by Fred McMillin
for June 5, 1998

Winery of the Week

Staton Hills Thrills


1906—Although missionary Father Charles Pandosy introduced agriculture to the Eyakima tribe much earlier, the valley's potential could not be tapped until irrigation arrived along with the 20th century.

1983—The Yakima Valley becomes Washington's first federally-established American Viticultural Area.

1991—Washington has risen to second behind California in the volume of U.S.A. premium wine production. Yakima is the state's most important district. While the whites had led the way, author John Baxevanis notes that the great depth of flavor of the Bordeaux reds indicate the Yakima Valley may become the leading Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon production area of the nation. (see his Wine Regions of America).

1992—After 20 years experience in the northern California wine industry, Peter Ansdell becomes president and CEO of Staton Hills Winery in the northwest corner of the Yakima Valley.

A Tale of Two Explosions

Explosion #1—Ominously, not too far west of the Yakima Valley, Mt. St. Helens blows its top, leveling 230 square miles of timber...on May 18, 1980. Nevertheless, four years later the Staton Hills Winery and vineyards are established ...on VOLCANIC soil!

Explosion #2—This occurred at the winery in 1992 when Peter took control. dedicated particularly to raising the quality of those Bordeaux reds, he jettisons the '91 reds, fires the staff, and brings in three new winemakers (from France,Washington, and California).

He also refused to release a wine until it's sufficiently aged. E.g, the '94 Merlot was unusually sturdy, and needed plenty of age. The '95 vintage was softer, and ready to drink sooner. So, the 1995 was released before the 1994!

And the whites are getting plenty of attention, too. I saw the Sauvignon Blanc was a winner in the annual Oyster Wine competition. The Chardonnay is listed as an area benchmark wine by critic Bob Thompson. This is a winery to follow, because Explosion #2 is surely paying off.


The winery can be reached at (509) 877-2112...and about that Indian tribe in the fertile "Eyakima" Valley, appropriately, their name meant "well fed tribe."

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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