Idiot’s Grace: Explorers in the Columbia Gorge AVA #WinePW

Wine Pairing Weekend Group Goes Under the Radar
This month, our Wine Pairing Weekend blogging group members are highlighting wine regions which are overlooked, the Cinderellas of the wine world. Come along and look under the radar with us, you might find something new! Scroll to the bottom of this post to find links to all the great ideas for food and wine from less well known places!

Columbia Gorge AVA – Under the Radar in Spectacular Surroundings
The Columbia River separates Oregon and Washington, and a drive west from Portland towards Walla Walla is a spectacular one, indeed. The dramatic cliffs along the river were scoured by multiple ice age floods from Glacial Lake Missoula caused by a sudden break in an ice dam. The most recent event was 13,000 years ago, explaining the lack of softening of the landscape by eons of weather.

For wine enthusiasts, the Columbia Gorge AVA (CGAVA) is a tiny outpost between hugely popular Willamette Valley south of Portland and Walla Walla, a four hour drive east along the Columbia River. The CGAVA spans the Columbia River and includes land in both Washington and Oregon, quite unusual for an AVA in the US. It sits just east of the spine of the Cascade mountains with lush pine forests on its western edge and high desert on its eastern edge, a mere 20 mile distance. Think about famous wine regions worldwide: Moderate climate, sloping topography close to a river, local dramatic wind, significant impact of a mountain range rain shadow. The CGAVA has it all, yet it’s all but unknown!

Images from My Last Visit – October 2018

(click on any photo for full-screen slide show)

Idiot’s Grace Winery – Finding What Works
Our introduction to what is today Idiot’s Grace was with Memaloose, headquartered in a tiny barn above Lyle WA. The winery started as a collaboration between Brian and his dad Rob. Rob farmed the Washington side property and Brian had purchased and started his property over on the Oregon side.  Over time the business has shifted over to be more centered at Idiot’s Grace, hence the name change.

From the beginning, they have farmed organically and made wines with a restrained, traditional approach. Their wines offer refreshing acidity, light extraction and little new oak, perfect for the dinner table.  Over time, I came to understand another of their missions: to figure out what grows best in the Gorge. Not content to just follow the typical grapes found in Columbia Valley (next door), they have planted a wide variety, so we have had the opportunity to explore as well with our wine club shipments.

As another feather in their cap, Idiot’s Grace has been included in the most recent versions of the Slow Wine Guide, which has expanded beyond Italy to include California and Oregon wineries! There are a few articles about Idiot’s Grace, and this one in Oregon Wine Press even includes a clue about the name “Idiot’s Grace”

A round-up of recent food and wine pairings featuring Idiot’s Grace Wines

Other Under the Radar Recommendations from Our Wine Pairing Weekend Crew
Our posts go live today and tomorrow. If you see this in time, please join our chat on twitter, Saturday Nov. 14 at 10am CST. Just look for us at #WinePW

9 Responses to “Idiot’s Grace: Explorers in the Columbia Gorge AVA #WinePW”
  1. culinarycam says:

    Jeff, great post. And a great reminder for me to look for wines from Columbia Gorge. I don’t think I’ve ever had any wines from that AVA. Will need to fix that ASAP. Cheers.

  2. What great scenery there! Wine country I’d like to visit one of these days. I’ve heard of the Columbia Gorge more for windsurfing, not wine, now will be on the lookout.

  3. Susannah says:

    What beautiful photos and great information about this winery and its origins. I spoke to them once for an article I was writing. I’ve only been to the Dundee Hills but your photos make me want to drive to the Gorge right now. Wine clubs are a great way to support wineries and get to know them better. Thanks for reminding me of that. Do you still windsurf? Cheers, Susannah

  4. wendyklik says:

    Thanks for the introduction to this winery. I’m going to be on the lookout for a bottle from them.

  5. Ah, the Gorge! Loved hiking in this area and can’t wait to go back – this time, for the wine! Thanks for sharing info on a winery that’s now on my list to visit.

  6. Lots of great pairing ideas here! I’m fortunate to have visited WA twice now on press trips– so much great wine in that state!

  7. L.M. Archer says:

    Such an unsung region – happy to see the Columbia Gorge getting some love here!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Jeff from Food Wine Click! brings Idiot’s Grace: Explorers in the Columbia Gorge AVA […]

  2. […] Jeff from Food Wine Click! brings Idiot’s Grace: Explorers in the Columbia Gorge AVA […]

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