White Salmon Vineyard is principally about a place. A beautiful place well suited to be one of the world’s fine wine destinations. This emerging wine region is now in the process of tailoring its wine grape clones and trellising to the best advantage of each climate. The young vines’ wine gives a whiff of this new viticultural area and this particular vineyard. An old pear orchard, abandoned asparagus field, and incredible rock piles were converted to five distinct fields of wine grape vineyards.
- Columbia Gorge American Viticultural Area
- 48 miles east of Portland, Oregon on the final, east slope of the Cascade Mountains
- 1/2 mile north of the Columbia River – Longitude W121°, 32’ 25.3”
- 1/2 mile west of the White Salmon River – Latitude N45° 44’ 34.1”
- 550 feet elevation on Underwood Mountain
- Approx. 37 inches of rain per year
- An eastern, southeastern 5-6% slope that appears to be an old volcanic slide
Five distinct fields (labeled A, B, C, D, & E) totaling approximately 20 acres, surround a wood lot of Douglas fir and Garry Oak. The initial 40+ feet of soil was a slide that traveled down Underwood Mountain from the north and west above. This slide left trails of very distinct soils in the fields, as well as very different micro climates. Each field has been fitted with its clone, its layout and trellising. A challenge to paint such a landscape on a brand new palatte, ground.
A – Saint Crispin Field is approximately 5 acres of light, red, volcanic soil mixed with volcanic rocks, lots of rocks. It is located in the Southwest portion of the vineyard, just east of the winery and residence. SC Field is planted in Pinot Noir (71%), Syrah (14%), Malbec (13%), Blaufrankish (1%) and Chardonnay (1%).
B – Norfield is a southeastern, sloping bowl separated from Saint Crispin Field to the south by a massive stonewall. Norfield has volcanic soil with a mix of clay, deep, well drained. Widely spaced rock lenses encircle the bowl. There is a ten vine deep strip of Sauvignon Blanc (6%) that borders the field’s southern edge along the wood lot. Chardonnay (94%) of various clones, one quite unique, compose the majority of the field. There ia a partial row of Maria Gomez grapes.
C – Power Field is the westerly end of Norfield, in the vineyard’s northwest corner. This eastern slope is one of the highest in the vineyard, on light volcanic soil with some significant rocky areas. It is planted to various Pinot Noir dijon clones . There are 4 rows of dijon Chardonnay at the very west end of the field.
D – Pete’s Field is a rather rock free, clay dominated soil. It is quite sheltered from the wind by Oaks and surronding fir. It is in the South Eastern quarter of the vineyard. The westerly, higher portion of the field is Pinot Noir (25%) and the eastern portion is planted on a selection of dijon clone Sauvignon Blanc vines (75%).
E – Sand Field is located on a bench in the vineyard’s North East corner. It was farmed in asparagus decades ago. The eastern portion of the field is deep sand without rocks, the western portion turns medium textured loam with lots of rocks. This field rises above the eastern end of Norfield, as if the end of the slide – where it piled up. The sand portion is planted with White Riesling (70%), the rocky, western slope has Pinot Noir (30%).
Peter and Faye Brehm are the proprietors of White Salmon Vineyard. Peter has been purchasing, processing and selling wine grapes to home winemakers and small wineries since 1971. He has made wine, mostly at home, since 1969.
In 1987 Peter expanded his grape sources from Northern California to the Pacific Northwest. The eastern slope of the Cascades, the quality pear orchards, and the strong marine influence funneled thru the Columbia River Gorge made this region his focus. Existing ‘Gorge’ vineyards were contracted and the learning experience began. In 1991 the Brehms purchased an old pear orchard on Underwood Mountain. Higher elevations (1,400 – 1,200 ft) on Underwood and Bald Mountains had expressed a strong viticultural resemblance to Alsace. This new property was half the elevation and believed to have the potential somewhere between Alsace and the most northern Rhone. The vineyard has been planted gradually starting in 1993. This planting continues to this day, one row at a time.
Peter has remained vineyard manager and wine overseer. Carlos Rocha has been Peter’s right hand from planting, to pruning, to harvest. Little expense has been spared in the vineyard’s development. Carlos and his crew have nurtured the vineyard with pride and love.
The winery at White Salmon Vineyard was a natural evolution for a winemaker who has an empty garage and basement. The desire, the need, the curiosity to find out how/what that labor in the vineyard brought forth. How the vineyard efforts express themselves. In 2003 vineyard yields allowed the winery to start absorbing a portion of the vineyard’s production. While I have tasted the best wines from our grapes produced by other winemakers, the wine making brings the grower closer to his children. The post harvest involvement has helped us learn. Join us in our discovery and evolvement of our best wines. We are continuing to improve.
The Chardonnay has proven well suited for the placement in Norfield. The various clones have shown different expressions. All have produced higher than expected alcohol. Our first NV Pinot Noir surprised us with a heavy coating of tannin. Harvest and winemaking adjustments are dynamic, trying to keep up with a maturing vineyard. The opportunity to explore and define one of the finest wine regions in the world is what White Salmon Vineyard offers. Vintage by vintage we are adjusting to this new viticultural area. Vintage by vintage the vineyard is producing higher quality fruit. While experimental batches of Syrah and Malbec remain in house, the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are, for the most part, molded by professional hands. We are proud to grow for Maison Bleue, Foundry Vineyards, Ali Mayfield, Marchesi Vineyards, Brooklyn Winery and Memaloose wineries among our home winemakers.
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