Icicle Ridge Winery produces a wide variety of delicious wines, ranging from their iconic Three Blondes Gewurtzaminer, to Smooth Jazz Cabernet to ice wines to their signature Asian Pear wine. The winery is in Peshastin, just outside of Leavenworth, Washington. We are pleased to be featuring Icicle Ridge Winery as our winery of the month for June 2009. This article is based on a recent interview at the winery with Louie Wagoner, founder and Don Wood, wine maker.
Icicle Ridge Winery is more than just a family business, it is the embodiment of a family dream. Louie and Judy Wagoner wanted to create an opportunity to bring the family together. They dreamed of a venture that would sustain and nourish the family emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and financially. Family members, assisted by a staff of dedicated employees are ‘doing the best we can and then going from there’ to create a destination winery where guests enjoy delicious wines, beautiful views and experience true hospitality. Icicle Ridge Winery was voted the best wine tour by King 5 TV viewers for 2009. They won by a landslide, accumulating 10 times more votes than the second place wine tour.
Born out of Louie Wagoner’s lifelong quest for new adventures, the winery started as a hobby in 2000. Within six years from that first hobby crush, the winery has evolved to where it employs six family members in a 7 day a week operation out of the family log home. Less than ten years later, Icicle Ridge Winery produces 5,000 cases a year and finely crafts up to 20 different wines. Judy and Wagoner have moved out of the family log home to across the driveway, having built an apartment over the garage where they can still keep an eye on all of the comings and goings. This frees up their former bedroom in the log home to become the new Gathering Room for events and special tastings.
Unlike most winery tasting rooms where you sip while standing on the hard concrete floors of the winery, at Icicle Ridge you are welcomed into a spacious log home. Guests may choose to sample the wines in the family kitchen, the great room in front of the fireplace or outside on the deck, overlooking the pond, mountains, orchards and/or vineyards. Family and winery employees greet you at the door, escort you to a seat of your choosing and then return to pour the wines available for tasting that day. Upon request, you can tour the actual winery across the driveway. Plans are underway to expand the production facility to that will include a built in to the hillside cellar and above ground event facility sometime in the next five years.
Events are an important aspect of the winery and their goal as a destination winery. As Don Wood, the primary wine maker and husband to Louie and Judy’s oldest daugher Kristen, says they want their guests to leave with memories, not just a great bottle of wine. Over the years, we have had the pleasure to attend winemaker dinners and concerts at the winery. The winemaker’s dinners are intimate affairs, usually limited to 40 guests at large communal tables. The conversation is lively, the wines are lovely, the food delightful and the hospitality is warm and genuine. Virtually all of the winemaker dinners are created under the talented chef Leo Hass. You can read a detailed review about last years’ Tuscan Moon dinner at our former blog. We enjoy these wine makers dinners so much that we have decided that each year, Ed will gift me with the Tuscan Moon dinner for my birthday and I will gift him with the Holiday wine maker’s dinner for Christmas.
Don Wood is a saxophonist, as well as a wine maker, so music is an important aspect of events at Icicle Ridge Winery. They host a summer jazz series called “Jazzamatazz” each year. The series has become so popular, that this year it will be limited to wine club members only. Yet another reason to join their Wine club! Wine club benefits include:
- 15% off all wine and merchandise purchases
- Members Only Events — concerts, pick-up parties, wine-maker’s dinners and more!
- Exclusive access to our Members Only, Gathering Room. Rare and reserve wines are tasted by our members only in the Gathering Room with Riedel Crystal.
- Members Only wines and releases.
Running a family business can be tremendously rewarding, but it has its challenges. Having six talented and creative individuals making the decisions is not without peril. It can be difficult to choose and focus on manageable strategies when there are so many interesting and creative ideas at the table. Louie is just ecstatic that he has six voices coming together at the table, even if they don’t always agree. Two of his daughter’s ideas that he initially disagreed with, turned out to be wildly popular: the tasting room in downtown Leavenworth and the snowshoeing adventures this past winter. This proud papa grudgingly admits that “Father doesn’t always know best” and it is clear to see both the immense pride in his family and the bittersweet emotion of standing back a bit so they can take flight. Not every family decision is a winner, but it is always a lesson. The advantages to this family business are huge. Don states he will be ever grateful to his inlaws for allowing him to escape the corporate world and work harder than he ever has and enjoy it more than he ever has. He works hard but his lifestyle is relaxed and he is overjoyed to be able to work with family and to be able to take his sons to work with him.
With up to 20 different wines produced at the winery, there is a wine for almost every palate. Currently, both Don and Louie are exceptionally proud of four very different wines.
- Three Blondes Gewurtaminer- A quality and consistent wine that is customer favorite as well.
- Log Cabin White- Is an unusual blend of Muscat, Riesling and Chardonnay
- Reserve Merlot- Exceptional quality grapes with special attention and care from grapes to bottle. Don feels this is world class Merlot.
- Chardonnay Ice Wine- Smooth, complex, and so bursting with flavor. These grapes are usually harvested by hand in December.
I also asked them about future wines. Louie is also very excited about working with Eidleweiss grapes. They only made 11 cases last year and 30 cases this year. With such a limited supply this wine will probably only be available to wine club members. Don is enthusiastic about their 2008 Sangiovese that won’t be released until 2010. It is in his words “beautiful” and his whole face lights up when he talks about it.
Another distinctive wine available at Icicle Ridge is their Lemberger. This is a high elevation grape grown in Austria and Don is excited about growing it here in Leavenworth at similar elevations.
Judy Wagoner was traveling abroad during this interview, but I know that she and I share the same favorite: sparkling syrah. It is crisp, bright and oh so refreshing. It drinks like a celebration and never fails to bring a smile to my face. Ed is huge fan of the Ice Wine Chardonnay. I always give him my glass of it just so I can watch his delight in drinking it. Ed is also a HUGE fan of the Log Cabin White as well.
This is without shame or apology a glowing review and write up on Icicle Ridge Winery. Palates are personal and so are the relationships that I cultivate with wineries. The first summer that the winery was open, I celebrated a milestone birthday by wine tasting with friends. We ended up in the kitchen of the family log home, talking and sipping around the kitchen table. It felt like hanging out in a friend’s kitchen. They were just beginning to experiment with Cherry Passion at the time and big mouth that I am, I gave my opinion that it was too sweet and too chocolatey for my palate. Louie took me out to the production building and he allowed me to sample something that he thought was more in tune to my palate. He was right and we started a friendship that has grown over the years.
Since that first day, I have always been warmly and genuinely welcomed into the winery and their home. Aware of my disability, family members and staff have always gone out of their way to make sure that I am comfortable and that my wine glass is never empty. Ebony is always welcomed into their home with respect and courtesy and they make sure that other guests know that Ebony is an honored and important guest. Over the years, we have left the winery with a lot of great wine but also a lot of memories. We look forward to many more and we hope that you will also take the time and opportunity to visit this destination winery.