The Vineyards

 

 Our vineyard affiliations are the cornerstone of our winery. By having exclusive access to grapes from premier vineyards in Washington’s Yakima Valley it allows us to produce wines of depth, complexity and character.

 
 
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 Red Willow Vineyard

 

Red Willow Vineyard, located at the western end of the Yakima Valley, is one of the oldest and most acclaimed vineyards in the state. Because of a multigenerational effort by the Sauer family, Red Willow Vineyard has produced the grapes for some of the highest scoring wines in Washington State. Additionally they have been an innovative force in Washington wine and are responsible for the first plantings of Syrah, Tempranillo, Viognier and Mourvèdre in the state.

Eight Bells Winery is fortunate to have specified blocks within Red Willow Vineyard. Our wines are not only designated single vineyard, but most of our wines are tied to a specific block within Red Willow from which Eight Bells Winery receives all of the fruit. This assures our wines reflect the narrowly defined, distinctive terrior characteristics of these blocks year in and year out. 

 

The most renown of these blocks are David’s Block and Eight Clones Block.

 

David's Block - Bordeaux Blend

David Lake

David Lake

The relationship between Mike Sauer and David Lake is historic in the Washington Wine Industry. The introduction of Syrah to Washington State is probably the most famous story of Mike and David's relationship, however there were numerous pioneering viticultural practices that they explored early on at Red Willow. Two of the most influential and unique of these were multi-clonal wines and field blending.

Both of these practices are represented in the wine of David's Block. This is a roughly one acre block in which David asked Mike to allow him to experiment. On a trip to the famous chateaus of Bordeaux the two had come across the idea of field blending. They observed that very little blending was done in the winery since many of the chateau’s wines were based off of mixed varietal blocks in the vineyard. The base of the blend is already established in the vineyard and managed as such, hence the name field blending.

The other aspect of multi-clonal wines is reflected in a quote from David Lake after one of his trips to Bordeaux. "Many top estates employ a very large number of clones. Ch. Haut Brion has around 360! The one important fact, agreed by all, is that monoclonal wines are dull and that the best and most interesting wines are made from a combination of clones. This has great implications for Washington and indeed our clonal trials of Cabernet Sauvignon at Red Willow show substantial differences between clones and have produced an extremely complex wine."

When David first planted his multi-clonal, field blend block, he referred to it as the Peninsula Block and the wine he made from it was treated specially in the winery and marketed separately. As the caretaker of this block today, Eight Bells has renamed the block and the multi-clonal, field blend wine, David's Block, in order to pay homage to David Lake and his special wine.

eight clones block

Eight Clones Block

Eight Clones Block

Syrah has a unique and pedigreed history at Red Willow Vineyard. In 1986, with David Lake’s encouragement, Mike Sauer planted Washington State’s first Syrah on a hillside just north of the famed Chapel Block. To David Lake, the site and the vineyard reminded him of the La Chapelle Vineyard of the Hermitage region of France; a heady comparison indeed. After the success of this original planting (aptly named the ‘86 Block), Mike subsequently planted an additional block of eight separate and distinct clones of Syrah immediately next to it. Thus was born the Eight Clones Block, which we are fortunate to harvest and make into our Eight Clones Syrah.

The experimental Eight Clones Block and the adjacent '86 Block, share the same aspect and soils. The Eight Clones Block stands out as distinctively different from the rest of the '86 Block in that the vines seems to struggle more. It was for this reason that at one point Mike considered ripping out these four rows and replanting them with the more established Phelps Clone. Just at this time, Mike happened to share his thoughts with Andy Shepherd of Eight Bells.

Andy saw the opportunity of separating out the Eight Clones Block to make a distinctive wine as extremely exciting. He was able to convince a reluctant Mike Sauer to give Eight Bells a chance with this fruit before making any irreversible decision. Mike agreed. The resultant Eight Clones Syrah has been one of Eight Bells Winery's most acclaimed wines over the years. Needless to say, there is no more talk of ripping these storied vines out!


Boushey Vineyard

Boushey Vineyards

Boushey Vineyards, owned by Dick and Luanne Boushey, is also one of the oldest and most successful vineyards in Washington. Known for their unique terroir and Dick’s vast viticultural experience their grapes bring character and complexity to our wines. In addition to being the source of our Chardonnay we have access to a world class selection of Rhone varietals.