Updated: Jul 21, 2021
Wonderful wine beyond Oregon’s Willamette Valley can be discovered at the dynamic estate of Echo Ridge Cellars, where wines have been artfully crafted by award-winning master winemaker and viticulturist, Billo Naravane.
Owners of Echo Ridge Cellars, Kim and Jay Bales, grow their grapes at their nearby vineyard Firethorn, located above the Umatilla River, adjacent to the Oregon Trail. The distinctive terroir is layered with granite and basalt silt from the Ice Age floods of Lake Missoula, and the topsoil has been created by loess, highly porous windburn sediment great for growing grapes, which allows the soil to drain freely. As the climate is similar to the Bordeaux region in France, sitting near the 45th parallel, half of the vineyard is Cabernet Sauvignon. The other percent consists of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Syrah.
The Bales family began their journey as winemakers in 2010, following their long standing dream of spending their twilight years growing grapes and making wine. A dream that led them to buy 60 acres, now known as Firethorn Vineyard, convert an old grain elevator into a modern tasting room, now called Echo Ridge Cellars, and find Master Winemaker Billo Naravane.
As a team, Billo and the Bales sustainably utilize hands-on, cutting-edge, farming and fermentation, and barreling and bottling practices, honoring their uncompromising commitment to create bold and beautiful wines made to be loved. In speaking with Bill we were able to learn a few of the techniques used at the vineyard, one being periodic soil and leaf sampling, which enables them to monitor the needs of the soil and plants before, during, and after harvest each year. Additionally they add compost to the soil for added nutrients. In regards to barrels, they are kept topped up to keep unwanted oxygen out. “We use Argon Gas to move wine during racking,” a process that protects the wine from oxidation, and spoilage by yeast or bacteria. “SO2 is also added every 80 days to ensure the wine is clean and protected.”
Echo Ridge Cellars is a place for people to enjoy wine tasting, pop-up dinners, wine-painting nights, and is also the perfect place for families and friends to host special events. In this regard, beyond the wonderful wines they produce, what we love about the Bales is that they beautifully made their dream a reality, and in doing so, created a destination to be enjoyed by all.
Echo Ridge Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Columbia Valley | Oregon
This is an outstanding Cabernet with a classic profile. It has serious structure with notes of blackcurrant, blackberry, mint and lead pencil. The aromas are intense and completely captivating, particularly the scents of cassis that jump out of the glass. This is a very balanced wine with firm tannins and crisp acidity.
Great to pair with rich red meats, you would be hard pressed to find a better pairing for a dry aged ribeye.
Echo Ridge Cellars La Reponse 2015, Columbia Valley | Oregon
This wine offers complex aromatics of cassis, black plum, violets, blackberry, gravel, smoldering incense and espresso. The palate follows through on the aromatic complexity with notes of cases, black plum, blueberry, grilled herbs, violets, truffle, cigar tobacco, and gravel. The wine exhibits beautiful balance with lively acidity and refined tannins. The long finish echoes notes of cigar tobacco, blackberry, dark chocolate, and gravel. This wine is absolutely delicious now but it will gain in complexity over the next 6-8 years.
The noticeable tannins make this blend an excellent choice to match with steak and other red mets. Keep your seasoning simple and stick to salt and pepper.
Echo Ridge Cellars Three Blondes & A Boy, Columbia Valley | Oregon
Named for the Bales’ children, Three Blondes & A Boy is a beautiful red blend offering notes of black plum, anise, cigar tobacco and a hint of coconut on the finish.
The noticeable tannins make this blend an excellent choice to match with steak and other red mets. Keep your seasoning simple and stick to salt and pepper, let this wine be the dominant flavor you’re enjoying.