Welcome to Washington State’s Yakima Valley. The consistent continental climate, well drained soils and pristine waters give our wine grapes and wines world class potential. Working with singular vineyards and their skilled growers, I am crafting wines showcasing the vibrant aromatics, luscious structure and deft balance which are the hallmarks of our region. After 20+ years making wine from vineyards throughout the state, I have chosen jewels to work with: vineyards able to deliver outstanding fruit year after year. Classically styled, the wines are supple and balanced showcasing the unique attributes of each vineyard site. Co Dinn Cellars. Dedicated to making wines worthy of Washington’s world-class vineyards!
On a three month motorcycle trip after college in Texas, I rode and camped from Austin to San Diego to Vancouver, BC. and experienced the West Coast. Falling in love with the land, the vistas, the climate, the Pacific Ocean, the mountains, the cities, I knew one day I would return.
Uninspired by a stint in the oil industry, I longed for work requiring craft and mastery. I had discovered wine and was intrigued by its variety and complexities. I decided that I would pursue winemaking as a career.
I found harvest work in the Napa Valley in 1989. I loved the smell of the winery, the barrels, the fermentation, the long hours, the whole process.
After graduation with a master's degree in winemaking from UC Davis I worked as an enologist in Napa at Trefethen Vineyards learning the ins and outs of production winemaking.
In 1996 I came to Washington as a winemaker. I was floored by the quality of the wines. I was drawn to the pioneering spirit of this emerging world-class region. My colleagues at Hogue Cellars were among the most respected winemakers and viticulturists in the Northwest, including Wade Wolfe, David Forsyth, Tony Rynders, Nicolas Quille, and Rick Hamman.
In over 20 vintages in Washington I have worked with some of the best vineyards in the state and know the growers well. In working with grapes from all areas of the Columbia Valley I formed a deep knowledge of the growing region one acquires only through time and experience.
Throughout my career, I have used both traditional techniques as well as the latest technology. Cutting edge studies on tannin extraction have guided my red winemaking, interestingly leading to old-school one-ton bin fermentations. 10 years of studies on closures in both reds and whites led to my decision to use the Stelvin screwcap: I found it is the best choice for wine preservation and bottle-to-bottle uniformity for all wines.
By 2013 I was ready for a new challenge. Consulting for estate winery Côte Bonneville since 2001 had confirmed for me the potential of single vineyard wines made with artisanal methods. Combining my years of training, expertise and knowledge of the Columbia Valley's varied terroirs, I founded Co Dinn Cellars where I am dedicated to making wines worthy of Washington's world-class vineyards.
Plant a flag
As a winemaker, I believe in committing to a world-class growing region, planting a flag (so to speak) and devoting a career to learning and knowing everything you can about it.
The permutations of latitude, altitude, aspect slope, soil, subsoil, water, grower, season, location, sub-location, trellising, variety, canopy management, irrigation practices, row orientation, picking decision, fermentation, cooperage, wine handling are as great as to keep an interested winemaker busy for a lifetime.
I have chosen to live and make wines in the Yakima Valley: a region of incredibly varied slopes, soils and mesoclimates. The areas in and adjacent to the Yakima Valley offer moderation of temperature and wind extremes. Sited and grown appropriately, wine grapes here can be made into wines with exceptional balance, finesse and character.
Choose singular vineyards and showcase them
I study each site: the soil, the slope, the heat accumulation, the elevation. I have identified vineyards which are optimal in those respects for their grape varieties and are coupled with an outstanding grower. The result is a unique vineyard with intensity and character which can be expressed in my wines year after year.
I believe that to express the character of a singular vineyard is the apex of artful winemaking. The defining elements once identified become the touchstones which draw us back to the wine year after year.
Respect tradition and be open to innovation
Classically styled wines allow context and comparison versus a known ideal. The winemaking traditions developed and passed down over the millennia have stood the test of time. I seek to honor those traditions in my winemaking. I also acknowledge that some modern techniques have allowed us to make wines that are consistently better than the ancient originals. I strive for classically styled wines while improving their consistency and quality using modern knowledge. Knowing when and how to use both ancient and modern practices, always with the classical ideal in mind, is key.
The Vineyards and Wines
In my years of winemaking I realized that every region has vineyard jewels: exceptional, singular sites. Some are famous and some are not... yet. The best wines from any region come from the vineyard jewels therein, trust me! Below is my collection of vineyard jewels and wines.
Roskamp Vineyard, Snipes Mountain, Yakima Valley.
High atop a gravelly ridge which drops almost 400 feet down on either side, the vineyard is an island in the sky in the middle of the Yakima Valley. The basalt ridge uplifted millions of years ago, but not before being overlain by the ancestral Columbia River which deposited gravel, sand and pebbles. Combined here are super well-drained soils, a frost free growing season, breezes for air circulation within the canopy and a mesoclimate warmer than the surrounding area. Planted and farmed by the Roskamp family since 1998.
Roskamp Vineyard Chardonnay, Dijon Clones
Snipes Mountain, Yakima Valley. Steep northwest facing slope. Dijon Clones 76 and 96. Planted 1998: mature vines. Very uniform, moderate vigor. North/South row orientation. VSP with west side sprawl. Loess over ancestral Columbia River sand and gravel deposits. Northwest aspect protects vineyard from prevailing breezes. Fruit is aromatic and more elegant than standard Washington clone. The wine is barrel fermented in 25% new and older French Burgundy barrels. Aged sur lie for 17 months, the wine is bottled unfiltered.
Roskamp Vineyard Syrah Block 2
Snipes Mountain, Yakima Valley. Ridgetop peninsula with southwest slope. Very low vigor with little protection from prevailing Southwest breeze. East/West row orientation. VSP with south side sprawl. Land drops off north and south. Phelps Clone Syrah in ancestral Columbia River sand and gravel deposits. Situated high above valley floor 1150 ft. Low vigor, exposed, windy conditions give a well-structured while still aromatic wine. I have worked with this vineyard from its inception and it gives small berries, a low yield and a unique violet aroma to the resulting wines.
Fermented in one ton bins, the wine is pressed when the tannins are at optimal concentration, giving structure and finesse but not excessive grip. The wine undergoes secondary fermentation and aging in neutral French oak barrels.
Painted Hills Vineyard, Columbia Valley
Technically in the Columbia Valley AVA but within the Yakima River drainage, Painted Hills Vineyard is in a narrow strip between the Horse Heaven Hills and Yakima Valley AVAs. The climate is warm and mellow. A low vigor site, Cabernet Sauvignon ripens consistently early here. The vines growing on a steeply sloping northwest aspect are Cabernet Sauvignon clones 8, 191 and 6, Malbec and Petite Verdot. The elevation is between 1150-1300 feet, 500 feet above the valley floor giving the site a long, frost-free growing season. Soils are sandy loam over fractured basalt and gravel in places. Owned by Art DenHoed. I have worked with the vineyard since its inception.
Painted Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
The wine is fermented in one ton bins, pressed at optimal tannin concentration and undergoes secondary fermentation and aging in 50% new and older French oak barrels. Barrels are chosen to compliment and frame the aromatics without masking the exquisite fruit aromatics. Bottled after 22 months and racked up to five times for clarification and development.
Lonesome Spring Ranch Vineyard, Yakima Valley
Planted in 1996 in the Yakima Valley near Benton City, it is owned and managed by noted grower Colin Morrell. The Grenache brings aromatic red fruit, the Syrah juicy berry and richness while the Mourvedre has a spicy white pepper quality. The vineyard is gently sloping at 900-940 feet, 350 feet above the Yakima River. Excellent air drainage and uniform silt loam soils, coupled with Colin's vineyard mastery result in fully ripened grapes later in the season.
GSM Red Wine Lonesome Spring Ranch Vineyard
The wine is fermented in one ton bins, pressed at optimal tannin concentration and undergoes secondary fermentation and aging in neutral French oak barrels. Bottled after 18 months.
Elephant Mountain Vineyard, Rattlesnake Hills, Yakima Valley
Planted starting in 1998, this is the highest elevation vineyard in the Yakima Valley AVA starting at 1300' and topping out at 1466'. A spectacular south facing slope, the vineyard is above the Missoula floods influence.The vineyard's hallmarks are varietal intensity and deep color. Elevation keeps site uniformly warm without excessive heat. Well protected from cold events. The vineyard is owned and managed by Joe Hattrup.
Red Blend Elephant Mountain Vineyard
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petite Verdot (Cabernet Franc in some vintages). The wine is a classic Bordeaux varietal blend with an emphasis (>55%) on Cabernet Sauvignon. Dense color, layers of complexity and flavors typify this wine.
Syrah Elephant Mountain Vineyard Block Five
Planted in 2005 to Tablas Creek clone 99 the Syrah ripens a full two weeks later than the Phelps clone and is inky, structured and complex.
French Creek Vineyard, Yakima Valley
South facing slope. 30 year old Wente Clone Chardonnay. The vineyard is managed by Damon LaLonde and has been acknowledged as a top Chardonnay vineyard in the region.
The Winery and Tasting Room
501 Grant Ave Sunnyside, WA
Built in 1930, the Sunnyside Water Department building was home to the city's two water wells (since capped but still in the basement) as well as the vehicle maintenance department. Over the years as new facilities were developed, the old building was boarded up and used for storage. In 2015 the Port of Sunnyside, working with Co Dinn Cellars, the City of Sunnyside and Yakima County came up with a plan to convert the classic Deco-inspired building into a modern winery and tasting room. We did keep the large overhead crane in the tasting bar.
Tasting room hours: 11-5 Wed-Sun
Tasting fee $20 tax included. One fee waived for each two bottles purchased.
Co Dinn Cellars
501 Grant Ave
Sunnyside, WA 98944