Snipes Mountain AVA and Upland Estates Winery

Question?  What is America’s most popular alcoholic beverage both in sales and consumer polls?  And the answer is…..wine!  Wine continues its rise in popularity year after year here in America.  The United States is now surpassing the wine country regions of both France and Italy as the world’s largest wine consuming country in the world.  I find this so amazing, since not too long ago we were a nation that banned all sales of alcohol.  I often wonder why we have had this increase in popularity, especially over the last decade or so.  I think that there are possibly a few contributing factors.
 
 

  • First,  the positive health effects of moderate wine consumption are now well understood and medical studies both here and abroad have publicized their findings.
  • There is an abundance of well-made, affordable wines from around the world that will fit everyone’s budget.
  • The Supreme Court ruled not long ago, that shipping wine from the winery directly to the consumer was legal. This has generated a lot of sales and publicity for the wine industry.
  • Finally, the popular film “Sideways,”  generated a big buzz about wine. It romanticized  the wine region of California and brought to attention such wines as Pinot Noir. 

Whatever the reason for this increase in popularity, we can be thankful that we do not have to travel far to enjoy good wine.  Washington and Oregon have some of the finest wines in the world. For those of you who joined us in February for our quarterly wine tasting party, you were introduced to Washington State renowned winemaker, Robert Smasne. Well, you are going to really enjoy this month’s selection from Upland Estate Winery, because Robert Smasne is the winemaker for this winery as well. 

Snipes Mountain AVA

Snipes Mountain is the 10th AVA to be established in Washington State. This AVA is located in Yakima County, between Sunnyside and Granger WA and received its approval in February 2009. This new AVA is among the smallest in the Northwest and the second-smallest in Washington. Snipes Mountain is a moderate-sized hill that sticks up right in the middle of the Yakima Valley. It consists of ancient, rocky soils that were mostly untouched by the Great Missoula Floods, which deposited large amounts of foreign topsoil in the Yakima Valley.  The slopes that face four different directions create a variety of growing conditions that are unique to this mountain. More than 35 grape varietals are cultivated here. It is the home of the first wine grapes planted in Washington State (Muscat, planted in 1917 by wine pioneer William B. Bridgman. and is still under cultivation today). Snipes Mountain was named for Ben Snipes, who was a pioneer who built a house at the base of the mountain in the 1850’s and developed an expansive cattle operation. There are approximately 800 acres of wine grapes in production. More than 20 wineries source fruit from Snipes Mountain.

Upland Estates Winery

Upland Estate Winery has a history that dates back to 1917 when the first wine grape was planted on Snipes Mountain by W. B. Bridgman.  It is widely recognized as the birthplace of Washington wine. No other Washington winery has this claim to fame. Upland Estate Winery sources all of its fruit from its estate vineyards and it is the only winery currently located within the new Snipes Mountain AVA. They produce, cultivate and sell all fruit that is grown there to approximately 20 other wineries in Washington.  During our travels, we came across this winery and we met owner, Todd Newhouse. We were very impressed with this young man who is the grandson of Alfred Newhouse, who purchased all of what used to be Upland Vineyards in 1972.  Still bearing fruit today from vines planted from long ago, its longevity is a testament to the favorable weather conditions bestowed upon Snipes Mountain. Todd’s vast knowledge of this estates history, his own heritage and of course the unique qualities of Snipes Mountain and the fruit it produces was intriguing to us.  No one can tell the story of Upland Estate Winery better than Todd. Todd has allowed us to tell Upland’s story, using information that he put together for his own website.  It’s a fascinating read and we hope you enjoy the story as well as the wines we have selected from this winery for your pleasure.

Snipes Mountain was named after cattle king Ben Snipes, who was the first to settle the Yakima Valley and who made his vast cattle business headquarters on the south side of Snipes Mountain in the 1850’s. He chose this site because it was the highest point around and from the top of Snipes Mountain he had a panoramic view of the Yakima Valley and his vast herds of cattle.  He also noticed that the mountain added a little more protection from the elements of Mother Nature.

In 1914, William B. Bridgman, two-time mayor of Sunnyside and author of many of the Yakima Valley’s irrigation laws, planted table grapes on Harrison Hill.  Currently owned by the Newhouse family, Harrison Hill is now the second oldest Cab site in the state, which was planted in 1964. In 1917, Bridgman planted vinifera wine grapes on Snipes Mountain. Due to the country’s prohibition laws of 1916, and Washington State’s even more stingy anti-alcohol sentiments, Bridgman foresaw an increase in demand in wine grapes.  While others continued to plant table grapes, he planted more and more wine grapes.  Before long, he was selling them for far greater prices than his neighbors. By 1934, Bridgman had over 165 acres of wine grapes under contract with more than 70 growers, which prompted him to open Upland Winery that same year. It was the first winery in Eastern Washington (two other smaller wineries opened in Western Washington that same year).  Bridgman was also the first to commercially make European style wine (what we drink today) in Washington State.  Upland Winery was making table wine from vinifera grapes, rather than fortified wines made from fruit and labrusca grapes (like Concords). Although these wines only accounted for about 10% of Upland’s volume, it would prove to be a very important stepping stone in Washington’s evolution into a world wine region powerhouse. In other words, the seed was planted.

By 1947, because of financial strain, Bridgman was eventually forced to give in to demand and concentrate entirely on fortified wines. After two extremely hard winters in a row, ‘48-’50, Upland Winery sadly began a slow decline. In 1960, Bridgman sold the winery and in 1972, it was shut down. Bridgman died in 1968, but by then he had deeply affected the future of Washington’s wine industry. Fortunately, Bridgman had encouraged Dr. Walt Clore (regarded by most to be the “Father of Washington Wine”) to  plant vinifera wine grapes in 1940 as part of the Irrigation Experiment in Prosser. He provided Clore with cuttings from his own vineyard, and this propagated Brigman’s vision.

There is a lot of history on Snipes Mountain and Harrison Hill. A lot more than most people realize. Everybody seems to know who Walt Clore was, but hardly anybody knows who William Bridgman was and how much of an impact he had on Washington’s wine industry. If Walt Clore is considered the “Father of Washington wine,” then W.B. Bridgman should be considered the “Grandfather of Washington wine.” 

When Upland Winery shut down in 1972, Todd’s grandfather, Alfred Newhouse, bought all of what used to be Upland Vineyards. Over the next 35 years he and Todd’s father, Steve Newhouse, would continue to expand their holdings on both Snipes Mountain and Harrison Hill.  Today the Alfred Newhouse family farms cherries, apricots, nectarines, peaches, prunes, pears, apples, juice grapes, table grapes and of course wine grapes.  Out of approximately 1200 acres, of what is once again called Upland Estates,  500 acres are wine grapes grown in some of the most unique soils in the world.

In 2006, Todd and Amber Newhouse crushed their first grapes for their newly established label, Upland Estates.  Todd continues to farm full time alongside other family members. After 10 years of getting to know wine grapes, Todd felt the need to try and showcase the best of Upland’s fruit in his own label. In 2007 they began selling their 2006 Gewurtzraminer and in early 2009 they released two ‘06 reds (Old Vine Cabernet and Malbec) and three ‘07 whites (Sauvignon Blanc, Vintage Muscat Ice and Gewurztraminer). Altogether they produced 450 cases. In late 2009 they added a Syrah and a Vigonier/Chenin Blanc, with even more varieties coming in 2010.

Through the efforts of viticulturist Todd Newhouse and winemaker Robert O. Smasne, Upland Estates carries on the traditions of those who came before them. Notice the Upland Estates wine label. The vinifera vine pictured on the label depicts W.B. Bridgman’s 1917 original Snipes Mountain planting. This Muscat of Alexandria vine is still bearing fruit today.

2007 Upland Estates Old Vine Cabernet

100% Old Vine Cab, hand crafted into an old world style, not overblown with high alcohol, showcases the expressiveness of age and the terroir of Snipes Mountain. It is loaded with ripe fruit flavors, violets, and fresh spices with hints of caramelized oak and mocha that wraps around balance, power, and complexity.  100% oak. Aged 22 months. 99 cases produced

 

 

 

2007 Upland Estates Syrah (2nd Red selection for 2 Red monthly members)

Silver – 2009 Tri-Cities Wine Festival

The first release of the Syrah, it comes from the south slope of Snipes Mountain planted in 1999 and is 100% Syrah.  Expressive of this unique vineyard site it’s bouquet is inviting with rich layers of ripe berry, floral notes, spice and vanilla oak.  It is smooth, lush, refined and silky. The barrel program was 20 months in 100% French Oak.  74 cases produced.  Released in December  2009

 

 

 

 

2007 Gewurztraminer

Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s International Top 100 Best Buys of 2009

“Silver” – Northwest Wine Summit
“Bronze” – Sunshine and Wine
“Excellent” – Wine Press Northwest Magazine

Hand selected and harvested at peak ripeness, gently whole cluster pressed, and tank fermented to provide an off-dry style that enhances the natural fruit flavors of the wine. It is floral with hints of pear, lemon zest, ripe melons, spicy undertones and lychee flavors that are balanced with crisp acidity and a clean, refreshing finish on the palette.  115 cases

 

 

Marinated Flank Steak Served on Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad—Pair with Upland Estates 2007 Old Vine Cabernet

Ingredients:

  • 1 red onion slivered                              
  • 2 Tbsp chopped Oregano
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar                      
  • 3 cloves garlic—chopped
  • 1/4 cup capers                                     
  • 1.5 lbs flank steak
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt                                
  • 1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper 

Preparation:

Slice onion and place in large plastic bag. Mix vinegar, capers, oregano and garlic and place in the same bag. Sprinkle flank steak with salt and pepper. Place the steak in the plastic bag and marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Make sure you turn the meat several time during this process, making sure the meat is completed covered with the marinade.

Heat a grill or a broiler. Make sure the meat is approximately 4 inches from the heat source. Remove the meat from the marinade, (make sure to throw away the remaining marinade). Grill or broil for 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let the meat stand for 5 minutes before slicing.

Ingredients for Salad and Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil       
  • 3 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar    
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme       
  • 1/8 tsp salt and pepper
  • Fresh salad greens                   
  • 4 ripe tomatoes sliced        
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese 

Preparation:

In a large bowl place fresh salad greens of your choice. ( I prefer mixed lettuce with some fresh spinach).  Add tomatoes and feta cheese. In a small bowl add the balsamic vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper. Slowly add the olive oil in a stream as you whisk.  Pour dressing over the salad and toss well. Place on individual plates and add sliced flanked

Quick Thai Lettuce Wraps—Pair with Upland Estates 2007 Gewurztraminer

Ingredients:

  • 1 head Boston lettuce or Iceberg Lettuce leaves separated.
  • 3-4 carrots thinly sliced lengthwise into ribbons              
  • 1 seedless cucumber thinly sliced
  • 1 lb uncooked chicken cubed                                       
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • Thai Saifun Bean Threads                                             
  • Thai Peanut Sauce (Prefer Bangkok Padang 11.5 oz) 

Preparation:

In a skillet heat 2-3 tbsp olive oil. Add the cubed chicken and cook until no longer pink. Add approximately 1/4-1/2 cup of the peanut sauce to the cooked chicken.  Continue cooking the chicken, until all pieces are coated with the sauce. In a sauce pan or in a microwave, heat the remaining sauce until warm.

While chicken is cooking, prepare the carrots and cucumbers (I like to use a vegetable peeler to make thin ribbons of carrots). Prepare the Saifun Bean Threads according to package directions. (Note: if you don’t want to fry the bean threads, consider placing them in boiling water, for 20 minutes.)

To assemble the wraps: take a piece of lettuce leaf, add pieces of chicken, the carrots, cucumber and bean threads. Add a drizzle of the heated peanut sauce to each serving. 

This is an easy recipe and a great finger food. A bit messy to eat, but very yummy and pairs beautifully with the Gewurztraminer.

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