Shaped by cataclysmic floods and relentless winds, the Columbia Gorge Appellation (click to view video) is more than a visual treasure. It is a collection of microclimates with rich volcanic soils, capable of growing a mind-numbing array of grape varieties — producing well balanced, structured wines, blessed with bright acidity.
A Father and Son, supported by other family members, all on a quest to uncover the true potential of this young AVA. We farm our five vineyards (McCormick Family Vineyards and Grace) and control every step of the winemaking miracle.
Food and wine are at the center of our family's life. Because of our backgrounds, we view wine as an integral part of the food experience — we will only produce wines that complement food…lighter alcohol and oak influence, without sweetness or overextraction. This means that our wine is quite different from the typical Washington State wine.
The name “Memaloose” represents our terroir. It is the name of a sacred Indian island, that lies in the middle (geographically) of our estate vineyards — two on the Oregon shore of the Columbia and three on the Washington side. "Memaloose" wines are 100% estate grown, and are exclusively from the Columbia Gorge AVA. "Idiot's Grace" is the winemakers personal, small production label.
The distinctive Memaloose label draws inspiration from Lewis and Clark’s exploration. The “Corps of Discovery” camped in 1806 on the river bank overlooking Memaloose Island. Permission was granted for us to reproduce the Lewis and Clark journals on our label (including sketches, maps, and copy). The quote on the label is from April 14, 1806, when the group camped below our vineyards, overlooking the island. (Note that the explorers called Memaloose “Sepulcher,” their reference to the sacred burial status of the Indian-occupied island.), Our label expresses a bit of the history of our terroir.
Our Winemaker's label is "Idiot's Grace. Idoit's Grace wines are smaller production runs, creative expression of our many varieties and sites. Being limited, they are sold primarily in the Lyle Tasting Room and are saved for our wine club.
We are a young winery (2006 was our first vintage), and we have much to learn as our vineyards mature and we “get a feel” for the compatibility of the many grapes we have planted, with the sites we have chosen. This is a long-term effort of pioneering and discovery. We are determined to produce the best wines that the Columbia Gorge AVA is capable of growing. The AVA was only approved in 2003.
Brian McCormick and family came to the Gorge from Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley in 2001. He had long wanted to plant in the Columbia Gorge — believing that he could best produce his style of wine in this location. Rob McCormick and his wife Barbara joined them in the Gorge shortly thereafter.
Planting commenced in 2002 on both sides of the River, at “Idiot’s Grace” in Mosier, and in Parker’s Vineyard at Mistral Ranch in Lyle. The remaining three vineyards were planted on a rolling schedule over the next few years, with completion of the original plan in 2009.
Memaloose Winery was constructed in a new barn on the Mistral Ranch in Lyle, Washington in 2007 and has been steadily upgraded ever since. In our first vintage, 2006, there were just 250 cases produced. The 2012 crop will yield 2000 cases.
The team at Memaloose includes the McCormick family and a few, dedicated and highly-skilled associates. Brian oversees the field and cellar. Rob is the principle owner, business manager, marketer, and Washington vineyardist. Others in the family lend their talents to operations, while three full-time employees and a handful of seasonal workers toil to bring the best possible fruit to your table.
Bookish and a bit reclusive, Brian describes his task as “working, with real humility, to deliver wines of originality and fidelity to the growing site.” He draws inspiration primarily from an array of small, “old world” grower-producers, particularly in France’s Alsace, Loire, and Beaujolais regions and across Italy. Having fallen in love with good food and wine as a religion major in college, Brian went on to study winemaking and earned a graduate degree in Horticulture from the University of California at Davis. His early experience included work at Domaine Zind-Humbrecht in Alsace, and three vintages as a viticulturist in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley. With wife Maria and their two children, he farms grapes, cherries, pears and garden produce at Idiot’s Grace, the certified organic farm they’ve owned in Mosier, Oregon, since 2002. You can often find them there, pulling pizzas from their backyard mud oven.
Rob completed a career in the food industry as an executive with several food manufacturers and as a consultant for the food industry. Much of his later work was in the “value –added” produce business, providing strategic marketing planning and product development for that rapidly developing industry. Rob mistakenly thought he might retire when he moved to the Gorge from Northern California. Instead, he found that the effort to develop a Columbia Gorge wine brand was worthy of more than a part time effort.
His wife, Barbara, is a former chef in California (California Culinary Academy trained). She provides a great deal of inspiration, child care and other critical support for her oldest son, plus her apprenticing farmer, and business manager husband. Her other three children put in cameo appearances in the business at peak times.