newest vintage. With the first sip, you will experience a rich, full-bodied mouthfeel that lingers on your palate, finishing crisp and clean. Pair with spicy chicken, asparagus and shellfish.” Mine paired extravagantly with Meriwether Lewis’ despised local salmon.