Ciel du Cheval vineyard, Red Mountain
Part 12, Washington State: visiting one of North America's leading wine
Mountain is an important appellation in Washington State, and we met
with Jim Holmes, one of the founders of winegrowing in this AVA.
He’s been here 43 years, and founded the Ciel du Cheval vineyard in
the mid-1970s. Along with John Williams, he was one of the two
pioneers of Red Mountain, which became an AVA in 2001.
was nothing here back in the early 1970s,’ he recalls. ‘It was
pretty sleepy.’ He was from the north bay area and grew up near
Napa. In the 1960s he came to Washington State to do research as
part of the Handford project, which worked with atomic energy. ‘When
I first came here in the 1960s the whole area had just 10 000
research was looking at how materials worked down in the core of a
nuclear reactor. ‘Back in those days we thought nuclear power was
going to save the world,’ he recalls.
had grown up in wine country and had travelled to Europe, so he
thought he’d try his hand with wine here. He notes that at the State
College of Washington Irrigated Agriculture Research and Experiment
Station (Prosser), they’d already done 20 years of research on wine
grapes. ‘Our only interest was that land was really cheap. I paid
$200 an acre. There were no roads, water or electricity.’
applied for water rights and in those days no one cared,’ he says.
‘We were really lucky that we were able to come here.’ Jim began by
planting Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, with the first
vines going into the ground in 1975. ‘I thought we’d put them in a
pick-up and sell them in Seattle,’ he says. But he found a guy over
in Pascoe who’d built a winery but didn’t have any grapes. The
winemaker there was Rob Griffin, who told Jim that his Cabernet was
Red Mountain is almost entirely Cabernet Sauvignon. Ciel du Cheval
itself is 110 acres, with 20 additional acres farmed in partnership
with De Lille, and another 20 with Cedar Creek. Overall, there are
1400 acres of vines in the AVA, with the potential for perhaps
appellation itself was defined by the Yakima river to the west, the
top of the Mountain to the north and the lowest point before the
next ridge to the south. Recently Aquilini planted another 270 acres
in the appellation, which will change things a bit. The irrigation
district were selling the land.
WASHINGTON STATE WINES
du Cheval Vineyard
with Kevin Pogue
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com