About Ellensburg Canyon Winery

The Winery

Ellensburg Canyon Winery/Cox Canyon Vineyards is the first of many wineries/vineyards you will encounter as you enter into Washington’s Wine Country from the Seattle area. Ellensburg Canyon Winery/Cox Canyon Vineyards draws on Gary R. Cox’s many years of experience as a Plant & Soil Scientist. He obtained his Bachelor of Science from Southern Illinois University in Plant & Soil Science, his Master of Science from Washington State University in Agronomy & Soils, and is a Master Watershed Steward interested in balancing water rights for both fisheries and agriculture.  

The Wine Maker – Gary Cox

Gary is an avid fly-fisherman and enjoys the quality waters of the Yakima River located just across from the vineyard. As a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager, he is dedicated to minimizing the impact of chemical usage on the environment and utilizing sustainable/green practices whenever possible. Gary was an Instructor of Vineyard & Winery Technology at Yakima Valley Community College for over 7 years teaching Agroecosystems, Sustainability and Biodynamic Agriculture, Washington Terroir, Soil Science and worked as an Environmental Compliance Officer for over 34 years at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in South Eastern Washington.

Ellensburg Canyon AVA

canyon-cougar.jpgDesignation as the Ellensburg Canyon AVA is underway with the TTB. Planted in 1998 in the Northwest corner of the Columbia Valley AVA is the 17 acre Cox Canyon Vineyard, 5 acres of which is in production. This is a beautiful West sloping site on an alluvial deposited Benwy silt loam soil laid down upon the uplifted basalts which form the entrance to the Wild & Scenic Yakima River Canyon. Volcanic ash has been deposited in layers from nearby Mt. Rainier, Adams, and St. Helens eruptions over time and provides valuable micronutrients to the soil profile. Elevation varies from 1400 to 1525 feet, higher than most other Yakima Valley AVA sites, provides for good air drainage, and allows for thermal amplitude to occur (diurnal temperature fluctuations of ~ 50 F which develop flavinoids in the grapes).

This Terroir ripens late, producing low yields (2.5 tons/acre) with small berry size, deep color and great concentration of fruit flavors. The temperatures may be 3-5 F cooler on average, but the increased hours of sunlight from a more Northerly latitude during the middle of the growing season provide optimal conditions for intensely flavored fruit. This, coupled with companion cropping with currants (e.g. raspberries and native huckleberries, elderberries, and blackberries) allows for Xenia to occur (the direct effect of pollen on seed characteristics) which produce additional flavors within the wine grape seed desired by the winemaker. These soils allow for deep root penetration of ~ 25’.

We took special care in developing this site, as rock had to be moved during planting. Said rock has been repositioned within the vineyard rows to capture heat during the day, releasing it back during the night to facilitate even respiration and sugar production.  All prunings are mulched back to the soil to encourage mycorrhizal fungus associations to form within the vines, facilitating water and nutrient uptake. Close attention is paid to irrigation applications utilizing sustainable, green, state-of-the-art precision agriculture technology to stress the vines (Regulated Deficit Irrigation) from which result intense fruit flavors.

Current varietals planted at Cox Canyon Vineyards-Columbia Valley AVA include Cabernet franc-Clone 13, Malbec-Clone 4 and 6,  Riesling-Clone 9 and 12. Call us for more details, eh?

ellensburg-canyon“I was standing in the middle of my Ellensburg vineyard the other day, tasting my wine. I was at that stage of tiredness from toiling during the dog days of Summer that makes your face feel warm and cuts your mind loose to wander down alleyways that our senses seldom travel. I began to consider how that wine got to my mouth. I could see my vineyards in the foothills of the Cascades, swaddled in brown dust with air the consistency of honey. I saw in myself the vigneron, plopping down with my workers, swabbing the sweat off my brow, laughing at jokes that aren’t really that funny because this is The Time, The Payoff, The Show.

The grapes lay sweating around us, piled hip-deep in their bins and weeping their impossibly sweet juices, perfuming the air with that pungent, tactile scent that combines clean earth with sweat, herbs, and fruit in a cloud that is as intoxicating in its own way as the wine will be later. The moment is ripe with a peculiar romance, with the feeling of community that comes from shared labor, passion, and dedication. Even as I think of it, I know that this is my pipe dream, as people who tend to the grapes are doing back-breaking work for minimum wage.

But the fact remains that my heart, passion, and knowledge went into making this bottle in exactly the same proportion and degree that is expended to make Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Margaux, Latour, Haut-Brion, or Mouton Rothschild, and now it delivers that elusive sense of discovery that remains the thing I’ve loved first and most about wine. In a very real, tangible sense, it makes me a kindred spirit to friends I will never meet; tells me about them, their lives, their souls and their dreams in a way that goes beyond mere conversation or travel guides and into the core of life itself.

If wine can be profound, this is what makes it so; the simple, implausible fact that grape juice can be persuaded, by skill, devotion and impossible patience, to transform itself into something that engages every one of our senses, conjures up rich memories and associations, makes us childlike again in our sense of wonder, and enhances our dining, fellowship, entertaining, and intellect.

I love how wine continues to evolve, how every time I open a bottle it’s going to taste different than if I had opened it on any other day. Because a bottle of wine is actually alive –it’s constantly changing and gaining complexity.

If you just drink a glass of wine without thinking of all this, that will work just fine but there is a total experience, a continuum of dreams, senses, sex, passion, and discovery, that you can access anytime you’re willing to slow down and consider what’s in your glass. I urge you to try it. It’s in that place that you’ll completely get that if I have done my job well, you will realize the uniqueness of place that is Terroir”.