I ARRIVED IN Washington wine country in 1989 from southern Idaho, where I worked at a newspaper for a year after finishing college in Bellingham. When I got here, I wasn’t a wine guy — more of a Rainier beer guy. That changed over the years.

Cover story: How Red Mountain grew into Washington’s premier wine region

The first time I visited Red Mountain, I thought the term “mountain” was a bit of a stretch — this coming from a guy who grew up on the Kitsap Peninsula with a view of the Olympics from my front porch. Red Mountain didn’t much resemble Rainier, Baker or The Brothers. It was just another big, brown hill.

Once I began to understand wine and visit Red Mountain regularly, I learned to appreciate its place in Washington wine. After I had the chance to spend more time in Napa and Sonoma, I began to see just how cool Red Mountain could be, and where it fit in as someplace special in the context of West Coast wine regions. Today, I live a couple of miles from Red Mountain.

In the past couple of years, we’ve seen outside investment in Red Mountain from Europe and California, signaling greater interest in this small, brown ridge in the heart of Washington wine country. This gave me the impetus to dive into the region’s origins to uncover why it’s so special. Writing this year’s Wine Issue cover story has given me not only a deeper understanding of it, but also required me to taste some pretty great wines.