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'14 Tour Guide

Reviewed Wineries

A mountain, an appellation, a vineyard

Thursday, April 5, 2012

In the middle of the Yakima Valley appellation lies Snipes Mountain. Snipes is unique in terms of Washington AVAs in that the vast majority of it is encompassed by a single site – Upland Vineyard – with a small section of the appellation stretching across Interstate 82 to Harrison Hill.

Less of a mountain and more a part of the Yakima fold belt, like a number of other eastern Washington growing regions, Upland has elevations ranging from 750 to 1,300 feet and slopes facing in all four cardinal directions.

The area contains some of the most compelling geology in the state, with the landscape possessing incredible heterogeneity. Areas of Snipes are covered by fist and grapefruit sized rocks deposited by the ancient flow of the Columbia River. In some areas the bedrock is actually on top of river gravel and loess due to the upheaval and folding of the earth. In other areas it is all sideways. Additionally, the upper regions of Snipes are above the Missoula Floods, a rarity for most of Washington’s vineyards.

Upland is owned by the Newhouse family and is managed by Todd Newhouse, a fourth generation farmer. The Newhouses began farming near the Yakima River after emigrating from Holland in 1911. The family planted their first wine grapes at the base of Snipes Mountain in 1968. In 1972 they took over Upland Vineyard and began additional plantings the following year.

Upland has seen a large expansion in the last three or four years, swelling to over 800 acres planted to 35 different varieties. On a recent visit additional plantings were in the works on the south side.

Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Viognier, and Grenache make up the bulk of the plantings. Upland also includes some of the oldest vines in the state, with Muscat of Alexandria plantings dating back to 1917 that are still bearing fruit.

The area received AVA status in 2009. Two years prior to this, Todd Newhouse started Upland Estates to showcase the vineyard’s fruit, with Robert Smasne serving as winemaker.

More than 30 wineries currently use Upland’s grapes, with Chateau Ste. Michelle and Hogue among the leading players. More recently, however, a number of smaller wineries have begun using the fruit as well, including Betz Family Winery, Bunnell Family Winery, and Robert Ramsay.

In addition to Newhouse’s Upland Estates, others such as Smasne, Nefarious, and Maison Bleue have also begun crafting vineyard designated bottles. Grenache in particular from this site has been generating excitement among winemakers, and the vineyard is certainly one to keep a close eye on. While Snipes may not be much of a mountain, let there be no doubt that Upland is on the rise.

Upland Estates Chardonnay Snipes Mountain 2009 $22

(Decent) Medium lemon yellow. Aromatics are dominated by biscuit, lees, and lemon notes, almost reminiscent of a still sparkling wine. The palate has a full, textured feel, finishing slightly sweet. 89% Chardonnay, 11% Aligote. Aged 12 months in French oak (33% new). 13.6% alcohol. 83 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Upland Estates Sauvignon Blanc Snipes Mountain 2009 $15

(Decent) Pale lemon yellow. Aromatics are dominated by lees notes along with citrus and tropical fruit. The palate has a thick, weighted feel. 91% Sauvignon Blanc, 9% Semillon. Fermented and aged in neutral French oak, 9 months sur lees. 13.5% alcohol. 82 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Upland Estates Gewurztraminer Snipes Mountain 2009 $12

(Decent) Pale lemon yellow. Moderately aromatic with pink grapefruit and spice. The palate is full and fleshy with abundant spice flavors. 100% Gewurztraminer. Tank fermented. 13.2% alcohol. 1.6% Residual Sugar. 130 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Upland Estates Malbec Snipes Mountain 2008 $30

(Good) Almost completely opaque with purple at the rim. A Washington Malbec prototype aromatically, full of fresh plum and spice. The palate is bright and clean - considerably lighter in style than the color might indicate – finishing with wood spice notes. 100% Malbec. Aged 21 months in French oak. 13.6% alcohol. 93 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Upland Estates Syrah Snipes Mountain 2008 $28

(Good/Excellent) Dark in color. A moderately aromatic wine with plum, spice, dark fruit, and chocolate. The palate is full of textured fruit flavors and grainy tannins. 92% Syrah, 8% Grenache. Aged 19 months in French oak. 13.8% alcohol. 72 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Upland Estates Teunis Red Wine Snipes Mountain 2008 $45

(Good) A moderately aromatic wine with abundant herbal and cherry notes along with light milk chocolate. The fruit flavors are fresh and pure on this medium bodied wine that possesses soft tannins. 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Malbec. Aged 22 months in French and Hungarian oak. 13.9% alcohol. 120 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Upland Estates Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon Snipes Mountain 2008 $28

(Excellent) A very aromatically alluring wine with pure, sappy dark fruit, cassis, light milk chocolate, and sweet spices. The palate is clean and polished with chewy fruit flavors on this understated wine where the focus is on the fruit. Finishes with dark fruit and vanilla flavors. Fruit from 1973 planting. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged 22 months in American oak. 13.7% alcohol. 96 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Upland Estates Ampeli Ice Wine Snipes Mountain 2009 $32

(Excellent) Leaps up from the glass with sugared white grapefruit, pineapple, floral notes, and honey. The palate is thick and viscous with rich, honeyed fruit flavors. Muscat of Alexandria. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. 24.9% Residual Sugar. 10.7% alcohol. 60 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Rating System
Please note, my rating system was revised at the beginning of 2012 as follows. Read additional details here.
(Exceptional)
(Excellent)
(Good)
(Decent)
(Not recommended/Flawed)

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2 comments

  1. terroirist Says:
  2. Hey Sean - you had to know I'd nit-pick you on this one.... While it's true that there are places on Snipes Mtn. where the basalt and overlying Snipes Mtn. Conglomerate (ancient Columbia River gravels) have been folded so that they are in an inverted position (older basalt on top of younger conglomerate), these rocks do NOT overlie the much younger loess. Missoula flood sediment (below 1200 ft.)and loess were deposited on top of the older rocks after they had been folded, uplifted, and somewhat eroded. This produces a geologic relationship know as an angular unconformity. I wholeheartedly agree that the geological underpinnings of Snipes Mtn. AVA are among the most interesting of any vineyard region in the Pacific Northwest.

     
  3. terroirist, I expected no less! Thanks for the correction.

     

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