What follows is a Focus report on Glencorrie. Read a .pdf version of this report here. See other Focus reports here.
Since the late 1990s, the Washington wine industry has seen extraordinary growth. At that time, the state’s wineries numbered one hundred and sixty. Earlier this year, Washington licensed its 600th winery (Bridge Press Cellars in Spokane), marking a three hundred percent increase. Of Washington’s eleven American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), perhaps no area has seen as great a growth as the Walla Walla Valley.
At the beginning of 1995, the Walla Walla Valley had a total of seven bonded wineries. Almost fifteen years later that number stands at over ninety with many more in the works. Every trip to the valley it seems a new winery is opening its doors. A new sign stands by the side of the road that reads ‘Open’ – a realization of someone’s dream and the start of something new and exciting.
On June 5th that winery was Glencorrie which timed its opening with the annual Vintage Walla Walla weekend. Glencorrie is named after the corries or cirques that formed as a result of the Missoula floods that shaped modern day eastern Washington. The winery is owned by brothers Ronn and Dean Coldiron. Ronn’s interest in wine dates back almost fifteen years. However, the roots that would lead to Glencorrie were planted – literally and figuratively - in 2002 when Ronn put in 150 vines of Cabernet, Merlot, and Zinfandel (50 each) on family property in California. Believing that wine is made in the vineyard, Ronn worked to learn viticulture, irrigating, pruning, and bud grafting his vines and making wine from the resulting fruit.
Ronn knew as soon as he planted his test vines that he wanted to establish a vineyard and a winery. Having spent most of his life in California, he had been inspired by reading the histories of the Inglenook and BV wineries in Rutherford. One day while reading a passage in a book in Pike Place Market where California’s Julio Gallo referred to Washington as ‘acid country’, the idea of starting a vineyard in Washington took shape. After further research revealed that Washington had warmer days and cooler nights than Rutherford, the decision was made.
The Coldirons’ parents had grown up on Gray’s Harbor in Hoquiam and Aberdeen, so establishing a family vineyard on the other end of Route 12 in the Walla Walla Valley seemed a natural choice. Finding the right spot however was not so easy. The brothers spent three years searching the valley for the proper location to grow Bordeaux varietals. With a doctorate in geology, Ronn knew that selecting the right site was critical to the winery’s future. Ronn and Dean wanted an area with warm daytime temperatures and cool nighttime temperatures to help preserve the grapes’ natural acidity. Ronn states “The acid was essential to my search because I wanted to make wines that would complement a good meal, not smother it.” They also wanted a site with moderate clay content so the soil would dry slowly and they would be able to adjust the late season water stress to maximize fruit quality. In October of 2006, the Coldirons found a small, nine acre site west of a Walla Walla. This site is not only about three percent warmer than Ronn’s beloved Rutherford it also has slightly warmer days and cooler nights than the Walla Walla Valley average. In April of this year they planted a test vineyard to determine which varietals will be best suited to the location.
For their inaugural releases, the Coldirons commissioned Charlie Hoppes, owner and winemaker at Fidelitas, to make their wines. Hoppes, who in May of this year planted an estate vineyard of his own on Red Mountain, brings twenty years of winemaking experience to the venture. Hoppes had been recommended to the Coldirons by Norm McKibben, co-owner of famed Walla Walla vineyards Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills, and Les Collines. Ronn was impressed by Hoppes’ hands off approach to winemaking. Hoppes will continue to make the Columbia Valley wines in the future. Ronn will assume winemaking responsibilities for the Walla Walla cabernets once he is confident he can create the style he and his brother have commissioned Hoppes to produce. Ronn says “The wine style can be summed up by stating that wine is a food and should be made to compliment a good meal. If I can accomplish this I’ll be a happy guy.” Ronn’s long-term goal is to establish at the Walla Walla site the same type of identity and quality the fabled Rutherford wineries have.
The Glencorrie wines are composed of fruit from a number of excellent vineyard sources from the Columbia and Walla Walla valleys, including Stillwater Creek, Gamache, Weinbau, and Dwelley. In choosing fruit sources, the Coldirons sought vineyards that mirrored what they were looking for in their Walla Walla site. They also focused on vineyards that were family-owned with long-tenured vineyard managers, believing that knowledge of the land is paramount. The Coldirons hope to transition to using their estate vineyard for the Walla Walla wines as the vineyard bears fruit.
Glencorrie currently offers three red wines, all from the 2006 vintage. The first is a Columbia Valley Cabernet which is 100% Cabernet sourced from Stillwater Creek (75%) and Gamache (25%) vineyards. The second is a Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon composed of 60% cabernet from Windrow Vineyard and 40% from Dwelley Vineyard. The third is a red blend called Cuvee “Marquis”, the maiden name of the Coldiron’s mother. This wine is 70% Cabernet (Weinbau, Stillwater Creek, and Gamache Vineyards); 20% Merlot (Stillwater Creek); and 10% Malbec (Goose Ridge Vineyard). Each of Glencorrie’s wines is elegantly made, expresses the area it comes from, and expertly straddles the line between fruit expression and barrel influence. While noticeably distinct, fans of Hoppes’ Fidelitas wines will recognize his deft touch.
While the number of Washington wineries is increasing and many existing wineries are growing in size, the Coldirons are looking to stay small. Glencorrie produced 645 cases for the 2006 vintage, and the Coldirons look to remain at this level. The winery’s website even gives an up to the moment count of the number of remaining cases, reading “642 of 645 cases from the 2006 vintage remain.” With the new winery open and a strong first vintage, that number seems sure to quickly dwindle.
See a post on Glencorrie at Through the Walla Walla Grapevine here.
|Glencorrie Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2006|| |
A pretty nose with a touch of earth, pepper, and some light oak notes. Up front on the palate. The wine accelerates and pours around the edges leaving a slight gap in the middle. Lots of fruit on a very enjoyable wine. 100% Cabernet (75% Stillwater Creek, 25% Gamache Vineyards). 14.7% alcohol. 208 cases produced.
|Glencorrie Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2006||Light in color. An engaging nose with cocoa powder, chocolate, oak notes, and light herbal notes. An elegant wine that lightly dances on the palate. Opens up nicely. 100% Cabernet (60% Windrow; 40% Dwelley). 14.2% alcohol. 240 cases produced. ||$40|
|Glencorrie Cuvee Marquis Columbia Valley 2006||Light cocoa powder, pepper, black cherry, and very, very light herbal qualities. Opens up, expands, and lingers. A finish that holds on and evolves with fruit, spice, and light herbal notes. An elegant, beautifully done wine. 70% Cabernet (Weinbau, Stillwater Creek, Gamache vineyards); 20% Merlot (Stillwater Creek); 10% Malbec (Goose Ridge Vineyard). 14.7% alcohol. 192 cases produced.||$45|