Gordon Estate Winery owner Jeff Gordon can reel off a stream of memories from watching unlimited hydroplane racing in the Northwest, so he and his family are helping to celebrate and support the 50th anniversary of the Tri-City Water Follies with a couple of limited-edition releases of their Washington wine.
“During the 50-year run, I have missed maybe two or three races, so I guess that makes me a fan,” Gordon said with a chuckle. “We had a discussion as a family that with this being the 50th anniversary, we needed to do something really cool.”
So the Pasco family, among the first in Washington to plant vines, has created Roostertail Rosé ($15) and Roostertail White ($15) as a tribute this weekend’s 50th running of the unlimited hydroplanes on the Columbia River between Pasco and Kennewick. The wines are a collaboration between the Gordons and the Water Follies, the nonprofit organization that coordinates the boat races and the air show in Columbia Park.
“We were glad they came to us because we are hydro fans, and we’re happy to use a cut of the proceeds to help support hydroplane races,” Gordon said. “We hope that we can help keep the event going because it’s a great event for our community — and it’s a family show now.”
It’s already been an exciting year for Gordon Estate, which received a gold medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards for its 2013 Syrah. It was one of only four U.S. wines to earn a gold at the prestigious London judging.
“And it was the only American Syrah to win there,” Gordon pointed out.
This year, the Gordon family, known throughout Washington wine country for its unbridled enthusiasm for Washington State University, also is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its first commercial release — a bottling of Gordon Brothers Chardonnay. That was five years after their first vines were planted above the Snake River.
Gordon Estate was founded by Jeff, his wife, Vicki, and Jeff’s brother Bill, and they pride themselves on being the oldest winery in Washington to use only estate fruit.
Their two Roostertail wines, however, were released months ago under their Kamiak tier of everyday wines. The Roostertail Rosé is a pink that’s a blend of Cabernet and Merlot first released as the Kamiak 2014 Palouse River Rosé, while the Roostertail White is the Kamiak 2014 Unoaked Chardonnay.
Both were created by the Gordons’ new winemaker — Tyler Tennyson. He graduated from South Seattle Community College’s wine program before moving to Walla Walla, where he worked in the cellar at Dusted Valley Vintners and then at Seven Hills Winery. Last year in his first crush for the Gordons, the University of Washington grad oversaw a production of 25,000 cases.
“Tyler is showing us a lot of things we should have been doing,” Gordon said. “He’s got a real passion for this, and it shows.”
Gordon began following the hydros while he was in growing up in the Palouse and attending tiny St. John’s High School. He first watched the boat races in Coeur d’Alene, before experiencing the raucous atmosphere in the Tri-Cities and catching races on scenic Lake Chelan. As a fan, he respected the driving of Miss Budweiser’s — who was killed in 1982 while racing on the Columbia — and Bill Muncey, but he rooted for Seattle native Chip Hanauer, a product of Washington State University.
“He’s a Cougar and I’m a Coug, so I had a real affinity for him,” Gordon said.
The Gordons will be watching the Gold Cup race this weekend from the Pasco side of the Columbia River, and Jeff said he’ll be pulling for the Oh Boy! Oberto boat.
“I’m a big fan of theirs,” he said. “They’ve been great guys, and the boat has been there and been there and been there. I really appreciate them supporting the race, And it would be great to see their boat win since the company is based in Seattle.”
Gordon does plan to have bottles of both Roostertail wines available for his fellow party-goers, and he said the atmosphere won’t be as noisy as the days of the piston-powered fleet.
“I really liked that anybody had a chance because somebody would always break down,” Gordon said. “And while nobody seems to break down anymore, it used to take a boat 95 mph to qualify to race. Now they are doing over 240 mph with the turbines.”
The Roostertail wines are not scheduled to be poured in the beer gardens set aside for race fans this weekend — “It’s a beer crowd, and I understand that,” Gordon said — but they are available in the Tri-Cities at Albertsons and Yoke’s Fresh Market grocers as well as the Gordon Estate Wine Bar in Pasco.
“And if people from out of town get ahold of us, we’ll ship the wines to them,” Gordon said.