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From Vines to Views: Exploring Windhorse Vineyard - A Tale of Wine, Terroir, and Sustainability

On a recent visit to the Pacific Northwest, we were lucky enough to be invited to tour an amazing vineyard in Oregon and sample a selection of local wines. This was our first-time wine tasting and exploring the region, so we didn’t know what to expect. What we found was a magical place and some amazing wines!

Windhorse Vineyard is located within the Columbia Gorge AVA, 5 miles southwest of The Dalles, Oregon, and 85 miles east of Portland. This stunning wine region spans the border of both Washington State and Oregon and encompasses the scenic Columbia River Gorge. Referred to as “world of wine in 40 miles” the region's varied climates and elevations provide the perfect conditions for growing a wide variety of grape varieties.

Our “tour guide” for the day was Windhorse Vineyard co-founder and geology and soils expert, Dr. Alan Busacca. We met Alan at the entrance to the vineyard, amongst a vibrant, thriving cherry orchard. He led us up a steep ranch road to the lower section of the vineyard, a hidden gem tucked away in the breathtaking landscape of the Columbia Gorge. Alan partnered to purchase the 160-acre parcel of land back in 2006 with the idea of planting a vineyard, in what would become new terroir for the Columbia Gorge AVA. He then partnered with an award-winning grape grower and established a portion of the property as Windhorse Vineyard.

Alan invested a great deal of time studying the soils, climate, and landscapes of the large property to find the ideal locations for each vineyard block. Today, covering 34 acres, vines were planted on steep canyon hillsides with roots firmly anchored in volcanic soils. The vineyard rises from an elevation of 800 feet to over 1,300 feet at the highest point and is nestled within oak woodland. Windhorse Vineyard is planted with grape varieties such as Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Primitivo, Sangiovese, and Nero d’Avola. Windhorse may so far be the only vineyard to grow Nero d’Avola in the state of Oregon. These typically warmer climate varietals thrive at these elevations, above the freezing temperatures that can plague lower elevations during harsh winters.

Grapes from Windhorse Vineyard are certified sustainable by the LIVE organization and are also certified salmon safe.

At the top of this idyllic property, we were greeted with magnificent views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams and the valley below. The landscape is mesmerizing and unlike anything we have experienced in our travels through California wine regions.

This extraordinary property is more than just a place to grow grapes, it is a place protected from development. The owners of Windhorse Vineyard are committed to being good stewards of the land. Over 130 acres of the property have been left untouched and preserved as a sanctuary for oak-pine-grass woodland, native grasses, and wildflowers. Not only is this land off-limits for development, but it also plays a crucial role in maintaining the natural balance of the ecosystem.

Alan’s expertise in the wine industry has led him to numerous opportunities over the years. One such opportunity was meeting and partnering with Steve and Nikki Bruere. The Bruere’s are co-owners of Windhorse Vineyard as well as owning a second vineyard, Wheatfield Vines Vineyard. Wheatfield Vines is located nearby in Walla Walla, WA and sits on 29 acres, with seven grape varieties including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Syrah, Barbera, Nebbiolo, and Cabernet Franc.

Both thriving vineyards produce many tons of grapes each year. The grapes grown at Windhorse Vineyard and Wheatfield Vines are sold to wine producers throughout Oregon and Washington. In 2019 Alan and Nikki co-founded Capital Call Vintners to produce wine from their estate-grown grapes. With the help of winemaker Josh Maloney, Alan and the Bruere’s, are currently producing 3 wines under the Windhorse label (a Syrah, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir) and 1 wine under the Capital Call label (a Cabernet Sauvignon). We were fortunate enough to sample the Windhorse Vineyard 2020 Syrah and 2021 Chardonnay and the 2020 Capital Call Cabernet Sauvignon. All 3 wines were well balanced, fruit-forward, very tasty! Drinkable now but we would also anticipate that they will age well.

Our visit to Windhorse Vineyard and time with Alan was a truly enchanting and unforgettable experience. The stunning beauty of the property, with its breathtaking views, was unlike anything we have seen. Alan’s passion and dedication to the land, the vines, and the wines that they are producing in this unique terroir was awe-inspiring. The partnership between Alan and the Bruere family demonstrated a shared commitment to producing high-quality grapes and crafting exceptional wines. Our tasting of the Windhorse Vineyard and Capital Call wines left us with a lasting appreciation for the dedication and craftsmanship that goes into each bottle. Our first-time wine-tasting experience in the Pacific Northwest has ignited a newfound passion for Oregon wines and an eagerness to explore more of the region's hidden gems. We look forward to a visit back.

The learn more about Windhorse Vineyard, Wheatfield Vines Vineyard, Capital Call Vintners and the talent behind these endeavors, visit the links found above in the post.


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