At Maryhill's flagship winery in Goldendale, WA., it's hard to say what’s more memorable, the wine or the view from the tasting room terrace. Fortunately, it's not a choice customers have to make.
Maryhill Winery: Marketing directly to consumers has been the key to this winery’s successful 20-year journey.
Winemaker Richard Batchelor produces many small-batch, single varietals that are available only at Maryhill’s Goldendale, Spokane and Vancouver tasting rooms.
By Viki Eierdam
Founded in 1999, Maryhill Winery opened its first tasting room in 2001. Twenty years later, owners Craig and Vicki Leuthold aren’t just responsible for growing a winery to an 80,000-case per year production. “Maryhill has far transcended Vicki and me,” Craig explains. “It is an entity that will outlast us. This is what we have created.”.
Sitting on a bluff above the majestic Columbia River Gorge in Goldendale, WA., the flagship Maryhill Winery has presided over commanding views of this natural treasure for nearly two decades.
Known almost as well for its 4,000-seat amphitheater that hosted musical artists from blues to jazz to classic rock for 15 years, the decision to end Maryhill’s involvement in the popular summer concert series was in step with the opening of the winery’s first satellite tasting room.
“We wanted to be able to market directly to our consumers and build our brand by allowing them to taste wines that aren’t available in general distribution,“ said Craig. “We’ve been trying for two decades to grow our business outside the Pacific Northwest and what we’ve found is it’s extremely hard to do.”
With growth in mind, Maryhill Winery opened its first satellite tasting room on the banks of the Spokane River in Spokane’s Kendall Yards back in November of 2017. The 5,000 square-foot space has enjoyed so much success that the Leutholds decided to open a second, 5,000 square-foot off-site tasting room along the promenade of The Waterfront Vancouver USA development in April of 2019.
Estimated to cost $500,000 each, both locations feature an ornate, antique Brunswick bar as a nod to the parent winery, where rich woods and floor-to-ceiling windows keep mesmerizing riverfront views front and center for guests.
“In tasting rooms, tens of thousands of people come through. You can give them all the personal touch and taste them through the portfolio,” Craig said. “It also builds our distribution business. They taste our wines, and maybe the next time they’re in Fred Meyer they’ll pick up a bottle of our Rosé or Viognier because it’s convenient.”
This winter, Maryhill will open its third satellite tasting room at the historic Hollywood Schoolhouse in Woodinville. WA. At 10,000 square feet, it will be Maryhill’s largest off-site tasting room and an idea nearly a decade in the making.
Craig shared that he and Vicki had been looking for a spot in Woodinville Wine Country that fit their Maryhill brand for about a year. They were close to signing a lease on another space that was adequate but didn’t feel quite right. Craig, in fact, was carrying an unsigned contract around with him in his briefcase.
But then, out-of-the-blue, he got a call from a consultant he’d used nearly 10 years prior when the couple was first considering Woodinville. The current Hollywood Schoolhouse tenant was contemplating retirement and the two-story location never went on the open market.
“I thought ‘Craig, you just had an angel tap your shoulder and tell you what you should do,’” Craig said.
More than 45 of the 60-plus wines that Maryhill produces are only available in their tasting rooms or by wine club shipment. According to Craig, it was decided early on to employ limited intervention winemaking practices and showcase single varietal offerings. With few exceptions, a Cabernet Franc is 100 percent Cab Franc and a Pinot Gris is 100 percent Pinot Gris.
It is the intent of the entire team to have customers taste these grapes in their truest form. That is the confidence that Craig, Vicki and award-winning winemaker, Richard Batchelor, have in what the Washington vineyards are bringing to the cellar.
Batchelor said, “At Maryhill Winery, we really try to let the fruit express itself, showing the nuances of the vineyard. We have our red wines go through native primary and secondary fermentation, and we age our wines with a minimal oak influence so that the fruit and tannins can show off the vineyard and terroir. With the diversity of Washington’s AVA’s, and the many varietals we produce, this is best left to nature’s microbes.”
Appreciating that it really does take a committed team to realize the success of small lot winemaking with the extensive collection that Maryhill has, Batchelor gives props to the cellar crew for their consistent hard work throughout the multi-step process. He stressed that some wines represent as few as two barrels and maintaining quality on such a micro scale is a testament of focused care.
With a total of four tasting rooms in arms reach, Maryhill Winery’s future is brighter than ever. Using early statistics, the Leutholds can say with confidence that the capital investment has already paid off. Retail sales are up 25 percent but monetary growth is not the only aspiration that the owners of Maryhill have.
Besides the great wines that are available at Maryhill’s tasting rooms, there are two other reasons why sales are up so dramatically. The first is the food they serve at all three tasting rooms. At each location, a menu of made-to-order charcuterie boards, antipasto bruschetta, salads, pizza and other small, sharable plates are available for purchase to enhance the wine tasting experience.
Secondly, even though Craig and Vicki decided to discontinue their summer concerts series at the flagship Goldendale winery, music is still a big factor in bringing people to their tasting rooms. Each tasting room features live music by some of the Pacific Northwest’s best performers on weekends. The line-up of musical groups performing at each tasting room can be found on Maryhill’s website: www.maryhillwinery.com.
Craig said that much of the joy that he and Vicki have experienced is from seeing the transformation in Washington wine over the last 20 years and being a part of a relationship-heavy industry. So many people are touched, and memories are made while family and friends bond over a bottle of wine in a leisurely atmosphere.
Day after day and weekend after weekend Craig has witnessed the electronic unplugging and personal connecting of groups gathered in the tasting room or the expansive outdoor seating at their Goldendale winery. He now sees similar interactions in Spokane and Vancouver locations.
“I think the wine world is special because of all the relationships you create. You touch so many people,” Craig said. “It’s really fun to think of it in that context.”
Maryhill’s flagship winery and tasting room is located at 9774 Highway. 14, Goldendale, WA. 98620. Phone: (509) 773-1976.
Their Spokane tasting room is located at 1303 W. Summit Parkway, Suite 100, Spokane, WA 99201. Phone: (509) 443-3832. And their newest tasting room on the waterfront in Vancouver is located at 801 Waterfront Way, Suite 105, Vancouver, WA 98660. (360) 450-6211.
To learn more about Maryhill Winery, including a full list of all the wines they produce, visit their website at: www.maryhillwinery.com. If you aren’t able to visit one of the winery’s tasting rooms, you can purchase their wines from their online store.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Viki Eierdam is a freelance writer who lives in Battle Ground, WA. Connect with her at: www.savorsipandsojourn.com.