Viento Wines, Hood River, Oregon

Viento Wines tasting room off of I-84 on the westside of Hood River, OR.
Viento Wines tasting room off of I-84 on the westside of Hood River, OR was Pete’s uncle’s design.

Veinto Wines, ‘viento’ meaning wind in Spanish, was established in 1986 with the first fruit from the Columbia Gorge Vineyard that was planted on family owned ground in 1981.  Rich Cushman, owner and winemaker, has participated in some capacity with many of western Oregon’s wineries since returning from Germany in 1981 after spending harvest there.  UC Davis educated, Germany interned, and Oregon cultivated, Rich is very happy to have a beautiful new tasting room, owned June 30, 2014, just outside of Hood River, where he was raised, for his own Winery.  This is a tasting room with some barrel storage space and offices in the loft all with fabulous windows overlooking the vineyard wooded property to the south.  Production is at The Gorge White House, where Viento previously shared tasting room space with some of Hood River’s other wineries.

Viento Wines winemakers, owner Rich Cushman (rt) and son Peter Cushman.
Viento Wines winemakers, owner Rich Cushman (rt) and son Peter Cushman.

The town of Hood River is known as the windsurfing capital of the world: wind, lots of it most of the year; thus, the name of the winery.  The Riesling vines were planted and hand watered for the first few years to get them established before dry farming.  It was five years after planting, fifth leaf if you will, when the first vintage of wine was made for the Viento label.  The vineyard is tucked into a meadow on the south side of the Columbia River, along the Gorge, with higher basalt ridges on the norther, Washington side of the river.  Rich’s son Joe is the vineyard manager these days while his other son Peter has followed hard on Dad’s heels making wine.

The oldest Riesling vines in the Gorge, planted in 1981 in the1.17 acre Columbia Gorge Vineyard on the family farm. A few more rows were added in 2008 for a total of 1.5 acres of Riesling.
The oldest Riesling vines in the Gorge, planted in 1981 in the1.17 acre Columbia Gorge Vineyard on the family farm. A few more rows were added in 2008 for a total of 1.5 acres of Riesling.

I sensed a bit of friendly competition between them and a tremendous amount of pride in the wines they make; well deserved as it is all great.

We were seated at the bar with some visitors from the Olympia, Washington area, next to some very scrumptious looking chocolate truffles to share our wine tastes.  Some of the grapes are Washington State sourced, some Oregon with the Riesling being the only estate grown grapes.  Apparently Peter and his wife, Sarah, made the truffles for Valentines Day!  Such talent!

Viento Wines Riesling, 9.2% ABV, and enough residual sugar to balance the acid for a lovely wine.
Viento Wines Riesling, 9.2% ABV, and enough residual sugar to balance the acid for a lovely wine.

The wines:

  • 2011 Gruner Veltliner from Underwood Mountain Vineyard in Washington is a fine balance of fruit and acidity with citrus and pepper dominating the nose and leading the palate, following through with a lovely minerality and a wonderful puckering finish.
  • 2012 Savvy from Alegre Vineyard is a New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc with passion fruit, guava and a hint of citrus on the nose, be lying the 14.1% ABV heat and wonderfully acidic finish.
  • 2011 Retro Riesling from the old vine Estate Columbia Gorge Vineyard right outside the windows of the tasting room.  A 9.2% balance of sweet and sour on the palate is preceded by green apples, citrus and white flowers on the nose.
  • 2011 Dolcetto from the Alegre Vineyard is a nice, smooth, berry-rich and herb red that my partner in wine said reminded him instantly of the table wines he had in Rome… some day I too shall be able to say that!  It is 11.7% ABV making it a great summer-time sipper with dinner or on its own.
  • 2011 Barbera from Gunkel Vineyard, again Washington-side of the Columbia River, is earth and raspberry with a crisp, modest finish.
  • 2012 Pinot Noir from Annala Vineyard is 100% Pommard clone grown in the Hood River AVA not far from Viento Wines is light bodied, earth, black cherry and pepper with mild tannins and great acidity.  Certainly a different site than the Willamette Valley Pinot’s we have been seeking this last year and equal in quality as Rich has lots of experience with the Pinot Noir’s during his well established career in Oregon.

Peter is responsible for the Savvy and Barbera wines; he was pouring for us that day and shared lots of family stories.  He and his father consult or make wine for other local wineries, looking like they compete with themselves at times.  But, typical of the Pacific Northwest wine industry, everyone is very helpful, super generous and kind.  It was a really great visit and we look forward to stopping in as we travel through in the future.

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