This spring marks the 17th anniversary of the opening of the tasting room for Maryhill Winery near Goldendale, Wash. Almost immediately, Craig and Vicki Leuthold’s dream became a destination for wine lovers, perched atop basalt cliffs on a lonely stretch of Highway 14 overlooking the Columbia River with stunning views of Mount Hood in the distance.
Back then, Washington state only had 125 wineries. So much has changed. The state purportedly has more than 900 wineries now, and Maryhill ranks among the best. Today, the winery is home to a 4,000-seat concert amphitheater — this year’s lineup includes Chris Isaak, Michael Franti, and Ben Harper — and its production of 80,000 cases ranks it among the largest wineries in the state owned by an individual family.
The Leutholds welcome more than 75,000 visitors each year, attracted by the spectacular venue and the stellar wines produced by New Zealand native Richard Batchelor, recruited from Napa Valley in 2009. He continues to show a Midas touch with Washington grapes, spinning them into gold-medal winners vintage after vintage.
At the recent Cascadia International Wine Competition, staged this month in Richland, Wash., Maryhill wines impressed the 21 judges, earning an astonishing 53 medals, including awards for the best Washington wine, three best of class, two unanimous double gold medals and eight gold medals.
A number of the winners were part of Maryhill’s Vineyard Series, a set of vineyard-designated wines featuring grape varieties that are out of the mainstream. They’re available primarily to members of Maryhill’s wine club, though they are now for sale to the general public through either Maryhill tasting room. Last fall, the Leutholds opened a satellite tasting room in their hometown of Spokane within the young Kendall Yards community overlooking the Spokane River.
Here are a few of Maryhill’s gold-medal winning red wines from the recently released 2015 vintage, according to the panel of judges at the 2018 Cascadia Wine Competition.
Maryhill Winery 2015 Elephant Mountain Carménère, Rattlesnake Hills, $40: This 2015 Carménère from Elephant Mountain Vineyard, created by the talented Maryhill team, is classic Carm, showing off a spectrum of pepper aromas and flavors. Let your nose return to the glass over and over to discover a promise to your palate that includes white pepper, green bell pepper, a touch of cedar, and a hint of pink peppercorns on the finish. Pair this with chicken fajitas for pepper perfection.
Maryhill Winery 2015 Elephant Mountain Mourvèdre, Rattlesnake Hills, $38: This Mourvèdre from the Rattlesnake Hills above the Yakima Valley, is a display of baking spices on the nose — warm notes of clove and nutmeg waft from the glass, working in harmony to support the notes of blackberry and Marionberry. The body is on the fuller side, showing off lush ripe fruit first, then with a rush of baking spices. The finish is bright and spicy.
Maryhill Winery 2015 Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $26: Aromas of white pepper and cranberry combine with flavors of cherry and bright raspberry to deliver this acid-driven, lighty tannic and light-bodied gem of a Sangiovese.
Maryhill Winery 2015 Northridge Syrah, Wahluke Slope, $40: The warm Wahluke Slope is the source of these premium grapes, resulting in a best-of-class award at the 2018 Cascadia. This Syrah from Milbrandt-owned vines shows off delectable blackberries, infused with peppery blueberries. Spot-on acidity shares the background with the most delicate oak influence.
Maryhill Winery 2015 McKinley Springs Cinsault, Horse Heaven Hills, $36: Richard Batchelor came up with another winner that showcases one of Washington’s largest family-owned vineyards. Here’s a wine with floral notes and hints of dried strawberry in the nose. In the mouth, it is plummy with a red tone to it, backed by smooth tannins and a sweet fruity finish. Enjoy with escargot, stews and roasted meats.
Maryhill Winery 2015 Tempranillo, Columbia Valley, $34: Lovely aromas of plum, blackberry and dates are nicely balanced on the palate against a solid structure, leaving a hint of mint on the finish.
Maryhill Winery 2015 Malbec, Columbia Valley, $24: Richard Batchelor follows up on his 2014 Malbec, which earned a double gold at last year’s Cascadia, with another gold for his work with the 2015 vintage. Its nose promises deep blue fruit and in the mouth it delivers lush blackberries, blueberries and plums, finishing with refined tannins.
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company; www.greatnorthwestwine.com