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Forty Years of Vineyard Designated Wine in Washington State

Washington State's first vineyard designated wines were released in 1981. Mike and Jonathon Sauer of Red Willow Vineyard talk about how this practice started in the Pacific Northwest.
by Press Release - Wine Yakima Valley
February 25, 2021
The 1981 Cabernet Sauvignon from Associated Vintners (later Columbia Winery) is the first vineyard designate wine from Red Willow Vineyard.


YAKIMA, WASH—(Feb 23, 2021)— Washington State’s wine industry is very young when compared on the world stage, but its anniversary celebrations show how far this region has come with growing and producing wine. 

This year marks 40 years of vineyard designated wines in Washington State. The 1981 Associated Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Willow Vineyard was one of three vineyard designated wines released that year. The other two vineyards were Otis Vineyard in the Yakima Valley and Sagemoore Vineyard in the Columbia Valley.

Vineyard designated wines have acquired significant prominence in Washington State. The original concept of selling single vineyard designated wines came from the winemakers of Burgandy, France. The notion first started here in Washington with an Englander named David Lake. Also, a Master of Wine, Lake started in 1978 as the winemaker at the Woodinville based Associated Vintners, now Columbia Winery. During his career he brought several key viticultural concepts to Washington State.

Lake worked extensively with Mike Sauer, owner of Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. Together they pioneered new viticultural practices for the region including vineyard designated wines, the state’s first Syrah and multi-clonal wines and field blending. 

According to Mike’s son, Jonathon Sauer, “there are designated wines from our vineyard that go back to 1981, when there were just six wineries in the state. That’s a lot of wine at this point. And they are good examples that show the terroir of Red Willow vineyard.”

Listen to Mike and Jonathon Sauer of Red Willow Vineyard talk about how this practice started in the Pacific Northwest.

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