Terra Blanca Winery & Estate Vineyard

Terra Blanca Winery | Tasting Room 2012

About

Terra Blanca began as the vision of Keith and ReNae Pilgrim. Raised adjacent to Napa Valley by parents that embraced the wine culture, followed by a UC Davis education in enology, viticulture and geology, Keith was passionate about wine. ReNae’s background in accounting, along with an adventurous spirit enabled the founding of Terra Blanca. After purchasing virgin land in a desert consisting of sage brush located on the southwest slopes of what has become recognized as one the world’s great growing regions, Keith and ReNae began development of their Red Mountain vineyard and winery in early 1993. Terra Blanca crushed their first grapes in the autumn of ‘93 with purchased fruit and crushed the first estate grapes in the fall of ‘97. Currently, Terra Blanca has over 115 acres of vines in production with more added each year. Terra Blanca is Latin for “white earth,” which signifies the white carbonate-rich soils in its estate vineyard. The high-mineral, high-carbonate soils, coupled with the warm, dry and breezy southwest exposure allows Terra Blanca’s vineyard to produce concentrated grapes with a defined sense of place. Perched on the southwest slope of Red Mountain, Terra Blanca’s Tuscan-inspired architecture includes a beautifully appointed tasting room where you can expect a wine tasting experience like no other. Terra Blanca features a complete gourmet kitchen that is utilized for weddings, events, and service for the on-site restaurant, the Terra Blanca Vineyard Grill. Seating on the terrace offers breathtaking panoramic views of the lower Yakima Valley and estate vineyard. Several banquet rooms can accommodate both large and small groups, and the manicured grounds, pond, and popular barrel caves offer guests opportunities to take in the scenery. This is a winery you won’t want to miss while tasting in the Yakima Valley. At Terra Blanca Winery & Estate Vineyard we choose to donate our wine and our energy to a number of charitable organizations, notably the Children’s Development Center in Richland. The majority of our wines are made from the fruit we grow on site.

Location Description

Located on the southwest corner of Red Mountain in Benton City, Washington.

Features

  • We offer a wine selection that is constantly changing so that each time you taste here you are guaranteed to try something new. Tasting flights typically feature around ten wines!
  • Located at the beautiful winery and estate vineyard on Red Mountain, the Terra Blanca Vineyard Grill explores chateau-inspired cuisine. Our Vineyard Grill offers guests a wine country getaway with panoramic views of vineyards and the lower Yakima Valley.
  • The menu features enticing brick oven pizzas, salads, and more, all superbly created to pair perfectly with Terra Blanca wines. The menu highlights food prepared in the wood-fire brick oven and produce from the Terra Blanca garden, when in season.
  • Featuring rotating beer on tap!

Additional Information

  • Meeting / Conference Facilities:
  • Caves:
  • Wedding Facilities:
  • Picnic Facilities:
  • Dog Friendly:
  • Winery Tours:
  • Wine Tasting:
  • Art or Architecture:
  • Organic / Biodynamic:
  • Awards:
  • Wine Club:
  • Lodging / Bed & Breakfast:

Average Bottle Price

$ 30

Winemaker

Keith grew up in Napa and as a child spent many happy hours playing in the wine caves at wineries such as Beringer. These formative days may have been the impetus for him to study both geology and fermentation sciences and viticulture at University of California, Davis. After many years of international travel as a consulting geologist, he fulfilled a life-long dream of becoming a winemaker. As a winelover, the ability to combine wine and his love of the outdoors and rocks in geology was the perfect combination.

When he is not working at the winery, he may be found camping with his family pretty much anywhere in the country, sailing, or fishing in the remote regions of Canada. In fact, he is known as a bit of a grill master when returning from his fishing trips and occasionally treats guests to the winery to a bit of outdoor barbeque when the salmon catch is bountiful.

History

Keith and ReNae Pilgrim started Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyard in 1992 with the purchase of 300 acres on an arid, treeless slope called Red Mountain.

Keith, a University of California, Davis-trained geologist and student of viticulture and oenology, set about clearing the land by hand, drilling wells and planting vines. ReNae, who studied accountancy, would make the long treks from the their home in Redmond, Washington each weekend to battle the wind, heat and snakes and learned to fit irrigation pipes.

Together, they figured out how to grow grapes, make wine, sell wine and stay married.

That’s the version of the story we tell to most people. To you, we’ll tell the real story.

To begin, you need to know a few things about them. Keith grew up in Napa, running through the caves at Beringer, spending his pocket money on new releases (that his parents would safeguard until an appropriate age) and generally thinking wine was a pretty remarkable thing. Living so close to the Pacific, he also loved being on the water whenever possible, sailing. ReNae? She’s pretty much fearless and as long as she’s actively pursuing a new idea, she’s happy.

When they were first married, Keith’s career as a consulting geologist meant that he travelled a great deal. For a young married couple, the separations were a lousy way to start a new life together.

So one night, Keith suggested he quit and that they start a business together. He presented ReNae with two ideas. The first? They would operate a charter sailing business. Not an avid sailor, ReNae pressed him to define her role in that venture. He jokingly said, “Ah, you could cook and clean for the guests.”

The Team

ReNae Pilgrim | Controller/Co-owner

On any given day, ReNae Pilgrim is a study in quiet, reflective motion. She is responsible for the hospitality portion of the winery in addition to overseeing finance. ReNae is an avid outdoorswoman who adores camping, hiking and boating with her family. She also craves time (and with two young children, it’s a rarity) to be curled up with a good book. After a childhood in Wyoming, ReNae studied accounting and started her career with positions at a division of ConAgra and Danzas International.

She is a tireless advocate on behalf of the Children’s Development Center and spends countless hours raising funds for, and educating people on, the CDC.

Few things make her happier than the frequent and “all hands on deck” meals she and Keith host regularly. ReNae loves to turn her kitchen over to close friends and spend the night in conversation, good food and a shared bottle or two of wine.

Daryl Baker | Tasting Room Manager

Daryl joined Terra Blanca from the Alexis Hotel in Seattle. A graduate of the WSU School of Hospitality Business Management in Pullman, he was born in Colville, WA. He brings to Terra Blanca’s Tasting Room an astounding amount of experience for such a young career, having helped open Centurylink Field, managed catering at Emerald Downs, worked in real estate in Seattle and finally overseeing the bar and food service at the Alexis.

Jordan Neuhaus | Marketing Coordinator

Born in the Tri Cities and raised in western Washington, Jordan has officially come full circle. Jordan earned his degree at WSU with studies in Digital Technology and Culture, Business Administration, and Communications. As Lauren finished up her studies at the WSU School of Veterinary Medicine, Jordan worked as the Program Assistant at the WSU School of Hosipitality Business Management in the College of Business. The timing ended up being perfect as Lauren graduated to move back to the Tri Cities.

Practices & Techniques

The majority of our wines are made from the fruit we grow on site. While many winemakers will select vineyards for their variety of fruit and locations, Keith has invested in raising his vines for his own winemaking style. Once the fruit is picked, he often chooses long extended fermentation times using both native and selected yeasts for the reds. Before fermentation, there are typically extended periods of cold soaking, and post-fermentation there is often extended time on the skins. These choices are essential to producing wines with huge depth and structure; high levels of fine, well behaved tannins; and an intense fruit core.
Specially Engineered Winery

The production facility is designed for gently handling our carefully farmed fruit via gravity flow, eliminating all pumps that might induce flavor degrading shear-- a fancy way of saying we don't agitate the wine when it goes from barrel to bottle. The entire grape handling, crushing, and pressing operations have been designed to gently handle our fruit and maximize wine quality.

Barrel Program and Aging:

Keith has worked with more than two dozen coopers to select the very best French Oak barrels for our fruit. Many barrels are custom-made; many barrels are made of staves from different forests. We also specify custom toast levels to optimize the barrels for specific blocks of fruit from out estate vineyard. Years of careful trials and refinements of our barrel program have allowed us to get the integration of the barrel and fruit flavors such that the fruit really shine, with the barrels playing an important supporting role. Keith likes to age his wines longer than some, with typical times in the barrels ranging from a low of 18 months to as long as 32 months. This slower aging process allows us to get the oak extraction we desire from the barrels without overpowering the fruit with excessive new oak or harsh oak flavors.

Blending:

The blending of individual barrels to create the wines that Keith makes is really the artistic part of the winemaker's job. With assistant winemaker Randy Swanson and cellar master Javier Mendoza, Keith typically tastes through all of the blending trials for the wines. The blending trials for a single wine can often take several months of daily tastings to perfect the blend. Many hours of systematically trying different blends for each of the wines often results in a sea of glasses with typically very small but significant differences to evaluate. When specific, desired traits have been selected from the current trials, the next blending trial will continue to refine the blend until Keith and his winemaking team are completely satisfied with the finished wine.

To get our carefully-grown, fermented, aged, and blended wines into the bottle, Terra Blanca owns a state-of-the-art bottling line that allows us to have complete control of when and how we choose to bottle each wine. Our bottling line is also a gravity flow line, allowing us to continue the gentle treatment of the fruit and wines that has occurred all the way through the production process.

Bottle Aging:

Once the wines are bottled, we prefer to allow our huge structured Red Mountain reds to have a minimum of one year in the bottle. Keith designs his red wines to have the structure, tannins, and depth to last for well over 20 years. Terra Blanca has been producing Red Mountain estate grown wines since 1997, and those first wines are still in their youth…just think of what the future holds!

Estate Vineyards / AVA

The vineyard is planted in small blocks (block=about 5 acres) that follow the topography and soil types allowing for consistent management of the vines in the blocks. Careful micromanagement of the vineyard by an experienced and highly dedicated staff allows the vines to perform at their optimum level, producing the best fruit.

Terra Blanca has always been very research-oriented to find the very best fit of varietal and clone to the site.

Grapes Grown on our Estate:

Syrah:

What’s the difference between Syrah and Shiraz? -- Nothing, really, although there is a thought that wines labeled as Syrah are more elegant in style, while Shiraz indicates a fruitier, full body and higher alcohol wine.

We have three different clones, or types, of this grape: Hermitage, Cote Rotie (rare for Washington state) and the Phelps clone (common in Washington state). In France, this grape is most associated with the Rhone region and the wines of Hermitage.

• Deep in colors
• Black fruit (blackberry), spice, pepper
• In warm climates, full bodied with soft tannins, earthy, leather, spice
• Ages well

Cabernet Sauvignon:

The grape people tend to associate with red wine. Its aromas reflect the place in which it is grown making it a great wine to learn about Red Mountain’s unique properties. In particular, it can be more cherry on warm Red Mountain, although the classic blackcurrant and blackberries are there too. There is rarely ever a smell of green pepper because grapes ripen so well.

• Buds late, so often protected again an unexpected frosts—a rarity on warm Red Mountain, but a significant benefit in a colder vintage such as 2010 and 2011.
• Grape clusters are loose with thick skins, high skin to pulp ration
• Insect and fungus resistant
• Full bodies, high acid, tannic wines that age well

Merlot:

Ignore what you may have heard about Merlot in the movie “Sideways” when you think about Red Mountain Merlot. In the movie, they make fun of it because for a while, many unremarkable Merlots were created in places like California.

• From our estate, Merlot is a heady drink of plum, cherry and velvet tannins.
• In Bordeaux, it forms the basis for world class St Emilion and Pomerol wines.
• Often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon
• Can be harvested early for greater acid and brighter fruit flavors (as in our Arch Terrace Merlot) or harvested a bit later for the deep plummy flavors and full-bodied style of our Signature Series Merlot.

Cabernet Franc:

Perfume and finesse are the hallmarks of our estate Cabernet Franc.

• Flowers early, ripens early
• Fragrant, juicy light tannin wines
• Ages well
• We use Cabernet Franc for blending in ONYX, however Keith made his first 100% variety in 2008 and released in 2011. It sold out within six months of release.

Petit Verdot:

A little grape with a big impact.

• Needs very hot weather in order to fully ripen
• Deep color, tannic wine
• Used in a blend to add tannin and color, which is why it features in ONYX
• A fractional amount can completely alter a wine. Don’t believe it? Compare the ’07 and ’06 ONYX.

Malbec:

A grape by any other name. Variously called Auxerrois, Cot or Malbeck, it is normally a part of Bordeaux blends.

• Our Red Mountain Malbecs are fruit-forward, medium tannic wines
• White pepper on the finish.
• Referred to in house as “pizza wine” because it actually goes really well with pizza. And barbeque. And just about anything else we tend to eat on the weekends.

Nebbiolo:

At home in Northwest Italy, but on our estate it nestles happily on the sunny slope to the left of the driveway.

• Late ripening
• Thin skinned, so light colored wines
• Susceptible to disease
• Low yield
• Red fruit, rose licorice, high acid, high tannin
• Ages brilliantly
• We don’t make it often, but look for Altimissimo. Nebbiolo is blended with our Cabernet Sauvignon for an incredibly gorgeous blend.

Sangiovese:

We grow this to create our version of the Super Tuscan, Pantheon.

• High in acid and tannin
• Medium alcohol
• Fruit runs from earthy to blueberry to sour cherry
• Affinity for oak

Barbera:

From the northwest of Italy, Keith will make a single varietal wine from Barbera.

•High acid low tannin
•Sour cherry and savory notes

Dolcetto:

It’s planted but Keith hasn’t decided to make a wine from it yet.

• Tannin with low acidity
• Damson plum
• Best to drink in its youth
• Seldom aged in oak

Chardonnay:

Originally from the eponymous Maconnais village, this white grape reflects the climate wherever it's planted in unique ways.

Non-aromatic grape; that means that qualities of the vineyard and the winemaking choices Keith will have profound, unique affects on the wine.

For example, our Arch Terrace Chardonnay undergoes a limited amount of “malolactic fermentation” or a second fermentation that adds butter and creamy qualities to the wine, whereas our Block 5 Chardonnay undergoes a complete second fermentation.
Another winemaking choice is oak. The Arch Terrace Chardonnay is aged for a short time in neutral French oak, our Block 5 spends up to 16 months [X months sur lie (or lying on its lees, another word for the spent yeast) in new French oak. The latter adds toasty vanilla and flinty minerality.

Red Mountain Chardonnays are tropical with citrus and pineapple flavors. They can be very full bodied

Marsanne & Roussanne:

We put these varieties together because they are both white varietals that originate from the Rhone region in France and are both the only whites that can be added to red wine. They are often co-fermented with Syrah to stabilize the deep color and provide another dimension to the aromas. Roussanne can be a bit tricky to grow, but the aromas and acidity create a spectacular wine. Marsanne, which you can find in our 2010 Marsanne, is a rich, full-bodied white with scents of flowers and almonds.

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Hours

Tasting Room 10:00am - 6:00pm (April - October) 11am-6pm (November - March) Vineyard Grill 12:00pm - 5:00pm (Friday - Sunday)

Address

34715 N. DeMoss Rd
Benton City, Washington 99320
United States

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