Critics across the country continue to recognize Maryhill Winery as a standard-bearer for winemaking excellence from Washington state, and visitors to the Columbia Gorge have come to view it as one of the Pacific Northwest’s top wine destinations.
In 2001, Craig and Vicki Leuthold opened their winery perched over the Columbia River near Goldendale and the renowned museum that pays tribute to road builder Sam Hill. The Leutholds’ showpiece quickly became a jewel, making a special attraction for those following Lewis & Clark’s story as part of the nationwide interest in 2004-06 surrounding the bicentennial of the Corps of Discovery.
The arrival of winemaker Richard Batchelor in 2009 took Maryhill Winery to the another level. The New Zealand native blended his Napa Valley experience with fruit from many of Washington’s top vineyards, and gold medals have been pouring out. He’s managed it while boosting production to 80,000 cases, and much of the lineup is now sold in 20 states.
Earlier this year, the Leutholds began to make it even easier for consumers to enjoy Batchelor’s wines. They opened a high-end tasting room in the $1.5 billion waterfront development in Vancouver In a few months, they also will move into the historic Hollywood Schoolhouse in Woodinville. That combination will give Maryhill Winery a presence in the Seattle and Portland-area markets, dovetailing on the success the Leutholds have experienced in their hometown of Spokane since the 2017 opening of their Kendall Yards location — their first satellite tasting room.
So while the Leutholds have gotten out of the concert business, a 15-year run that made their 4,000-seat amphitheater an oasis for some of the world’s top recording artists, they’ve brought a taste of Maryhill Winery closer to their fans. And they continue to provide a stage for Columbia Gorge musicians with the Terrace Music Series.
Here’s a snapshot of some of Maryhill’s top wines that have earned gold medals at international wine competitions around the country.
■ Maryhill Winery 2017 Winemaker’s Red, Columbia Valley $16: This entry-level red earned a gold medal at the INDY International Wine Competition this year, and it helped Batchelor repeat as the Purdue University judging’s Winemaker of the Year.
A blend with cabernet sauvignon as its backbone, it opens with aromas of cherry, blackberry and spice. What follows are flavors of black cherry, blueberry and blackberry, leading to an elegant, juicy finish of smooth tannins.
■ Maryhill Winery 2016 Proprietor’s Reserve Grenache, Columbia Valley $38: The Leutholds and Batchelor pulled these grapes from Elephant Mountain Vineyard in the Rattlesnake Hills and Les Vignes Le Tendre, a fascinating young site near Red Mountain that’s dedicated to varieties native to the Rhône Valley.
Aromas of crushed raspberry and dried strawberries are joined by pleasing floral notes. On the palate, it shows balance with silky soft tannins and brightness with highlights of raspberry juice and dark cherries. This spring, judges at the INDY International and the Cascadia International Wine Competition in the Columbia Valley awarded it best of class.
■ Maryhill Winery 2016 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley $27: This friendly cab franc, sourced from Gunkel Vineyards near the winery and Tudor Hills in the Yakima Valley, is remarkably flavorful and approachable. Classic notes of pencil box, plum and dried Provencal herbs waft up from the glass. Plum pudding flavors wash across the wide and expansive mouth feel, picking up butterscotch candy and baking spices along the way inside a medium body that keeps things skipping along all the way to the finish.
It topped its peers during a Wine Press Northwest magazine tasting this past winter. Three months later, it went on to earn a double gold at the Cascadia International.
■ Maryhill Winery 2016 Proprietor’s Reserve Tavolo Rosso, Columbia Valley $38: More wineries in our corner of the world are paying homage to the Super Tuscan-style made famous by Italy’s Antinori family, and Maryhill prove that its examples are among the best in the Northwest. Batchelor blends sangiovese (62 percent) with cabernet sauvignon (23 percent) and merlot.
Aromas of black cherry, fertile earth and baking spice rise from the glass. It’s backed by sweet cherries, bouquet garni, licorice and a sense of minerality. Acidity and tannin are knitted together to create a graceful and stylish finish that features more cherries and spices.
■ Maryhill Winery 2016 Proprietor’s Reserve Barbera, Columbia Valley $42: The Leutholds’ winery overlooks Gunkel Vineyards, which for more than a decade has displayed a delicious knack for growing award-winning wines from Italian varieties. Aging in new French oak barrels for 18 months results in a drink with aromas and flavors of black cherries and blackberries, backed by charming acidity, well-managed tannins and a touch of minerality in the long finish.
■ Maryhill Winery 2016 Les Collines Syrah, Walla Walla Valley $38: In recent years, Maryhill has grown its interest in the Walla Walla Valley. This syrah is from Les Collines, an estate vineyard for acclaimed Amavi Cellars. The warm 2016 vintage provided Maryhill with a lush wine that sports aromas of black pepper, cured meat, black plum and black raspberries.
In the mouth, it’s a generous drink of dark plum, blueberry, black raspberry and black currant.
• Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman operate Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.