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Mar 16, 2015
The Washington wine industry was a lot different just 14 years ago when Craig and Vicki Leuthold opened the doors to their winery near the tiny community of Goldendale in south-central Washington. The state had only about 125 wineries back then, and putting a winery atop basalt cliffs in the middle of nowhere seemed like a risky move. But fortune favors the bold, and today Maryhill Winery is one of the most remarkable destination wineries in the Pacific Northwest.
For its superb winemaking, stunning location, amazing concert venue, national reach and superb leadership, Maryhill Winery is our 2015 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year.
The Leutholds were living in Spokane when they began to get interested in wine. They were part of a local group who bought wines to explore not only the Pacific Northwest but also the nation and the world. They knew they were hooked — and likely needed to get into the industry — when they started having pallets of wine delivered, which took over their garage.
“We wanted to get off the corporate merry-go-round,” Craig Leuthold said. “We always had a passion for wine, and we wanted to take that to a different level. We knew Washington was on the cusp of greatness, and everyone we met in the industry was so wonderful. That excited us, and we knew we wanted to become involved in it.”
Their first foray into the business was becoming business partners in Cascade Cliffs, a small high-end producer to the west of Maryhill Museum near the town of Wishram, Wash. This whet their palates for what was possible, so the Leutholds began to look for where they could start their own business. They looked in Walla Walla, the Yakima Valley and beyond.
But as they drove between Spokane and Wishram, they became entranced with the lower Columbia Gorge region and ultimately approached Maryhill Museum about building a winery on its property. Because the museum is run by a nonprofit board, the two parties could never come to an agreement.