Kittitas Valley is in the middle of Washington State, Badger Pocket is in the middle of Kittitas Valley, along the north side of Manastash Ridge, south edge of the valley. Just off to the east of I-82 is the first winery in the valley, charming Thrall & Dodge Winery; it used to be a horse ranch at the junction of Thrall & Dodge Roads. For years horses were pastured in what is now the vineyard. The old log house and garage that was built by the family over the course of a few years is now the barrel room and production facilities, as well as their house. Making 250-300 cases a year, most of the wine is sold out of their stand-alone miniature tasting room on weekends between mid-March and mid-November.
Troy Goodreau and his wife, Kim, are the two full-time staff of the estate vineyard and winery with vineyard and crush help on an as-needed basis from the Central Washington University’s Wine Program and a few friends. The vineyards were planted in 2005 but are still slim trunks and cordons as they can be badly damaged if it gets a bit too cold for the Riesling and Malbec clones. Originally labeling the wines with the Thrall & Dodge name, between 2005 & 2009, they rebranded to Rusty Horseshoe. This is quite fitting as Ellensburg is home to the PRCA Ellensburg Rodeo each Labor Day weekend; a place quite proud of its Wild West heritage.
Originator of the Vineyards and Wineries of Kittitas Valley in 2006, Troy envisioned a small but vibrant wine industry in the valley as he began tilling and planting his vineyard. Sans high-tech equipment, the vineyard posts and vines were all planted by hand. The tasting room was built by hand, and the garage of the log house was converted, by hand, to accommodate the temperature requirements of the fermentation and storage needs of his budding winery. Maintaining small crops for optimal ripening and use of a basket press provide the basis of the Thrall & Dodge wine style. Purchasing fruit from other vineyards they expand their offerings to four or five each year. Cold stabilizing and hand bottling stored wines as they are deemed ready. Unfined, there is sometimes a bit of sediment in the bottle.
- 2010 Chardonnay from Canyon Mist Vineyards & Cox Canyon Vineyards, both in the Yakima River Canyon about two miles west of Thrall & Dodge. This neutral oak barrel fermented white is medium bodied, herbal and grass with asian pear and a hint of vanilla on the nose and baked apple and vanilla with a buttery mouthfeel on the palate, 13.8% ABV.
- 2010 Syrah from Burgess Vineyard north of Pasco, is dark cherry, wet earth and a subtle white pepper on the nose, pie cherries and cedar, this is a smooth, easy Syrah with 14.3% ABV.
2010 Merlot from Burgess Vineyard, presents as mushroom and earth with pomegranate on the nose and tongue with a warm, spicy finish at 13.9% ABV.
- 2009 Red Blend, co-fermented ~60% Cabernet Franc (Cox Canyon Vineyard) and ~40% Estate Malbec make up this easy drinking blend. Considering the Bordeaux varietals, their growth in the Kittitas Valley and the light pressing they receive produce a European-style medium-light bodied wine full of raspberries and licorice on both the nose and palate with 13.6% ABV.
Ellensburg has a very active Chamber of Commerce and is partnering with the Valley vineyards and wineries, along with the local chapter of the Barn Quilters. Thrall & Dodge Winery is included in the Kittitas Valley Barn Quilts Trail. We might have to meander through the Kittitas Valley on the motorcycle this summer to follow the trail of quilt squares. Kim has been actively writing for tourism grants to expand the Vineyard and Wineries brochure and support for the still small industry within the local economy. Next time I will tell you more about Cox Canyon Vineyards.