The story of how I became familiar with the Wines of Red Mountain, an AVA in southeastern Washington state, is representative of how most of my wine connections are made: organically.
Late November I received a note in my inbox from author Boo Walker. His third novel, Red Mountain, had recently been released and he offered me a copy (which, by the way, makes me very happy because I love reading wine books, particularly wine fiction)… He went on to say:
“This book has been a labor of love and is a reflection of my life in Washington’s beautiful wine country. I moved to Red Mountain in 2008 and it has been part of me ever since. The book isn’t autobiographical in nature, but it is a product of many of the people I’ve met and things I’ve experienced in my time here.
I know a thing or two about labors of love, don’t we all? I diverge a bit, if you’ll allow me, to share that this morning I saw something on Instagram that punctured me. It was the most amazing moment of unconditional love between a mother a child that I had ever seen. It was also heartbreaking, but it left me with this warm, persistent impression of love. It was not based on anything other than connection…no reciprocity, no achievement, no guarantee. In fact, quite the opposite. While tidying the home I share with a family I love, I thought to myself that because this love I’d witnessed today exists in the world, I feel complete. It’s there, directed outward, for all of us to lightly grasp as we are led through our day.
And what if I told you that this woman was a writer? I was on her Instagram because I thought I was clicking on a healthy meal she’d photographed. Stop and think about that. I thought I was clicking on a salad and I came upon a transformational moment in the life of someone that offered to share it. So, I sit down at my computer to write this piece about these gorgeous wines and I open up the website for Red Mountain AVA. There is the most beautiful video about terroir, the sun, creative ideas, the soil, the experience. A video similar to the messages from other great wine regions: we love it here, you would too!
And then I visit the website for Hedges Family Estate, where Boo Walker works and where the wines for this piece came from, and there is this message of heritage, of family, of a husbanda-and-wife team, of a winery that has a novelist “slinging wine” on the estate (Boo’s words, not mine). And I think: lord have mercy I get to write about this today.
I get to write about this stuff everyday in fact, and I always find that this love of family and land and culture is the the good stuff. Yes, everyone that makes wine wants to sell wine and lucky for them, everyone that loves to drink wine wants to buy wine. I am indeed comfortable with a fair amount of polish on the message. In this case, however, Boo reached out to me because we are both authors and winelovers. Again, a case of a single click or two and we find ourselves meeting with a moment that puts something on paper (or the ether) and then we wait…until someone reads it and grasps lightly to the thing we are trying to say.
So, here we go… the L’occasion version of what’s happening up on Red Mountain.
Red Mountain AVA: Since 2001
Actually, the story begins in the mid-1970’s when a couple of guys took on the hobby of clearing the south-facing slope of Red Mountain to plant grapes. What seemed to make a bit of sense at the time turned out to be a decision that now supports over 50 wineries in the small space of 2,300 acres. Vineyard by vineyard, Red Mountain grew up during the 80’s and 90’s and now holds a pretty unique place in the American wine landscape.
You’ve got Red Mountain, at an elevation of 1,247 feet, as it slopes downward to the Yakima River. Peppered along that slope are the vineyards, planted with mostly Bordeaux varietals. The climate here is rather unique; for starters there is a big dose of sunshine. The area gets about two more hours of daylight than the Napa Valley. It also gets rather hot, with a growing season daytime temperatures averaging 90 °F (32 °C) and night time temperatures dropping below 50 °F thanks to the felt impact of the Yakima River. Vigorous southwest winds help keep moisture off the grapes, lending a sort of Mistral effect. The growing season is almost completely bone dry and the rest of the year sees about seven inches of rainfall.
Hedges Family Estate
Hedges Family Estate is a biodynamic, Demeter certified, establishment. Even their chickens made the website for the valiant role in destroying pests. I tend to be drawn to bio estates, something in the alignment for me I suppose. Tom and Anne-Marie Hedges have traveled the world together, moving about many times for Tom’s work in the produce industry. During his career he was asked to produce a Washington state table wine which was sold in Sweden. This project turned into passion when the family at last settled in Washington and put their full-time energy into becoming a winery. The couple have roots in France; Anne-Marie is a Champagne native and they were married there. French influence is apparent in there Meritage-style blends, the elegant chateau and the labeling of Hedges bottles.
Their daughter, Sarah Goedhart, is the chief winemaker now, keeping family traditions and adding her own guidance to the wine. She holds a certificate in enology from Washington State University and established the Goedhart Family label under her own steam. Son Christophe Hedges is the general manager and his tendency towards quality and place-driven wines retains an old-world sensibility in the production. The family threads are strong in this estate, as well as the rope-strong ties to the land and heritage.
Trying a New Wine for the New Year
Each month I participate in Wine Pairing Weekend, under a fresh theme. This month’s theme is entirely fresh: Trying a New Wine for the New Year. I’ve had the Red Mountain wines in my cellar for a little more than a month, and these are the first I’ve tasted. I hope that, for many readers, this is a very friendly introduction to wines that you’ll enjoy as well.
With their Bordeaux inclinations, I turned to a Médoc author and chef, Mimi Thorisson. Mimi is the author of cookbooks A Kitchen in France and, recently released, French Country Cooking: Meals and Moments from A Village in the Vineyards. I’ve invited my husband Jason, as is my habit and pleasure, to meet me in the kitchen. I brought the wine and he brought the food, inspired by Mimi’s recipe: Finally, a Cassoulet.
My husband has made cassoulet for a while now, and it is always a hit. In fact, the term “go-to” was bandied about. A cassoulet, in my opinion is something that the cook forms, in their own kitchen, on their own terms. Though the general idea is the same — white beans, sausages, various meats and game, seasonings, tomato, veg — there is a combination that begins to feel right. The whole thing, by the way, smells incredible during cook time and tastes even more satisfying.
Wine Pairing Weekend
Below you can get a preview of the interesting wines that other writers will share about for our first #winePW event of 2017, which will take place on Saturday, January 14.
Wine Predator will write about New Year, New Wine: New Jersey?
Grape Experiences is sharing Try Something New: Moroccan Wine with Lamb Tagine
Culinary Adventures with Camilla will post Young Nation, Ancient Vines in Croatia: Pairing Crni Rižoto + Dingac Vinarija’s Peljesac
A Palatable Pastime is serving Duck Ragout with Creamy Polenta
L’occasion will share about The Wines of Red Mountain (thanks for reading!)
ENOFYLZ Wine Blog will serve Slow Cooker Enchilada Quinoa and Mencía
foodwineclick will try Something Old, Something New – Flank Steak & Douro Red
Rockin Red Blog is Journeying into a Glass of the Unknown
Pull That Cork will post Loire Valley Red Meets Onion and Bacon Tart: When Old Becomes New
The Swirling Dervish will pair Lacrima di Morro d’Alba and Broccoli Rabe Lasagna
Tasting Pour is serving up Lamb Stew and Wine from Lebanon
Vino Travels will share Journey to Trentino with Teroldego and Spaghetti Carbonara
Cooking Chat is pairing Pork Tenderloin with Onions and Canary Island Wine
You can join the conversation about new wine and food pairings to go with it! Our live #winePW Twitter Chat will take place this Saturday, January 14, at 10 am Central Time. Just tune into the #winePW hashtag between 10 and 11 am that day to join the conversation. There are always excellent recipes and food preparation tips here, so a new dish for 2017 is sure to be your reward!
Check out past and upcoming Wine Pairing Weekend events here.
You read right, Boo gave me a copy of his book and sent over the wine, with his compliments…but I wrote this post myself. No influence!