America’s Other Cabernet: The Wines of Red Mountain, WA

Admittedly, it sounds like the set-up for a joke: what do two nuclear engineers to for a good time outside of work? In the case of Jim Holmes and John Williams, the punchline goes something like this: after a less-than-successful experience trading stocks, their idea of fun was trying their hand at planting wine grapes in a godforsaken part of Washington state where land was cheap and sunlight was plentiful.

Every New World appellation that isn’t the subdivision of an existing growing area needs a pioneer, someone willing to gamble the time and money required to establish a vineyard and prove their intuition for its suitability when it comes to wine was justified. Sometimes those pioneers are keenly prepared treasure hunters, methodically searching for a specific set of conditions that match their vision of soil, climate and aspect. Often it seems, though, that many New World wine regions are as much the product of luck and happenstance as they are well-considered calculations.

The Red Mountain American Viticultural Area in eastern Washington owes its existence as much to the fact that Williams’ father-in-law had cheap land to sell as it does to the intuition and strategy of these two engineers looking for an interesting way to make some money on the side and do something with their hands on the weekend.

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Thus begins a lengthy profile I wrote on the Red Mountain AVA for Jancis Robinson’s website this week. You can read the profile, along with tasting notes and scores for more than 100 Red Mountain wines at JancisRobinson.Com.

If you’re not familiar with JancisRobinson.Com, I urge you to give it a try. It’s only £8.50 a month or £85 per year ($11/mo or $111 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and maps from the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.

Above image © Richard Duval Images, courtesy of Red Mountain AVA Association.