We would like to recommend our favorite places to visit, wine and dine. Use our links below for more information.
Local food & lodging
The Inn of the White Salmon
Riverside (at the Hood River Inn)
Solstice Wood Fired Pizza,
Everybody’s Brew Pub,
Pine Street Kitchen
General Area Info
Current Lyle Weather
Visiting the Gorge
“The Columbia Gorge AVA may be America’s most unique wine region.”
The Columbia River Gorge AVA (video link) 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, with the North Bank being Washington, and the South Bank, Oregon. At the western end the river is entering the very wet 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, Piemonte and Veneto (Italy).
This is a largely undiscovered jewel, picked by “National Geographic” as one of the world’s top 10 destinations. The Gorge is a mecca for outdoor sports fanatics — windsurfing, kite boarding, snow skiing (Mt. Hood), white water rafting, kayaking, serious fishing, and mountain biking are fully engaged here.
This is a region with an incredible range of weather, from up to 60 inches of annual rainfall in the West, down to 9 inches in the East – in just 15 miles! The wind (video link) from March thru September is relentless, blowing down the Gorge from the west-northwest, near Portland. Many days in spring and summer, winds 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. We recieve two hours more daily sunlight than California each summer with cooler nights (which protects our acidity!)
It’s the range of variables that makes this place so unique. The combinations of elevation (80-2000 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/Idiot's Grace grows or sources over 23 varieties of grapes within the appellation, several of which are grown by no one else in the Gorge.
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, and each is suited for different varieties.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Gorge is the influence of ice age floods, some 20,000 years ago. Layers of basalt that flowed from Idaho, millions of years ago, were carved by 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. (We have agate from Montana!)
The Columbia Gorge AVA may be America’s most unique wine region. Memaloose/Idiot's Grace farming operations, straddle the river, with five estate vineyards each on the north and south banks. We are a bi-state estate.
At 800 feet above the river, in Lyle, WA this 2.5 acre bench is organically farmed. South-facing, it contains Grenache which was planted in 2004. Gobelet style vine training is employed in this, our most spectacular site. The soil is less than 2.5 feet deep, yet it is dry farmed.
This certified organic vineyard is located just east of Mosier, OR. Planted over several years starting in 2003, “IG” has Cabernet franc, Primitivo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Sauvignon blanc, 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 deep soils are rich clay/loam.
Our newest addition is partially developed. So far it has Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, COT (Malbec) and a few “exotic” italian varieties such as Fiano. 3 acres, at 250 feet elevation: certified organic.
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, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The soils are very shallow (clay/loam over basalt).
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.
Our newest vineyard. It faces slightly southwest at 600 feet on the North Bank in Lyle, WA. In its 3.5 acres you will find Sangiovese, Viognier, Primitivo and Grenache, primarily. It is organically 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 a minor amount of grapes from Gorge vineyards we know and respect. Most are in areas of the AVA where we do not own property, such as the Underwood Mountain. Brian oversees the activities in partnership with the owners, so that we can obtain the style and quality we seek.
Tasting Room Location:
34 State Street (HWY 14),
Lyle, WA 98635
Current Tasting Room Hours:
Thursday through Monday