The success that wineries such as Leonetti, L'Ecole No. 41 and Andrew Will have had with Pepper Bridge vineyard lots prompted grower Norm McKibben to start his own winery. L'Ecole's Apogee, which carries the Pepper Bridge vineyard designation, has been rated as high as 90 points by Wine Spectator. Other wineries such as Hogue, Glen Fiona and Woodward Canyon also rely on Pepper Bridge fruit for key components of their wines.
The first release from Pepper Bridge Winery will be a 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon, due out in 2001 at a projected price of $60 per bottle. While consultant Tom Eddy oversaw production of the 1998 Cabernet, future wines will be made by Jean-Francois Pellet, formerly of Heitz Wine Cellars in Napa Valley, who joined Pepper Bridge as its full-time winemaker on Aug. 1.
By 2004, the winery plans to make 10,000 cases per year of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah under its own label, while still supplying other wineries with grapes. Most of the fruit for the Pepper Bridge wines will come from its 191-acre vineyard, 4 miles south of the town of Walla Walla. However, some grapes will be provided by nearby Seven Hills Vineyard, a 210-acre operation owned by McKibben, Gary Figgins of Leonetti and Marty Clubb of L'Ecole. Seven Hills also makes wine under its own label, including vineyard-designated Pepper Bridge bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
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