WHEN CRAIG and Vicki Leuthold built their winery in one of the more obscure regions of the Pacific Northwest, few would have thought it would become one of the state’s best and most-visited destinations.
Yet that is what has happened with Maryhill Winery in the past dozen years. The Leutholds selected a remote cliff near the quirky Maryhill Museum for their winery, making just a few thousand cases.
That has since expanded to nearly 100,000 cases, a fantastic tasting-room experience to accommodate the nearly 100,000 visitors the winery receives each year and a 4,000-seat amphitheater that attracts top musical acts.
Maryhill first made its mark a decade ago when its zinfandel topped more than 100 California examples at a wine competition in Sonoma County. About 2,000 medals from regional, national and international competitions since have burnished respect for Maryhill in the eyes of consumers and critics alike.
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The winery also has gone through growing pains. The Leutholds struggled to find the right winemaker who could take Maryhill to a new level of quality and quantity. But in 2009, New Zealand native Richard Batchelor arrived in tiny Goldendale, Klickitat County, and he has turned out to be a superb fit for Maryhill.
In his first vintage, he crafted universally delicious wines, then his skills went on greater display with the difficult 2010 vintage. That was when Batchelor and the Leutholds decided to launch a new tier called The Vineyards, which spotlights favorite vineyards from various regions in Washington wine country. The wines were wildly well received, and the 2011 versions are now on the market.
Also this summer, Maryhill teamed up with Major League Baseball to produce Mariner Red and Mariner White, two wines for the Seattle club. They entered the retail market in July.
While Maryhill’s wines are available across the country, the best way to enjoy them is by visiting the winery. It’s 100 miles east of Portland atop basalt cliffs overlooking the Columbia River and affording stunning views of the Gorge and Mount Hood. The Leutholds have created a truly magnificent destination.
Andy Perdue is a wine author, journalist and international judge. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.