Red Mountain’s famed Klipsun Vineyard sold to Chicago firm

klipsun vineyards

Klipsun Vineyards on Red Mountain is most famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon. (Photo by Richard Duval Images)

Klipsun Vineyards, long considered one of the top vineyards in Washington state, has been sold to Terlato Wines International, a leading importer and marketer based in Chicago.

The selling price was not disclosed. Terlato owns such Napa Valley brands as Chimney Rock, Greystone Cellars and Jack Nicklaus Wines.

Patricia Gelles, owner and founder of Klipsun Vineyards, was pleased with the sale. “It’s been 35 years, I’m tired,” she explained.

Patricia Gelles and her husband, David, helped plant Kiona Vineyards in 1975, the first vineyard on Red Mountain, and were early investors of Ciel du Cheval, planted a few years later by Jim Holmes.

She recalls the day Holmes phoned her with news that he’d found land for sale that famed Napa Valley winemaker André Tchelistcheff said was the best Cab land on Red Mountain. The Gelleses bought it and began planting in 1984. That first year, they planted 40 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.

Today, Klipsun Vineyards has 120 acres planted to seven varieties. When the Gelleses decided they wanted to sell the vineyard, they turned to California broker International Wine Associates, which took care of all the details of the sale.

Through the years, Klipsun Vineyards has gained a reputation as one of the top vineyards in Washington state. It has 30 wineries buying grapes each year.

Chris Upchurch, winemaker for DeLille Cellars in Woodinville and owner of Upchurch Vineyards on Red Mountain, has been buying Klipsun grapes for more than 20 years. He began to work with the fruit after Columbia Winery in Woodinville dropped its contract.

Upchurch views Klipsun as a “Grand Cru” vineyard. He points out that Red Mountain soils run deep at Klipsun, which leads to deep roots, and the grapes always deliver bigger and riper wines. Upchurch said Klipsun wines always stand out in his cellar because of their muscle.

Klipsun Cab factors into the DeLille Cellars Four Flags Cabernet Sauvignon which comes from four vineyards on Red Mountain. Some of the Cab also makes it way into the Chaleur Estate – DeLille’s flagship wine. And Klipsun Sèmillon plays a role in the Chaleur Estate Blanc, the winery’s Bordeaux-style white blend.

Carter made wine for Terlato in 2016

Patricia and David Gelles established Klipsun Vineyard on Red Mountain in 1984. Plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Sèmillon span 120 acres. Customers have included Quilceda Creek and Andrew Will. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Brian Carter, winemaker/co-owner of Brian Carter Cellars in Woodinville, has worked with Klipsun grapes for more than 20 years for his own label as well as Apex Cellars from 1991 to 2002.

“I’ve made a lot of great wine from that vineyard,” he said.

Carter doesn’t expect a lot of changes with Terlato as the owner. He made about 2,000 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah from the 2016 vintage for Terlato, but Carter said he is unsure of either the label or when the wine will be released.

He considers Klipsun near the top of all the vineyard is worked within Washington. He put it in the top three of the 20 or so vineyards his work with the last 35 years.

Patricia Gelles said she never considered starting a winery because it would take away too much from time with her family. She says she and her husband, David, plan to continue to live in West Richland, which is right around the corner from Red Mountain.

Originally from England, Gelles moved to the Columbia Valley in 1974 when David got a job with Westinghouse as a metallurgist materials scientist. Today, he works for Battelle, which operates Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, in nearby Richland.

Now that the vineyard sale is complete, the Gelles have planned a trip this spring to Europe and another  to South Africa. She also looks forward to returning to community volunteering, which she did before the vineyard was planted.

Fred Artz, who began working at Klipsun in 1984 and served as its vineyard manager for many years, died in 2015.

Sonoma group adds to résumé of NW transactions

Dionysus Vineyard is part of the Sagemoor Vineyards group. It is near the Columbia River.

Dionysus Vineyard sweeps down toward the Columbia River north of Pasco, Wash. Dionysus is part of Sagemoor Vineyards, which was sold in 2014 to Allan Brothers, a family-owned fruit packing business in the Yakima Valley.

International Wine Associates, based in the Sonoma County town of Healdsburg, in 2013 assisted  Terlato Wines in its sale of Alderbrook Winery’s production facility and vineyards in Sonoma County to Bernie Orsi of Orsi Papale Estate Wines.

Robert Nicholson and International Wine Associates have worked behind the scenes on a number of Northwest transactions, nearly all of them from the sell-side, including:

  • Farmland LP purchase of 6,000 acres of land from Olsen Agricultural Enterprises in the Willamette Valley in 2015
  • Allan Brothers purchase of Sagemoor Vineyards in the Columbia Valley in 2014
  • Foley Family Wines purchase of The Four Graces Winery and Vineyard in the Willamette Valley in 2014
  • Maison Louis Jadot purchase of Gehrts Vineyard in the Dundee Hills from Richard and Nancy Gehrts in 2014
  • Maison Louis Jadot purchase of Resonance Vineyard in the Willamette Valley in 2013
  • Banfi Vintners purchase of Pacific Rim Winemakers in West Richland, Wash., in 2010
  • Vincor International sale of Columbia Winery and Covey Run in Washington state and Ste. Chapelle in Caldwell, Idaho to Ascentia Wine Estates in 2008
  • Vincor International purchase of Hogue Cellars in Prosser, Wash., from Mike Hogue and Norm McKibben in 2001
  • The Chalone Wine Group buy-out of its Pacific Northwest partners in Canoe Ridge Vineyards in 2000

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