Vineyard Focus: Champoux, one of Washington State's premier sites for Bordeaux varietals.

Champoux (pronounced “shampoo”) Vineyard is set back five miles from the Columbia River in the Horse Heaven Hills. The 175 acre vineyard was first planted in 1972 and Block 1, the oldest section, provides the Cabernet Sauvignon for Andrew Will’s Sorella.

 Paul Champoux

Paul Champoux

Paul Champoux for whom the vineyard is named retired in 2014 as an owner andvineyard manager .  Dan Nickolaus replaces him as vineyard manager.  The vineyard is owned and run by a consortium of partners which includes Andrew Will.  Other partners include Quilceda Creek, Woodward Canyon, and Powers.

Vineyard practices include balanced plants through micro nutrition and pruning to fruit ratio.

The soil is sandy loamy (Warden-Schano-Esquatzel).The area is differentiated from other parts of Washington by the wind from the Columbia River Gorge, which never seems to stop. Tannins are noteworthy in the wines from this vineyard. Noted British wine author and critic Jancis Robinson wrote after tasting several Champoux Vineyard wines including Andrew Will, “what linked them most obviously was the quality and character of the tannis: extremely fine, dark and elegant. Together with the naturally well balanced acidity, they create a wonderful framework for the rich, dark, blessedly not- overripe fruit; powerful wines that are nevertheless models of restraint.”

From Northwest wine

Author: Christina Kelly
Co-Author Jean Yates

Located 35 miles south of Sunnyside, WA, Champoux Vineyard grapes are coveted by many winemakers who scramble to get on a waiting list. The wineries that regularly get Champoux fruit rarely give up their allotment. Cabernet Sauvignon is king at the vineyards, although wineries are gaining recognition with other Champoux fruit, including a brisk Riesling, a violet-infused Cabernet Franc, the luscious blueberry-flavored Syrah and some of the best Merlot grown in the Northwest.

Champoux Vineyard was originally part of the expansive 6,600 acre Mercer Ranch, owned by the family of Don Mercer, whose family planted the first vines in 1972. In 1990, Paul and Judy Champoux began leasing some of the vineyard land that sits about five miles from the Columbia River.

Surrounding the vineyards are farmlands, tumbleweeds and small towns surviving on the agricultural way of life: if you need something, your neighbor loans it to you. Businesses in this neck of the woods come and go, but farmers, on their umpteenth vintage of John Deere, are the mainstay.

"It's a real special piece of soil," said Rick Small, owner of Woodward Canyon, who uses grapes from Champoux as the backbone of his Old Vines and Artist Series wines. "Paul has been a farmer all his life, and knows that area very well. At the time he started, the established crop on the land was potatoes. It was a gamble to pull them out and plant a vineyard. He worked that land long before it was called Champoux."

In fact, Paul Champoux worked in vineyard management for Chateau Ste Michelle in 1979 at the site that would later become Columbia Crest Winery, and began growing grapes on Mercer Ranch a few years later. In 1996, Paul and Judy formed a partnership, and with Chris Camarda (Andrew Will Winery), Alex Golitzin (Quilceda Creek), Rick Small (Woodward Canyon) and Bill Powers (Powers Winery), purchased the vineyard land.

The first 100-point wine from Champoux Vineyards came in 2002 for Quilceda Creek's Cabernet, when the highly influential Robert Parker, critic for the Wine Advocate, awarded the perfect score. 100-point scores for Champoux Vineyard-based wines followed in 2003, 2005 and 2007. A generous handful of Quilceda wines have received 99-point scores from Parker as well. Andrew Will, Woodward Canyon, Sineann, Powers, Soos Creek and Fidelitas wineries have also scored high marks from critics for wines made from Champoux grapes. Those winemakers credit their success to Paul Champoux for his meticulous work in the vineyard.

 

Andrew Will, Champoux Vineyard

A blend of 64% Cabernet Franc, 22% Merlot and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon. This beautifully refined wine is very pure and nicely ripe on both the nose and the palate. The black current, sweet dark berries, tobacco leaf, and stony soil characteristics are accompanied by hints of floral notes. Full bodied, this wine is seamless in texture with fine-grained tannins, noticeable grip, and a long memorable finish. It is a superb example what this vineyard and AVA can deliver.

Composition: 
64% Cabernet Franc, 22% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon
Vineyard: 
CHAMPOUX VINEYARD
Appellation: 
Horse Heaven Hills
Average Age of Vines: 
32 years
Time in barrels: 
18 months
Bottling Date: 
May, 2014
Release Date: 
October, 2015
Total Production: 
710cases/750ML