"Get the best grapes and don't screw them up."
This is our wine making philosophy - the same today as when we started in 1997. We founded Hightower Cellars in Woodinville in 1997, with our primary grape supply coming from Red Mountain. We are co-winemakers and husband and wife that handcraft highly acclaimed, food friendly, red wines of elegance, depth and complexity.
We adopted this philosophy after working alongside Master of Wine, David Lake, of Columbia Winery; and after a series of mid-1997 conversations and tastings with Chris Camarda of Andrew Will Winery, with Gary Figgins of Leonetti Cellars, and with Alex Golitzen of Quiliceda Creek Winery.
Our search for the best grapes led us to Red Mountain. Before starting Hightower Cellars, when we came across a Washington wine we loved - a wine with great depth and complexity of flavors, balanced tannin structure and enchanting aromatics - we would ask where the grapes were grown and the answer was always Red Mountain. So, we said to ourselves since we want to start a world class winery in Washington State we must have Red Mountain grapes.
Our approach to "not screwing them up" led us to our motto and method:
"Handpicked - Handsorted - Handmade."
Which reflects our non-interventional wine making approach. We selectively choose the highest quality vineyards with the best growers. We walk through each vineyard multiple times a year in anticipation of harvest looking at canopy levels and vine and grape maturity and pulling grape samples ourselves. We place a great deal of thought into each step along the way from hand picking the grapes, to handsorting them, to using gravity to feed the stemmer/crusher and fill the fermentors, (we rarely use a pump), to loading the press with gravity and to deciding upon our blends and many more decisions that we continue to reevaluate each year.
The Move to Red Mountain
In 2002, after a many year search for an ideal vineyard location on Red Mountain we convinced Sonny and Zeta Moore to sell us their 15 acre, southwest sloping, parcel high on Red Mountain complete with water rights. We packed up us and the winery and moved to this incredibly beautiful spot high on Red Mountain. The first task was converting an old dirt floored metal barn in a clean climate controlled winery. The second task was planting our estate vineyard, which we completed in 2005.
Sustainably Farmed Estate Vineyard
Knowing that, done properly, a grape grower will only plant a particular parcel of land once or twice in a lifetime, we conducted a great deal of research and hired a consultant to help us plant our estate vineyard on Red Mountain. We planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc all at an eleven degree offset to north/south. This orientation more evenly balances sunlight on the east and west sides of the vine rows, which leads to more even ripening of the grapes and thus more balanced wines. We farm sustainably, using a mechanical cultivator for weed control and minimal amounts of spray and then only materials on the approved Salmon Safe list. The vineyard is drip irrigated and does not produce runoff or erode soils.
Winery Expansion & Remodel
In 2008, we finished a winery expansion and remodel that completely changed the look of the old metal barn, added another barrel room, more crush pad, and a tasting room. We hired a LEED certified architecture firm, Boxwood, that was very familiar with wineries and with sustainable building practices. We incorporated many innovative building materials and design ideas that make our "new" winery building beautiful and efficient - including:
- Durisol block construction, a one foot thick block made of recycled wood and concrete with built in rock wool insulation
- Sun Screen wall - a secondary slated wall mounted about an inch outside the old exterior, so that it hides the old metal barn, shades the exterior wall and looks beautiful
- Eight foot roof overhangs to shade the tasting room windows during the hottest time of the day
- Metal roof finished with "Cool Paint Technology" which reflects more solar energy than normal finishes
- Much thicker roof insulation
- Sky lights in the office and one of the barrel rooms
- Efficient lighting
- High efficiency heat pumps
- Recycled the old metal barn that many have bulldozed and put into a landfill
We hope you will come visit us and enjoy our winery’s intimate setting with majestic views of the estate vineyard and the valley below.
Tim & Kelly Hightower