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Washington Wine Month Stop #22: Canoe Ridge Vineyard

More history inspiration with our 22nd stop on our Washington Winery tour.

Canoe Ridge Vineyard took a cue from the Lewis and Clark Expedition and made a legacy of their own with their wines.

About the Winery:

Canoe Ridge Vineyard focuses primarily on Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The estate vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA was first planted in 1989, followed by the opening of its Walla Walla winery, established in 1994. The name comes from the vineyard site on the eastern side of Washington adjacent to the Columbia River. Famed explorers Lewis & Clark named this crest of land; they thought the ridge looked like an overturned canoe. In its two decades of winemaking, Canoe Ridge Vineyard has earned more than twenty-five scores of 90 points or better.

About the Vineyards:

The Canoe Ridge Estate vineyard is located in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA on a slope above the Columbia River. Sweeping, river-driven winds keep the vine canopies dry while tempering summer temperatures for ideal ripening. Sitting on warden sandy loam soils, elevations vary from 425-740 feet above sea level. Rainfall averages six inches annually, and vines receive drip irrigation only when needed. The vineyard has the advantage of maturity (some vines are 20 years old), producing arguably the best Merlot in the best Merlot-producing region in the country, in addition to award-winning Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and more.

First planted in 1989, nearly all of our grapes are sourced from this estate vineyard, the vines are planted on their own roots. Here, the well-drained sandy loam and basaltic soils allow deep rooting. Cool nights provide ideal temperatures for excellent sugar to acid balance (and naturally thwart pests and viruses). The vineyard’s latitude and orientations help vines soak up more than 17 hours of sunshine per day at the peak of summer, resulting in rich, fully mature flavors and supple tannins.

About the Production and Winemaker:

Canoe Ridge focuses on estate-grown Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The full-scale winery, located at an historic site in Walla Walla, Washington, has an annual production capacity of 70,000 cases, a cellar that can hold 3,000 barrels, small lot 1,000-6,000 fermenters, two presses, and a high speed bottling line. A majority of the Canoe Ridge cooperage is French oak (rounded out by American and Hungarian oak) to add soft toasted notes as the wines age.

Winemaker – Bill Murray

Bill Murray’s roots in wine date back to his youth in Napa, California. A passion actually ignited by the wines of Rioja, Spain, he enrolled in the Napa Junior College Viticulture program, and then jumped in as harvest help at Buena Vista Winery. He went on to make wine over the next 15 years at Acacia and later, Bouchaine, as its associate winemaker. A close friend of longtime former Canoe Ridge Vineyard winemaker John Abbott, Bill took the helm in spring 2011 and focuses on what Canoe Ridge does best: Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. An accomplished athlete, Bill gives that same muscle he puts into cycling, running and swimming to his award-winning winemaking.

Their Wine Portfolio:

Red Wines

2011 Expedition Merlot
2011 Expedition Cabernet Sauvignon
2009 Merlot
2009 Cherry Street Red Blend
2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

White Wines

2012 Expedition Pinot Gris
2011 Expedition Chardonnay
2010 Chardonnay

About the Tasting Room:    

The building that houses the Canoe Ridge tasting room originally served as the town’s streetcar and train facility in the early 1900s. In 1989, the same year Canoe Ridge planted grapes on its estate vineyard in the Columbia Valley, the lovingly restored Engine House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Although the winery has operated continuously since 1994, in 2012 the tasting room underwent an extensive restoration and reopened in May 2012.

Canoe Ridge Vineyard

1102 W.Cherry St.
Walla Walla, WA  99362


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