Maryhill Celebrates Decade

November 2009

By Riggs Fulmer

This year marks the 10th vintage of one of the Northwest’s favorite producers, Maryhill Winery. Owned by Craig and Victoria Leuthold, who had decided to strike out on their own after working at nearby Cascade Cliffs Winery, Maryhill’s first vintage was in 1999; they broke ground on their gorgeous estate facility on Oct. 11, 2000.

Situated on a stunning ridge overlooking the Columbia River to the sere, golden hills of Oregon and the southern horizon, it is truly one of the world’s most spectacular viticultural sites.

The Leutholds and their friendly, accommodating staff have hosted a series of events during the busy harvest season to commemorate this important anniversary.

“Our anniversary year is a major milestone for Maryhill,” Craig Leuthold said. ‘We have successfully grown the winery over the last 10 years into a well-recognized, award-winning brand. We continue to experiment with new varietals and have introduced dozens of wines into the Northwest market; and now, with a seasoned and well-known winemaker on our team, we are confident Maryhill Winery will only continue to thrive.”

That new winemaker is none other than New Zealander Richard Batchelor. Batchelor first learned his trade in his native land, then came north and east to the Napa Valley, where he starred as head winemaker at much-lauded Hall Winery in St. Helena. Many of his wines received massive scores from Wine Spectator.

He brings this same craftsmanship, attention to detail and Kiwi passion to his new gig. When I joked that all the wines made before him would pale in comparison to those made thereafter, he smiled and responded with typical humility, “I can only hope to continue to make wines as good as these.”

Maryhill is Washington’s 10th-largest winery, producing around 80,000 cases per year, including nearly 70 percent of all the Zinfandel grown in Washington. The impressive facilities and surrounding vineyards and orchards are immaculately kept, and the famous amphitheater, hosting acts as diverse as Bob Dylan and John Legend, sits just below the winery amid high-desert splendor.

Journalists from around the Northwest attended a special press event during the anniversary celebration, where we were treated to a wonderful day touring the vineyards and facilities. Then we got to the heart of the affair: a retrospective tasting of Maryhill’s 10 vintages.

The oldest wine was a 1999 Sangiovese, which, though having lost much of its fruit, was still silky and elegant, and the youngest was their 2008 Viognier, which surprised me with its delicacy, balance and restraint.

One of my favorites was the 2000 Zinfandel, which featured brooding varietal fruit—peppery black cherries and flesh—knit together impeccably with bottle age, all against a frame of mouthwatering bright acidity and minerals. This wine won a gold medal and Best in Class at the 2002 West Coast Wine Competition in Santa Rosa, Calif.—despite being the only entry from Washington!

Other highlights included the very impressive value offered by their Winemakers Red, but, for pure visceral appeal, the 2005 Proprietor’s Reserve Grenache was unsurpassed. Its color was bright ruby, limpid and glowing. On the palate, it was a head-spinning wash of sweet cherries, olives and grilled meat, utterly delicate and pretty while somehow retaining Grenache muscularity, and flaunting that compelling maritime note that played throughout all Maryhill’s wines, reflecting their lovely terroir.

After leaving the tasting room and heading to The Dalles, we were installed at our night’s digs, the absolutely wonderful Celilo Inn, which looks north across the river at a dynamic vista of dam, bridge and sable hills, all bluing in the twilight, Mount Hood a shark’s tooth against the setting western sun.

Dinner was at the Hi-Way House, where I enjoyed a perfectly reviving meal of lemon-pepper salmon, crushed potatoes with garlic, and plenty of their warm, homemade bread with sweet butter—a repast that more than belied the joint’s quaint moniker. As far as wine, an ample supply of Maryhill was on hand, which proved complementary to our various entrées.

If the rest of the evening became a bit hazy, I also seem to recall a fine, Pearl District-esque pub called Riverbrew, and then dancing to a funk/soul band at a cooking little bar called The Landing Strip, where I found myself sandwiched between joyfully swaying local girls, and looked up to see those of Maryhill’s staff (including winemaker and co-owner) who had survived the dancing along with us.

The finest compliment any customer can pay an establishment is to return, and after our experiences at Maryhill and in The Dalles, which I found to be as friendly a place as I have visited in some time—certainly a refreshing counterpoint to snarky, self-absorbed Portland—I will certainly make my way back along Interstate 84 as soon as I can.

Maryhill is well positioned to continue their first 10 years of success for decades to come, having carved out their niche in the Northwestern landscape, while continuing to push for improvement. In the capable hands of the Leutholds, and the brilliant young winemaker Batchelor, we can look for more to come from our eastern neighbors. 

Riggs Fulmer is a language-loving wine writer and musician. He resides in Portland.

Maryhill Winery

Address: 9774 Hwy. 14 • Goldendale, WA  
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Information: 877-627-9445 www.maryhillwinery.c

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