Mike Sauer of Red Willow Vineyards
Mike Sauer never expected to be involved at all with Washington’s wine industry, let alone to be one of its pillars. But an unusual irrigation system on part of the family farm led him in the early 1970s to plant Concord table grapes and a few rows of French sounding wine grapes. He learned from this experience that wine grapes would do best on slopes, and so in 1973 he planted Cabernet Sauvignon vines that are still thriving on Red Willow Vineyard slopes today. Walter Clore encouraged Mike to plant other varietals and by the early 80s he was growing grapes for David Lake of Columbia Winery.
David made the first Red Willow Vineyard designated wine in 1981, which was one of the first vineyard designated wines in the state. Vineyard designation on a label was a new concept at the time, and one of many innovations that Mike and David worked on together during their 30-year collaboration. Mike was the first to plant in Washington many varietals that now cover vineyard slopes in the state. Today Mike sells grapes to nearly two dozen of Washington’s finest wineries. In this interview he talks about the many firsts at Red Willow Vineyard, key changes in the vineyards since the 1970s, challenges for grape growers, Washington’s ideal varietal, and much more.
Listen to the Interview: