Wine investors help Canoe Ridge Vineyard return

(Copyright – Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman. via Associated Press)

Canoe Ridge Vineyard is back, thanks to a Seattle company that rescued the longtime Walla Walla winery.

Back in the late 1980s, a group of Washington and California wine investors came together to form Canoe Ridge, led by Rick Small of Woodward Canyon Winery and Phil Woodward of Chalone Wine Group. Together, they planted a vineyard on Canoe Ridge, a remote area of Washington wine country in the Horse Heaven Hills that, legend indicates, was named by Lewis and Clark as they floated downstream on the Columbia River toward the Pacific Ocean and destiny.

(About the same time of the planting, Chateau Ste. Michelle began to establish a vineyard nearby called Canoe Ridge Estate, and it later built its red-winemaking facility halfway up the ridge.)

In 1993, Chalone launched a winery in Walla Walla and hired John Abbott as its winemaker. He left in 2002 to start his own winery, Abeja, also in Walla Walla.

In the meantime, Chalone decided to further invest in Washington and bought Staton Hills Winery in Yakima Valley, which it renamed Sagelands Vineyard.

In 2005, London-based beverage giant Diageo purchased Chalone and bought out the local investors. It soon became apparent the two Washington wineries were not high on the company’s list. By 2010, Diageo closed the tasting rooms for Sagelands and Canoe Ridge, and the future looked grim for both brands.

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