Lewis and Clark Valley

Red Mountain’s famed Klipsun Vineyard sold to Chicago firm

Brian Carter is owner and winemaker at Brian Carter Cellars in Woodinville, Washington.

Brian Carter of Brian Carter Cellars walks through Klipsun Vineyard on Washington’s Red Mountain collecting samples of Cabernet Sauvignon. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

Klipsun Vineyards, long considered one of the top vineyards in Washington state, has been sold to Terlato Wines International, a leading importer and distributor based in Chicago.

The selling price was not disclosed. Terlato owns such Napa Valley brands as Chimney Rock, Greystone Cellars and Jack Nicklaus Wines.

Patricia Gelles, owner and founder of Klipsun Vineyards, was pleased with the sale. “It’s been 35 years, I’m tired,” she explained.

Patricia Gelles and her husband, David, helped plant Kiona Vineyards in 1975, the first vineyard on Red Mountain, were early investors of Ciel du Cheval, which was planted a few years later by Jim Holmes. She said Holmes called her one day and said he found a piece of land for sale that famed Napa Valley winemaker André Tchelistcheff said that was the best Cab land on Red Mountain, so we bought it and began planting in 1984.

That first year, they planted 40 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, which was way more than planning to plan to plant that first year.

Today, Klipsun Vineyards has 120 acres planted to seven varieties. When the Gelleses decided they wanted to sell the vineyard, they turned to California broker International Wine Associates, which took care of all the details of the sale.

Through the years, Klipsun Vineyards has gained a reputation as one of the top vineyards in Washington state. It has 30 wineries buying grapes each year.

Chris Upchurch, winemaker for DeLille Cellars in Woodinville and owner of Upchurch Vineyards on Red Mountain, has been buying Klipsun grapes for more than 20 years. He began to work with the fruit after Columbia Winery in Woodinville dropped its contract.

Upchurch said Klipsun is a Grand Cru-type vineyard. He points out that Red Mountain soils run deep at Klipsun, which leads to deep roots and grapes always deliver bigger and riper wines. He said he can always tell Klipsun wines in his cellar because of its muscle.

Klipsun Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon goes into the DeLille’s Four Flags Cabernet Sauvignon which comes from four vineyards on Red Mountain. Some of the Cabernet also makes the Chaleur Estate, which is DeLille’s flagship wine. And Klipsun Sèmillon factors into the Chaleur Estate Blanc, the winery’s Bordeaux-style white blend.

Carter made wine for Terlato in 2016

David and Patricia Gelles established Klipsun Vineyard on Red Mountain in 1982. Plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Sèmillon span 120 acres. Customers have included Quilceda Creek and Andrew Will. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Brian Carter, winemaker/co-owner of Brian Carter Cellars in Woodinville, has worked with Klipsun grapes for more than 20 years for his own label as well as Apex Cellars from 1991 to 2002.

“I’ve made a lot of great wine from that vineyard,” he said.

Carter doesn’t expect a lot of changes with Terlato as the owner. He made about 2,000 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah from the 2016 vintage for Terlato, but Carter said he is unsure of either the label or when the wine will be released.

He considers Klipsun near the top of all the vineyard is worked within Washington. He put it in the top three of the 20 or so vineyards his work with the last 35 years.

Patricia Gelles said she never considered starting a winery because it would take away too much from time with her family. She says she and her husband, David, plan to continue to live in West Richland, which is right around the corner from Red Mountain.

Originally from England, Gelles moved to the Columbia Valley in 1974 when David got a job with Westinghouse as a metallurgist materials scientist. Today, he works for Battelle, which operates Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, in nearby Richland.

Now that the vineyard sale is complete, the Gelles have planned a trip this spring to Europe and another  to South Africa. She also looks forward to returning to community volunteering, which she did before the vineyard was planted.

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