When You Visit the Gorge
We would like to recommend our favorite places to visit, wine and dine. Use our links below for more information.
- Columbia Gorge Winegrowers Asociation
- Maryhill Museum
- Columbia Gorge Discovery Center
- Windsurfing the Gorge
- Hood River Chamber of Commerce
- Mt. Adams Chamber of Commerce
- Zoller’s Outdoor Odysseys
- The Fruit Loop
- Everybody’s Brew Pub, White Salmon
- The Inn of the White Salmon, White Salmon
- Riverside, Hood River
- Celilo, Hood River
- Nora's Table, Hood River
- Cebu Bamboo Lounge, Hood River
- Brian's Pourhouse. Hood River
The Columbia River Gorge AVA (click to view video) is extraordinary, interesting and unique. It lies within the boundaries of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and is, therefore, federally protected. The appellation lies along a 15 mile stretch of the River which constitutes the Oregon and Washington border. At the western end the river is entering the Cascade Range; in the eastern segment the Columbia is exiting the desert. The latitude ranges between 45 (degrees) and 46 (degrees) north, the same as Bordeaux, the Loire Valley, Northern Rhone Valley, Piedmonte and Veneto (Italy).
This is a largely undiscovered tourism jewel, recently picked by “National Geographic” as one of the world’s top 10 destination areas. The Gorge is a mecca for outdoor sports fanatics — windsurfing, kite boarding, snow skiing (Mt. Hood), white water rafting, serious fishing, mountain biking are fully engaged here.
This is an area of an incredible range of weather, with up to 60 inches of annual rainfall in the West, down to 9 inches in the East – in just 15 miles! The wind (link to VineStories) from March thru September is relentless, blowing down the Gorge from the west-northwest, near Portland. Many days top 30 miles per hour. Alsatian, Burgundian and Northern Italian grapes thrive in the West; Bordeaux, Tuscany/Piedmont, Loire and Rhone varieties flourish in the East.
It’s the range of variables that makes this place so unique. The combinations of elevation (50-2000 ft.), heat units, cloud cover, rain levels, soils (volcanic, loess, etc) among other things, means that virtually any wine grape variety can prosper here, if the appropriate spot is planted. Memaloose grows or sources over 20 varieties of grapes within the appellation. There are several sub-regions within our small AVA. They include Underwood Mountain, the White Salmon River Valley, the Hood River Valley, Mosier, Lyle and western The Dalles area. Each is unique.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Gorge is the influence of ice age floods, some 20,000 years ago. Layers of basalt that spread from Idaho, millions of years ago, have been carved out by roughly 20 massive flows of ice and water from the Missoula, Montana area. Ice dams periodically ruptured there, sending walls of water up to 1000 feet high racing through our basalt on the way to the sea, creating the Gorge. Many different soils were deposited along the way, while hillsides were stripped bare by the floods. This geologic history has further added to the diversity of terroirs in the AVA.
The Columbia Gorge AVA may be America’s most unique wine region. Memaloose’s farming operation, McCormick Family Vineyards and Idiot's Grace, farms vineyards and sources grapes from each of the key sub-regions in the Gorge. Our five estate vineyards are:
- Hannah’s Bench
At 800 feet above the river, in Lyle, WA this 2.5 acre bench is sustainably farmed. South-facing, it contains Grenache which was planted in 2004. Gobelet style trellising is employed in this, our most spectacular site.
- Idiot’s Grace
This certified organic vineyard is located just east of Mosier, OR. Planted over several years starting in 2003, “IG” has Cabernet franc, Primitivo, Barbera, Sauvignon blanc, Dolcetto, Gamay plus a few other grapes. The vineyard lies on level ground at around 300 feet of elevation and is our largest vineyard, covering 7 acres. The soils are rich clay/loam.
- Parker’s Vineyard
Our first and smallest vineyard is south-facing at 1000 feet on the Mistral Ranch in Lyle, WA. It is organically farmed, and its one acre (which was planted in 2002 and served as a test plot) has Cab franc, Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The soils are very shallow (clay/loam over basalt).
- The Annex
This 2.5 acre site is in Mosier and was planted between 2005 and 2008. Organically farmed, its 2.5 acres has mostly Syrah and Viognier, with Cab sauvignon, Grenache, Rousanne, Marsanne, and several other varieties planted. Its elevation is around 200 feet; it is level and the soil is quite sandy, with loam.
- Hamm’s Vineyard
Our newest vineyard. It faces slightly southwest at 600 feet in Lyle, WA. In its 3.5 acres you will find Sangiovese, Viognier, Primitivo and Grenache, primarily. It is sustainably farmed. The soil is clay/loam with cobbles (and lots of agate!). This is a leased vineyard, planted in 2007 and 2008.
Memaloose also buys about one quarter of its grapes from vineyards we know and respect, from good friends. Most are in areas of the AVA where we do not own property, such as Underwood Mountain. Brian oversees the activities in partnership with the owners, so that we can obtain the style and quality we seek.
Among the vineyards we count on are White Salmon Vineyards, Underwood Mountain Vineyard, Acadia and Hog Back Ridge.