Wallula Vineyard, which sits on a 1,000-foot bluff overlooking the Columbia River in eastern Washington, has been sold by the Den Hoed family to a group headed by Allen Shoup, founder of Long Shadows Vintners, a partnership that includes Agustin Huneeus, owner of Napa winery Quintessa. The price was not disclosed, but Shoup, who first contracted for the grapes when he was CEO of Washington wine company Chateau Ste. Michelle, said he believes it to be the most ever paid for a contiguous vineyard in Washington.
The stunning property, which runs along 5 miles of the river in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, currently has 650 acres under vine, which is the section purchased by Long Shadows (other parts, which the Den Hoeds still own, are unplanted). Some of the vineyard blocks perch on steep outcroppings high above the river.
"I've said for years, as good as the Columbia Valley vineyards are now, I believe we've yet to discover Washington's best site, but with Wallula we may have arrived," said Shoup in a press release.
Although the property has mostly supplied grapes to Ste. Michelle over the years, Long Shadows has been buying Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah from the vineyard since Long Shadows' first vintage, 2002. Huneeus, who makes the Pirouette label using fruit from Wallula in partnership with winemaker Philippe Melka at Long Shadows, is also part of the group that bought the vineyard.
The Den Hoeds recently planted 145 acres of biodynamically farmed Riesling on the property for Bonny Doon founder Randall Grahm's Pacific Rim brand, which is made in Washington. That contract will continue, said Shoup, who added that the new owners plan to apply biodynamic farming to the entire vineyard.
The Den Hoed family has grown wine grapes in Washington since 1978, and bought the Wallula property as bare land in 1997. They liked the site because the steep slopes provided a variety of microclimates. The Den Hoeds will continue to manage the property, and use cash from the sale to develop some of the steeper sections that they retain ownership of.