Yakima Valley vineyard’s 100-year history

It’s a funny little vineyard that would barely qualify as a footnote in Washington wine history.

But thanks to a friendly nudge from one of Washington’s true wine legends, Harrison Hill Vineyard near the Yakima Valley town of Sunnyside has received the recognition it deserves.

Harrison Hill is owned by the Newhouse family, whose history with these 5.5 acres of vines goes back to the early 1970s. But grapes have been grown here for much, much longer.

Back in 1914, William Bridgman planted wine grapes on Harrison Hill, which now is surrounded by homes and overlooks Interstate 82. Those grapes are now long gone, but in 1962, Bridgman sold the land to Associated Vintners, a group of University of Washington professors who decided to start a winery in Seattle. Associated Vintners planted a number of grapes there, including Cabernet Sauvignon.

A decade later, Al Newhouse began farming the vineyard for Associated Vintners, and later in the 1970s bought it from the company. For the next 15 years, he sold the grapes to Chateau Ste. Michelle, which included them with its large blends.

In 1992, DeLille Cellars began in the east King County community of Woodinville and focused on Bordeaux-style blends. By this time, Associated Vintners had changed its name to Columbia Winery, and David Lake was its winemaker. Lake, who died five years ago, is considered among the greatest winemakers in Washington history.

Around this time, Lake was helping DeLille get started, and on a trip to the Columbia Valley, he told DeLille winemaker Chris Upchurch that he wanted to swing by Harrison Hill, that old vineyard he’d used back in the 1970s.

By then, Al Newhouse’s son Steve was running the operation, and he was perfectly happy to continue selling the grapes to Ste. Michelle. But Upchurch was fascinated by these vines that were then 30 years old.

“One thing all good winemakers have in common is we all seek old vines,” Upchurch said. “They don’t produce much, and they don’t move too fast. The yields are lower, and they mature and ripen slower.”

So Upchurch approached Allen Shoup, then CEO of Ste. Michelle, and asked him if he would mind giving up the use of the vineyard to DeLille. Shoup was happy to let it go to someone who might do something special with it.

In 1994, Upchurch received his first grapes from the vineyard and made a blend simply called “Harrison Hill.” The next year during a tour of Europe, while that first wine was still in barrel, Upchurch was leading a woman through a cellar tasting. She astutely noted that the Harrison Hill was his best wine, and two weeks later, they began dating. Six years after that, they were married. All because of Harrison Hill.

Today, Harrison Hill is one of several wines Upchurch makes — and perhaps the most interesting wine produced at DeLille. Just 300 to 500 cases are made per year, and it’s highly decorated by critics and coveted by collectors.

A century after Bridgman planted vines on the south-facing hillside, his intuition about the potential of the Yakima Valley and the Washington wine industry lives on in each bottle of DeLille’s Harrison Hill.

We recently had the opportunity to taste through a vertical of Harrison Hill. Here is a review of the most recent vintage. Seek it out at a fine wine shop, as it’s already sold out at the winery.

DeLille Cellars 2011 Harrison Hill, Snipes Mountain, $85: This youthful wine is tightly wound at first, but it begins to open up after about 30 minutes. Aromas of sage, dark fruit, dark chocolate and black olive lead to flavors of blackberry, black cherry and plum. Sweet, elegant tannins lead to a lengthy finish. Tuck this wine away in your cellar for a minimum of five years.

Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Listen to their weekly podcast on iTunes or at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.

Talk to us

More in Life

CloZee performs during the second day of Summer Meltdown on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 in Darrington, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The psychedelic fest Summer Meltdown is back — and in Monroe

The music and camping event is on for July 28-31, with a new venue along the Skykomish River.

Gardening at spring. Planting tree in garden. Senior man watering planted fruit tree at his backyard
Bare root trees and roses have arrived for spring planting

They’re only available from January through March, so shop early for the tree or rose you want.

Veteran Keith F. Reyes, 64, gets his monthly pedicure at Nail Flare on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021 in Stanwood, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
No more gnarly feet: This ‘Wounded Warrior’ gets pedicures

Keith Reyes, 64, visits a Stanwood nail salon for “foot treatments” that help soothe blast injuries.

Photo Caption: A coal scuttle wasn't always used for coal; it could hold logs or collect ashes. This one from about 1900 sold for $125 at DuMouchelles in Detroit.
(c) 2022 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.
Coal scuttles of days long gone by now used for fire logs

This circa 1900 coal scuttle is made of oak with brass trim, and sold for $125 at auction.

Enumclaw, the band
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Most of these venues require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or negative… Continue reading

Does this ring a “Belle”? Storied anime writer-director Mamoru Hosoda’s newest resets “Beauty and the Beast” in a musical, virtual environment — among other modern twists. (GKIDS/TNS)
‘Belle’ is striking virtual reality riff on ‘Beauty and the Beast’

In it, ‘Beauty’ is the charismatic online avatar of a moody teenager that attracts the attention of a bruised and brooding Beast

"Redeeming Love"
Movie review: ‘Redeeming Love’ doesn’t yield cinematic riches

The story, about a sex worker “redeemed” by a folksy farmer in Gold Rush-era California, is creepy “tradwife” fan fiction.

Eggs Florentine
Baked Eggs Florentine: A brunch favorite inspired by a queen

The kitchen manager at Quil Ceda Creek Casino shares a dish that pays homage to a spinach-crazy 16th century monarch.

This easy-to-make spinach and mushroom quiche is perfect for a light dinner or fancy brunch. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)
Gretchen’s table: A spinach-mushroom quiche with cheesy goodness

The savory egg custard baked in a pie crust is easy to make — especially if you use a refrigerated crust.

Most Read