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Awards & Press


If you don’t know Rocky Pond now is the time to get on board

February 2024
“The Rocky Reach AVA, Washington’s 20th, was certified not quite two years ago thanks to the persistent efforts of the founders of the Rocky Pond Winery. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to tour the property and to taste most of the releases from the past couple of vintages. Getting a new AVA authorized is a costly, time-consuming and difficult process. So along with congratulations on the success of the new AVA, I looked at the wines to see if they in fact seemed to represent something new, something important enough to justify the effort.” Paul Gregutt 
2021 Cabernet Sauvignon – 96 points : The Cabernet is the centerpiece, showing the strength of the estate vineyard, while the other grapes pull their weight and fill out the flavors. The result is a seamless, spicy, delicious wine that will stand out in any peer group
2021 Estate Syrah – 95 points (member only) : This definitely belongs with Syrahs from the Rocks District and special sites such as Boushey among the best in the region.

2021 11 Dams – 94 points 

2021 Stratastone – 94 points (sold out)
2022 Glacial Treasure – 92 points 

“A major strength of the Rocky Reach AVA is the ability to achieve even ripening across the spectrum of varieties grown at Double D and Rocky Reach Estate vineyards, even in a challenging vintage.” Winemaker, Liz Keyser

Rocky Pond Estate continues to push the boundary with what Washington wine can be – with spearheading the recent Rocky Reach AVA certification, to pioneering the Sustainable WA certification efforts, you do not want to miss out on what Rocky Pond will do next. 
Read Full Review and Article from Paul Gregutt Here

Sustainable WA certification helps growers grow better grapes, which translates into better wine”

January 2024
While the concept of being fully sustainable is easy for consumers and growers to agree on being a good thing, in practice, it is much more difficult to accomplish in the world of grape growing. “Sustainability means that we acknowledge and examine the environmental & community impact of our operations. . .We believe that farming with Sustainable WA certification results in better grapes & wine, while enriching the lives of those that work for us, enjoy our wines, and experience our properties in the Rocky Reach AVA.”
Rocky Pond Estate Winery was one of the first 5 vineyards and wineries to be Sustainable WA certified, pioneering sustainable practices specific to the Washington state grape growing region. “As a small, family-owned business, sustainability is our long-term strategy to the meet the demands of today without compromising our next generation’s ability to farm and enjoy the natural resources of the estate.”
Liz was interviewed by the Washington State Wine Commission about the why Rocky Pond wanted to be certified in this new program,  why it is important for the future of wine in Washington, and why it is important for consumers to look out for this new certification.

Read Full Q & A Session with Liz Here

Rocky Pond Estate Winery Featured on Wine Time Friday’s Podcast

December 2023

“In Washington the wines are vibrating at a higher level so to speak. There’s tension to them. There are so many different styles and just the creativity of the winemakers in Washington is unparalleled.”

Hosts Shelley and Phil sit down and have a great conversation with Rocky Pond winemaker, Liz Keyser, while tasting four of our estate wines. In this episode you’ll learn about the new Rocky Reach AVA, which is located along the Columbia River and was officially recognized this past July, as well as Liz’s story and how Rocky Pond came to be. Liz has worked in winemaking all over the world and she brings to this episode a wealth of knowledge.

Check out the full podcast by clicking here. 


STATE-OF-THE-ART WEDDING AND EVENT VENUE OPENS IN WASHINGTON WINE COUNTRY

December 2023

Renowned Washington winery Rocky Pond announced today the opening of its luxury event venue named Milestone Events at Rocky Pond Vineyards, located in picturesque Orondo, Washington, and surrounded by blocks growing the forthcoming vintage of the winery’s award-winning wines and views of the Columbia River Valley. The property features multiple venues and endless options for event and wedding planners, including a charming pavilion and a versatile amphitheater and stage, providing a tranquil and warm environment for corporate retreats, weddings, birthdays and milestone celebrations. Columbia Hospitality oversees sales and events on behalf of the venue.

Surrounded by pristine gardens, estate vineyards and rolling hills, Milestone Events at Rocky Pond Vineyards expertly blends the beauty of Washington’s wine country with luxurious amenities. Guests will arrange their special occasion alongside a team of seasoned event planners who bring unmatched expertise.

“Rocky Pond has always been rooted in excellence and celebrating the beauty and abundance of Washington’s wine-growing region,” said owner Michelle Dufenhorst. “Milestone Events represents an escape from the mundane, and it is our mission to create a tranquil space for families, colleagues and loved ones to connect. Whether it’s a wedding, special celebration or corporate retreat, our unwavering commitment to hospitality ensures that every guest receives the same meticulous attention as our award-winning wines. We handle each event with the utmost care so guests can share life’s most precious moments with the ones they love, surrounded by the beauty of the Northwest.”

Milestone Events infuses individuality in every occasion, from the venue itself to the wines being served. Guests have the option to connect with the knowledgeable winemaking team at Rocky Pond to select the perfect pairings or take part in a custom crush or bottling experience, which is an ideal team-building opportunity or add-on experience for a wedding party. The pavilion and amphitheater venues are thoughtfully designed to accommodate up to 200 guests, providing a versatile and spacious setting for a variety of occasions, including summer concerts on the expansive stage. No detail is too small or experience too big for this stunning new Washington venue to host and execute.

For more details on Milestone Events at Rocky Pond Vineyard, please visit rockypondwinery.com.


Rocky Pond Estate Winery Featured on Fox’s Industry Marvels 

October 2023

“The Dufenhorst family pursued their passion when they purchased land along the Columbia River in Eastern Washington. Their passion as well as their vineyards are rooted in the belief that live has an unexpected way of giving you experiences you never even knew to ask for.” 

As a innovator in the Washington wine industry, Rocky Pond Estate helped create designation for the unique and complex 20th AVA in Washington State, Rocky Reach. Learn more on what makes this AVA so special and other innovative experiences being created at Rocky Pond. 

Check out the full video by clicking here. 


Owen Bargreen Interviews with Winemaker Elizabeth

August 2023

“A winery that keeps trending upwards, Rocky Pond is one of the excellent producers in the Chelan region. They have now formed their own AVA, Rocky Reach, as their estate vineyards are planted on very stony soils, in close proximity to the river. One of the great moves they made was hiring former Quileceda Creek GM John Ware to their team. Ware was a large part of  Quilceda Creek becoming one of the prominent houses of the Pacific Northwest. 

Rocky Pond has recently hired the former assistant winemaker at HALL, Elizabeth Keyser. She grew up with wine in her family and then worked at Zachys for two years as a junior wine buyer. Talking to her she shared her interest in learning about wine and stated “Guided myself down a path of working my first harvest and then I could never go back to a desk job.” She then completed a degree from Cornell and worked in the Finger Lakes region before moving to Oregon working for A to Z. She stated “I was about to turn 30 and I had to get a real job. I was introduced to Steve Levesque at HALL and was hired as an assistant winemaker. I did a lot of hands-on cellar work and became a winemaker and then Megan and Allison worked with them when Steve left the team. I was ready for more of a creative outlet and it wasn’t necessarily tied to Napa or Sonoma. Steve is a mentor for me today and was candid with them and he said that there was a cool project happening in Washington and I would love for you to meet John Ware and the family. I was ready to sink myself into this project.”

With regards to the 2022 vintage she thinks that both reds and whites look exciting. “Whites carry the acid well and with reds we wanted to coax out the green tannins and what are the fingerprints of the cooler vintage. I am excited by them and it is cool to step into a season like that and have life and freshness” she said.

With Elizabeth, I tasted the new red wine releases by Rocky Pond wines were excellent, deep, and concentrated efforts. I love the new 2021 Rocky Pond ‘Statastone’ Red Wine (OB, 92) which is dense and rich, with a nice red fruit profile. Learn more about this winery at https://rockypondwinery.com Here are the new release wines by Rocky Pond.”

Owen Bargreen, August 16, 2023


Rocky Pond Estate Shines in Wine Advocate

May 2023

We are thrilled to share some exciting news for Rocky Pond Estate! Recently, the prestigious publication Wine Advocate awarded our wines more outstanding scores, recognizing the exceptional quality and craftsmanship that goes into each bottle. We are honored to have received their praise, solidifying our position as a rising star in the wine industry. Let’s dive into the remarkable scores and accolades from Wine Advocate that Rocky Pond Winery has recently achieved.

The 2020 vintage of our Tumbled Granite Red has been awarded an impressive 95 points by Wine Advocate. This Bordeaux-style blend showcases the finest grapes sourced from our vineyards, resulting in a wine that captivates with its complexity, rich flavors, and elegant structure. This remarkable score highlights the dedication and passion of our winemaking team.

As you may recall, Wine Advocate bestowed a preliminary score of 95-97 points upon the barrel sample of our Tumbled Granite Red 2021. This is truly auspicious for a wine in its early stages, underscoring the potential and promise of this vintage. 

The 2021 Tumbled Granite White has also earned a remarkable 95 points from Wine Advocate. Crafted with meticulous attention to detail, this white wine showcases the distinctive character of our vineyards, resulting in a vibrant and refreshing expression of our terroir. The accolade confirms the outstanding quality and unique appeal of this vintage.

Rocky Pond’s Estate Syrah 2021 has also been recognized with an impressive score of 93 points. This wine embodies the essence of our estate, showcasing the characteristics that make our vineyards truly special. With its bold flavors, refined tannins, and exceptional balance, our Estate Syrah represents the pinnacle of our winemaking expertise.

Wine Advocate has referred to Rocky Pond Estate Winery as a rising star worth keeping a close eye on. Recognizing our commitment to quality and our dedication to crafting world-class wines, the publication predicts an extraordinary future for our winery, stating “Rocky Pond marches on with spectacular new releases and is set to create a world-class experience at their estate.” – Anthony Mueller, May 2023 Issue. We are humbled by their endorsement and excited to continue our journey toward creating the ultimate Washington wine experience.

                                          Wine Advocate May 2023, Week 2 Issue – Anthony Mueller 


Critical Acclaim for Our 2020 11 Dams

We were honored to be highlighted as noted critic Paul Gregutt’s Wine of the Week!  The esteemed wine writer recently included us as a focus of his piece Northwest Wineries Blazing New Winemaking Trails.

For his latest Wine of the Week feature, Mr. Gregutt noted that our 2020 vintage of 11 Dams showcases the “power of the principal merlot component while keeping the strength and detail of the other two grapes in focus.” He praised the wine’s ample aromatics and flavor profile of “black cherries and cassis, backed with the AVA’s underlying minerality” and winemaker Elizabeth Keyser’s balanced and well-integrated use of new French oak. Use the link below to read Paul’s review in full!

 


Tumbled Granite
Receives 95-97 Pt Score Upon First Release

 

We are beyond excited to share recent news about the pinnacle of our winemaking program, our 2022 Tumbled Granite Red, released on November 1st to our members and top collectors.

With this wine, the accomplished winemaking team at Rocky Pond has collectively crafted our most elevated red wine offering to date. This limited-production single vineyard blend is powerful, structured, and elegant.

Notably, just this week we received word that this wine was awarded a stellar 95-97 point score from the prestigious critic Anthony Mueller of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate in its inaugural vintage. The Wine Advocate is one of the world’s most trusted authorities in wine for over 30 years.

 

Writes Mueller in Wine Advocate: “…The nose offers gorgeous layers of seductive oak tones with ripe, lush fruit essences of black raspberry, black cherry compote, and spiced pan before notions of white rock and resinous purple flowers sway from the glass. Full-bodied and generous, the wine glides to a complex and ever-evolving finish with a firm tannic edge. This will be a blockbuster upon release. Impressive!”

The 2020 Tumbled Granite Red and the newest vintage of its gorgeous counterpart, the 2021 Tumbled Granite White (Prior vintage acclaim: 92+ points Wine Advocate, Oct. 2022), are only available to members of our Rocks Society. Those interested should join now to enjoy our unparalleled member benefits, including exclusive access to these highly acclaimed, limited-production member-only wines such as Tumbled Granite.

View a video of Rocky Pond Winemaker Elizabeth Keyser discussing Tumbled Granite below!


Rocky Pond Named Best in Show
at Las Vegas Global Wine Awards

We’re pleased to share that Rocky Pond was extremely well-received at last month’s Las Vegas Global Wine Awards!

The panel of world-class judges for this competition was an extraordinary mix of Master Sommeliers, highly respected Journalists, Trade Experts, Distributors, and Influential Buyers. Learn more about the judges here.

Not only did Rocky Pond receive several medals and multiple high scores from this distinguished panel for a variety of our wines, but our 2019 ‘Stratastone’ red blend was honored as ‘Best in Show’! Read on to see our acclaim, and view the full list of winners here.

 

2019 ‘Stratastone’ Red Blend
Gold | 94 points | Best in Show

2019 Double D Vineyard Syrah 
Platinum | 97 points | Best in Class

2019 Malbec
Platinum | 98 points | Best in Class

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon
Gold | 93 points

 


Rocky Pond Double D Vineyard

Approval of Rocky Reach AVA adds to the diversity of Washington State wine

 

On June 3, 2022, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) announced approval of Rocky Ridge AVA (American Viticultural Area), Washington State’s 20th wine growing region.

“Each new AVA further defines our grape-growing regions, signifying growth for our state as a whole,” says Chris Stone, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Washington State Wine Commission. “Each AVA can help educate on the specific and complex terroirs we have here in Washington wine country.”

Tucked atop Columbia Valley’s northern corner south of Lake Chelan, Rocky Reach AVA spans 50 miles along the Columbia River, and offers a colorful history.

 


Bellingham northwest wine Competition

Rocky Pond Wines Acclaimed
in 7th Annual Bellingham NW Wine Competition 

 

The results of the 7th Annual Judged Competition hosted by the Whatcom Beer and Wine Foundation are official and Rocky Pond received several stellar scores!

2019 Rocky Pond Cabernet Sauvignon, 96 pts

2019 Rocky Pond Stratastone, 92 pts

2019 Rocky Pond Glacial Treasure, 90 pts

This year’s competition featured a record-setting 482 entries and the judges awarded an incredible 154 Double Gold and 159 Gold medals to 103 wineries from Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The quality of wines submitted for this year’s competition was nothing short of amazing and we are proud to be distinguished amongst our commendable peers!

Bottle of Rocky Pond wine with awards


Rocky Pond Scores Double Gold and Best In Show

 

Rocky Pond has just received word that our 2019 Mourvèdre has received Double Gold and Best In Show at the 2022 Belle & Bottle Awards!

Judges praised it as a “dark fruity Mourvèdre from Rocky Pond offers enticing layers of blackberry, black cherry, and a hint of sassafras. A beautiful deep purple, this herbaceous and gamey wine was the top-scoring red wine of the competition due to its depth of interesting and complex flavors as well as its smooth balance.”

We were also honored by Gold medal designations for our 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2019 11 Dams, 2019 Malbec, and our 2019 Stratastone.

Congratulations to all of the prestigious winners — we are honored to be included in your company!

Sustainable steps for Washington vineyards

Sustainable Steps for Washington Vineyards

 

Applying compost to vine rows on a steep Washington hillside overlooking the Columbia River is a tricky and time-consuming job.

 

“It’s the best way we can build up our soils to slow-release nutrients,” said Shane Collins, the director of viticulture for Rocky Pond Estate Winery, which has vineyards in Chelan and Orondo. Applying compost annually helps the vineyard cut back on chemical fertilizer — one of many sustainable practices Rocky Pond recently certified under Sustainable WA, the new standard developed by the Washington wine industry.

Collins volunteered to test pilot the program this spring to help work out the kinks before the certification effort rolls out to the wider industry this summer. Rocky Pond already certifies its vineyard practices with LIVE, an Oregon-based sustainability standard, so Collins has experience with audits and how sustainability resonates with customers. But he’s eager to adopt the new standard, developed by Washington wine grape growers, that will promote Washington wine grape growing.

 

“I want to be thoughtful in our practices, and I just feel like it’s the right thing to do,” Collins said. In fact, the certifications — though they come with a price tag — help the winery benefit from the sustainable farming it was already doing. “For us, we’re an estate winery and we see the benefit already. These certifications, flat out, have helped us sell more wine in certain markets.”

Now, he hopes more growers will sign up, producing more grapes that can end up in wines bearing the label designation “Sustainable WA certified” to build more market awareness and demand that will eventually deliver increased returns to growers for practices “many growers are already doing,” Collins said.

The standard

While existing sustainability certifications in the wine marketplace focus on environmental practices, such as chemical inputs and water usage, Washington’s new standard also looks at social responsibility and economic viability. That means interviews with employees about wages and safety trainings as well as reviewing spray records and chemical sheds.

 

“They are looking at: do you have a budget, do you have a business plan, do you have crop insurance?” said Sadie Drury, general manager of North Slope Management in Walla Walla. “Sustainable WA looks at sustainability from every angle.”

Drury farms for a handful of small wineries, and most of the vineyards are already LIVE certified, but one, Echolands Winery, opted for Sustainable WA for its new 26-acre Taggart Vineyard, which should harvest its first crop this year.

“After my experience going through the pilot, I am looking forward to moving other vineyards, who want to, into Sustainable WA,” she said, adding that she also expects many of the wineries to stick with LIVE as well. That program, developed in the Willamette Valley, resonates well with customers there, as she hopes the Sustainable WA certification soon will in Washington.

As a farmer who works for many wineries, Drury said she’s optimistic that the certification program will be accommodating — scheduling on the same cycle to allow one audit of her employment and viticultural practices, for example, along with tours that focus on the unique aspects of each vineyard. Drury also serves on the new program’s governance council.

“I really hope we keep working to make that program so that it suits everybody’s needs,” she said. “We’re at this really cool stage where we have come up with a model, but it’s going to keep growing and changing to make sure it’s the right thing for the industry.”

 

An audit’s-eye view

While Drury and Collins both had previous certification experience, for Shaw Vineyards, the Sustainable WA audit this spring was a first.

“To anyone nervous looking at the process, it wasn’t as intimidating as it sounded like,” said Katrina Cantu, chief financial officer for the Benton City-based company. Shaw certified about 700 acres of its premium vineyards on Red Mountain and Candy Mountain.

“We sell to a lot of wineries that were really wanting this,” vineyard manager Marshall Edwards said. “We were doing 99 percent of this stuff anyway, just not getting recognized for it.”

The key to the successful audit, Cantu and Edwards agreed, was documenting everything they do. For a company Shaw’s size, that was already a must.

“If we don’t keep those records, it can be a nightmare,” Cantu said. “But we want to be better, and this is a good exercise to push us into that evaluation process.”

Auditor Canaan Rice, who works for the Ohio-based EAGLE Certification Group, said he sends growers an advance audit plan that has all the major documents he will ask for, to help them prepare.

“It’s rare that anyone is compliant with absolutely everything, incredibly rare,” he said. “Certification standards are all about continual improvement.”

Rice said he tries to put people at ease and remind them that if they are not compliant with something, they have a month to fix it.

For example, the standard requires growers to have accident prevention and emergency response plans. Growers may not have a written policy before the audit, but when Rice asks, they can tell him about the local hospital, insurance, first aid equipment and safety trainings.

“So, I say, ‘Tell me what you would do. Now you have 28 days to write it all down,’” Rice said. “If it’s in somebody’s head and they retire, they take all the information with them.”

He also interviews workers from all aspects of the operation to confirm what managers tell him about wages, trainings and PPE. This focus on worker health and safety “makes me feel excited about auditing to this standard,” Rice said.

Next steps

Applications are now open for growers who want to become part of the program, said Katlyn Slone of Washington Winegrowers Association, which oversees the audits. More audits will be scheduled for July, October and November, she said, with additional slots expected next year as the program builds capacity.

If the packed house for a session introducing the program at the association’s conference in February is any indication, growers are very interested. During that session, another early adopter, Patrick Rawn of Two Mountain Winery in Zillah, said that growing the program will send a powerful message about Washington wine to the wider industry.

Rawn called it a powerful tool for improvement. “Once I got my head around the idea that certifications are a tool to better our operations on a host of fronts, I got really excited,” he said.

The first certified grapes will be harvested this fall. Then, wines made with 75 percent or more certified sustainable grapes can carry the label on the bottle — no winery certification needed.

When Collins told the wineries that buy his grapes about the new certification — and the price increase that’s coming along with it, and all the other rising costs vineyards face — “everyone was on board,” he said.

“For small wineries in Puget Sound, this is a big talking point for them,” he said. A few wineries even sent their people out to tour the vineyard to learn more about Rocky Pond’s sustainability efforts, so they can talk about it in their tasting rooms. “It’s a good way to promote Washington. And we’re all in this because we know Washington wine is special.” 

—by Kate Prengaman

 

Rocky Reach AVA

Rocky Pond Wines
From An Important New AVA
— Paul Gregutt

 

The Rocky Reach AVA, Washington’s 20th, was certified a week or so ago. Getting a new AVA authorized is a costly, time-consuming and difficult process. So congratulations are in order. But the next question that should be asked is why? Why was so much time and effort put into what is essentially a name you can put on your wine? Why should consumers notice, and if they notice, what does it mean to them?

Fair questions, and believe me I’ve seen dozens of new AVAs appear over the decades I’ve been covering the Pacific Northwest. I’ve raised a quizzical eyebrow at many of them. Not this one. Last week I wrote about the wines of Entiat, a micro-producer whose Syrah, sourced from this AVA, blew me away. This week I dove into the wines of Rocky Pond, an ambitious project whose estate vineyard, called Double D, is the source of the five wines reviewed here.

Dr. Kevin Pogue, who has written AVA proposals for a number of important Northwest AVAs, perhaps most significantly the Rocks District, also did the spadework for the Rocky Reach application. Here’s his evaluation of the region:  “With its granitic cobblestone terraces, Rocky Reach really is different from anything else in the Columbia Basin” Pogue writes. He went on to mention recently tasting a Rocky Reach Syrah and a Grenache vinified by Sean Boyd at Rôtie. “They were both fantastic,” he told me. “They were very aromatic and had rich fruit flavors, but still plenty of acidity. I think the area has a very bright future and the wines will just get better as the viticulture gets completely dialed in.”

Based upon my (admittedly limited) tastings of wines from Entiat and Rocky Pond, I have to agree. More than a few winemakers have told me over the years that the best places to grow grapes in Washington are yet to be discovered. That’s not completely true – some great places have already been found. But with climate change impacting virtually all West Coast vintners, the qualities that define “best places” are evolving. And the winemaking is evolving with them. Wines are getting more subtle, more aromatic, less obviously fruity and more complex. These early releases from Rocky Pond express all of those characteristics.

John Ware, who spent many years running the business end of Quilceda Creek, was hired by the owners of Rocky Pond in 2020 in the role of President. That tells you something – here’s an industry veteran working at one of the greatest wineries in the world moving to a virtually unknown entity in an as-yet-undefined Washington wine region. I asked John to elaborate on why he made the change and what potential he saw (and sees) in this emerging new AVA. Here is what he had to say:

“After 20+ years in the Washington wine industry, I was ready for a change. A mutual friend of mine introduced me to David Dufenhorst. When I first flew to Double D (Rocky Pond’s flagship vineyard), I could sense this energy in the vineyard. It is hard to describe until you visit the site. This was only amplified by David and Michelle’s vision of creating a world-class wine destination resort. That was something new to me and I was (and am) very excited about creating this legacy. The wines showed promise but I saw opportunity in the vineyard practices with new techniques and innovation in the cellar. From a regional perspective, I had a bias that the northern Cascade and Chelan AVA could not get fruit ripe enough. That paradigm has changed for me and we have neighboring wineries in the region that are doing some exceptional work.

“The Rocky Reach AVA has a geological story dating back 100,000,000-70,000,00 years when islands in the Pacific were thrust under Washington and thrust up into this 32,333 acres called Rocky Reach. Then 18,500-16,000 years ago, two glaciers carved out the Columbia River, depositing sandy soils and the prolific cobblestones. We do not have any basalt like most of Washington, and in fact, are higher in silica and quartz minerals. So what does that all mean for wine drinkers? We have a distinct minerality that is fused with ripe fruit that expresses itself in the wines. Double D and Rocky Reach Estate are warm sites. The stony surfaces and cobblestones quickly warm and heat the vines and promote faster and more complete ripening. The coarser soils are more efficient in transmitting water which encourages the vines to establish deeper roots than vines planted in silty soils.”

To sum up, John believes that Washington state’s 20th AVA “shows the world wine audience this is an exciting region to explore and taste. Quality wines are being crafted, with a unique geological narrative, and a very high quality-to-price ratio that makes Washington one of most exciting wine regions in the world. As I taste through the past two vintages, and walking through our vineyards, I am more and more convinced that Double D and Rocky Reach are best suited for Merlot, Syrah, and Malbec. That isn’t to say we can’t produce great Cabernet Sauvignon, we just need to work more for it. On the white side of the house style, I enjoy our Viognier, Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc. The two ‘must have’ wines from the estate would be our Tumbled Granite white and red wine. Both represent the pinnacle of winemaking for the vintage and are only offered to our private membership. The 2020 Tumble Granite White was a blend of barrel fermented Viognier and Roussanne. The Tumble Granite red will debut this fall.”

PG:  The plan is to continue developing a precise focus on the strengths of the vineyard, starting with cutting way back on the number of wines being produced. This past winter Elizabeth Keyser was hired from Napa’s esteemed HALL Family Wines to take the winemaker reins. Shane Collins, who made the wines profiled here, is now Director of Viticulture and Vineyard Relations.

I have not tasted the ‘must have’ Tumble Granite wines John mentions, but I’ve tasted enough to know that this is not hype. I look forward to visiting the winery at the earliest opportunity, because it is truly rare that a new AVA generates this much excitement. Meanwhile, I strongly urge you to sign up for the mailing list and get a taste of at least some of these wines.

Rocky Pond 2019 Double D Vineyard Malbec

Lush aromas of blueberry jam highlight this lovely varietal wine. Malbec has not found its perfect place in Washington yet, but this may be it. This is full-bodied, fruit-driven and beautifully ripened, with the blueberry and boysenberry fruit, baking spice highlights, and a phenolic frame of earth and herbs. It’s all in perfect balance and quite delicious with aging potential over the rest of the decade.

250 cases; 14.7%; $60 (Rocky Reach)

Rocky Pond 2019 Double D Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

This pure varietal wine is delightfully fruity, with plum and cherry and red currant fruit, nicely supported with polished tannins and juicy acidity. The balance could not be improved upon, and it’s such a generous wine that it would seem shameful not to drink it over the next three or four years. I can’t wait to see how this vineyard develops once it’s had a few more years of growth.

234 cases; 14.8%; $75 (Rocky Reach)

Rocky Pond 2019 11 Dams Double D Vineyard Red

This Bordeaux blend consists of roughly equal parts of Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from the estate vineyard in the new Rocky Reach AVA. The young vineyard (first planted in 2013) does itself proud, and the prominent position of Malbec suggests that it will be a principal focus moving forward. Sweet fruity aromas lead into generous red currant, strawberry, raspberry and Bing cherry fruit flavors. The wine is open and broadly accessible, with polished tannins and lingering accents of toast and nut butter.

401 cases; 14.5%; $45 (Rocky Reach)

Rocky Pond 2019 Stratastone Red

Though not indicated on the label, this too is sourced from the Double D vineyard. It’s a Rhône-style GSM – 56% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 14% Mourvèdre. For me it is a total home run, with a bright and beautifully-ripened mix of spicy berry fruits, supported with light citrus acids and amplified with a hint of baking spices. It’s forward, delightfully fruity, balanced and backed with moderate acids and tannins.

380 cases; 14.9%; $45 (Rocky Reach) 

Rocky Pond 2019 Double D Vineyard Syrah

Along with the Entiat Syrah sourced from this vineyard in 2019, this supports the notion that the new Rocky Reach AVA may become as important a source of Syrah (and other Rhône grapes) as Red Mountain or the Rocks District. It’s not a carbon copy of either one, but a fine companion, with the emphasis on ripe but steely fruit, baseline minerality, precision, length and focus. The length and detail are especially impressive given the youth of the vineyard.

147 cases; 14.9%; $45 (Rocky Reach)

Read more here.

Sunset International Wine Competition

96 Points & Double Gold for Our Rocky Pond Syrah

The Results of the Sunset International Wine Competition
Have Been Announced

JUNE 2022

Rocky Pond Estate is pleased to share that our 2019 Double D Syrah has just received 96 points and Double Gold designation in the prestigious 2022 Sunset International Wine Competition.

Sunset is the leading media brand of the Western lifestyle. Its International Wine Competition makes its winning wines part of the most influential wine program in the country. Its judges are some of the most experienced wine professionals in the West, including winemakers, journalists, chefs, and many Master Sommeliers and Masters of Wine. Wines were judged from a field of over 2900 entries and only wines rating 90+ points were awarded Gold medals. Wines rated Double Gold were scored 95 points or higher and mean all the judges on the panel unanimously deemed it Gold-worthy!

Find this and many more of our acclaimed wines in our online store, by calling (425) 949-9044, or by visiting one of the Rocky Pond Estate Winery tasting rooms in Lake Chelan or Woodinville.

Washington Wine Country Adds Rocky Reach American Viticulture Area

Washington Wine Country Adds Rocky Reach American Viticulture Area

The New Region is Exclusively Home to Rocky Pond Estate Winery’s Rocky Reach Vineyard

JUNE 2022

Woodinville, WA • Rocky Pond Estate Winery, the Washington producer crafting wines from their breathtaking sustainably farmed riverside and lakeside vineyards in the Columbia River Valley, recently received good news when their Flagship Double D Vineyard and Rocky Reach Estate Vineyard received approval by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Rocky Reach will be Washington’s twentieth AVA.

“We are extremely pleased to see this return on our efforts,” stated Owners and Founders David and Michelle Dufenhorst. “This is an essential step towards recognizing what we’ve known for some time – that this is a remarkable place to grow and produce quality vines and wines.”

The Rocky Reach AVA will encompass over 32,333 acres (50 square miles) along the Columbia River. The AVA takes its name from the Rocky Reach Dam and the Rocky Reach Reservoir (also known as Lake Entiat). Steamboat captains first applied the name “Rocky Reach” to the region in the late 1800’s, to describe the rapids within a stretch, or “reach”, of the Columbia River. This new AVA will follow the Columbia River from Wenatchee north to Lake Chelan. Unlike its surrounding wine region, however, Rocky Reach possesses a unique combination of topography, soils, and climate — all of which call for a singular AVA designation.

These characteristics derive from a fascinating geologic history. Rocky Reach AVA consists of crystalline basement rocks which are silica rich due to the mica and quartz minerals. This is in contrast to the existing Columbia Valley AVA which is 95% basalt. This crystalline basement rock is composed primarily of metamorphosed sedimentary and igneous rocks that were once part of a chain of island offshore of western North America 100-70 million years ago.

The soils were formed from wind-deposited sand and silt overlying cobblestone gravel and sand deposited by ice-aged floods. The prolific, stony surfaces warm quickly, and the hot stones radiate and retain daytime heat to the vines and promote faster and more complete ripening. The gravels within Rocky Reach were deposited approximately 18,800 years ago by gigantic floods associated with the failure of a glacial ice dam and the subsequent draining of Glacial Lake Missoula in Western Montana and Okanagan glaciers. The new AVA envelopes several gently sloping terraces, but hovers below the surrounding highlands at elevations of no more than 1,600 feet.

Lake Columbia flood gravels created another set of terraces along the Columbia River banks. Unlike the areas upstream in the Columbia Valley, Rocky Reach was never glaciated. Rocky Reach contains no glacial till nor erratic rocks and its landforms have not been shaped by erosion of ice.

David Dufenhorst believes that this area is an undiscovered gem in the state of Washington. The unique amalgam of climate and geology within Rocky Reach is ideal for grape growing, bolstered by a long growing season of more than 150 days on average and lower riverside elevation. The Rocky Reach AVA officially recognizes the outstanding capacity of such a rare combination of characteristics.

Rocky Pond operate two tasting rooms – one in Chelan and the other in Woodinville – for wine, culinary, travel enthusiasts and members looking to experience their high-quality wines and impeccable service. Reserve a table today at www.rockypondwinery.com.

Rocky Pond’s Estate Vineyard Location Poised To Be Newest Wine Country AVA

Introducing Washington’s Rocky Reach AVA

May 2022

Rocky Pond Estate Winery is located on the banks of the Columbia River just south of Chelan in the city of Orondo. With our estate vineyard now at 125 acres, this unique Washington winegrowing region is about to become Washington’s 20th designated region, called the Rocky Reach AVA (For American Viticultural Area). What sets Rocky Reach apart is the rocky soil, the terroir, which is unlike anything else in the state. This is an individual and unique site that gives wines grown here an identity. 

Rocky Pond Estate Winery is creating a wine destination 2.5 hours from Seattle to design and build a hotel, spa and restaurant on this site. Construction is set to begin in 2023 and open to the public in 2026.

Belle & Bottle Wine Awards

Rocky Pond Honored with Double Gold

2019 Mourvèdre has received a Double Gold at the 2022 Belle and Bottle Wine Awards

JUNE 2022

Our sold-out 2019 Mourvèdre has received a Double Gold at the first annual Belle and Bottle Wine Awards, a top-scorer among a bevvy of prestigious wines. This wonderful new program took place for the first time in 2022. Wine evaluations were conducted by a diverse panel of all-female wine professionals on May 10th and 11th. Learn more about the Belle and Bottle Wine Awards here: https://www.belleandbottleawards.com/

Though this vintage is sold out, you can find our acclaimed wines in our online store, by calling (425) 949-9044, or by visiting one of the Rocky Pond Estate Winery tasting rooms in Lake Chelan or Woodinville.

Rocky Pond Winemaker Elizabeth Keyser

Rocky Pond Adds Elizabeth Keyser to Lead Their Winemaking to the Next Level

Keyser brings world-class experience and skill
from one of Napa’s most notable wineries

JANUARY, 2022

Rocky Pond Estate Winery, the Washington producer crafting wines from their spectacular sustainably farmed riverside and lakeside vineyards in the Columbia River Valley, is pleased to announce that Elizabeth Keyser has been hired as their new winemaker. The timing of this appointment comes at a defining moment, with Rocky Pond perfectly poised to take their portfolio of premium Washington wines to new heights.

“We are beyond thrilled to have Elizabeth join our team,” stated owners David & Michelle Dufenhorst. “Her remarkable talent and enthusiasm will help propel Rocky Pond and the region onto the national stage. We have full confidence that her appointment is the next step in transforming Rocky Pond into the top Eastern Washington wine destination. We believe in the potential of this special region and Elizabeth shares in our vision.”

Keyser brings with her a level of expertise befitting of a tenured Napa Valley winemaker. She recently held the title of Assistant Winemaker at HALL Family Wines, where she crafted wines for the famed California producer’s three-brand portfolio (HALL, Walt, and Baca). Before this, Keyser had key winemaking positions with California’s Cliff Lede in Yountville, A to Z Wineworks in Newberg, Oregon, and Hardy’s Tintara in the McLaren Vale region of Australia and obtained her master’s degree with a concentration in enology from Cornell University. Her deep understanding of multiple varietals and styles ensures that she will be the ideal fit with Rocky Pond’s varied portfolio of premium wines.

This talented winemaker is no stranger to the intricacies of making wine in an emerging AVA such as the Columbia Valley. Having earned her stripes early on in New York’s Finger Lakes, she is inspired by the community spirit and forward thinking that is often found in up-and-coming wine regions. “I look at this as a challenge to think creatively and perhaps step out of some preconceived notions about Washington wine,” says Keyser. “Making wine in an up-and-coming region is an incomparable opportunity to push boundaries.”

Though similarly captivated by the rustic charm of downtown Chelan on her first visit, it wasn’t just the place itself that encouraged her to relocate — it was also the people. “David and Michelle have this pioneering vision and the team that they’ve pulled together is such a rockstar cast of characters — I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”

Notably among this vanguard team is Keyser’s good friend and mentor Steve Leveque, who has consulted for the Dufenhorsts since 2020. Leveque’s winemaking resume is impressive, resplendent with Napa icons such as Chalk Hill, Opus One, Mondavi, and HALL, where he and Keyser first crossed paths. His addition to the Rocky Pond team was a significant investment in the winery’s future. Now reunited with Keyser, the two will continue Rocky Pond’s mission to create world-class award-winning wines from their estate vineyards.

“Steve and I approach winemaking from a similar perspective,” explains Keyser. “We both have an innate curiosity and want to push boundaries. Steve is not a by-the-book winemaker, and it’s fascinating to work with someone with his combination of experience and innovation. Our dynamic is perfectly balanced and it’s beyond exciting to collaborate with him again.” Keyser foresees Rocky Pond entering not only the national spotlight but also the international conversation about fine wines: “Rocky Pond has the opportunity to be the standard-bearer for inspiring and compelling wines from Washington.” This belief puts her squarely in line with Leveque and the Dufenhorst’s vision to tirelessly work to drive quality, while always paying tribute to vineyard expression and terroir.

Keyser joins the team officially on February 1st, 2022 and will hit the ground running. This will be a busy and exciting start to the year for Rocky Pond, with the imminent launch of their two newest red and white prestige wines, Tumbled Granite, and dynamic new offerings from their hospitality program.

Also effective on Feb. 1, Rocky Pond’s former winemaker Shane Collins will take on a new role as Director of Viticulture for Rocky Pond Holdings, which owns and operates Rocky Pond Winery’s three estate vineyards. Shane’s knowledge of the terroir and vineyard experience is crucial in elevating the wine quality for Rocky Pond and the wineries that purchase their fruit. Shane will also spearhead a new venture called Cascade Valley Custom Crush. The Dufenhorsts are grateful to Shane for his significant contributions over the last five years and look forward to working closely with him in his new and critically important role.

Wine Enthusiast

Wine Enthusiast Praises Wines from Our 2019 Vintage

Two of our top wines have received 91 points — plus the Editors’ Choice designation!

We are pleased to announce that the latest Wine Enthusiast ratings for our 2019 vintage release are in — and each has earned 91 points and the prestigious ‘Editors’ Choice’ distinction.

Our 11 Dams from the LIVE Certified Double D Estate Vineyard is named for the eleven dams that line the majestic and mighty Columbia River, and the grapes cultivated for this red blend are grown on deeply rooted vines in the sandy soils found riverside on our meticulously and sustainably farmed Double D Estate Vineyard. Our Stratastone, also from the Double D Vineyard, is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre — both savory and smooth, it is one of our most highly sought-after wines.

As always, you can find these newly-acclaimed wines in our online store, by calling (425) 949-9044, or by visiting one of the Rocky Pond Estate Winery tasting rooms in Lake Chelan or Woodinville.

Looking for the Best Wineries in Woodinville?

All eyes are turning to Woodin Creek Village for world-class wine and food experiences

Over the past several years, Woodinville, Washington is has become not only the go-to weekend getaway for Seattle-area wine lovers, but also a major wine destination in its own right. With over one hundred tasting rooms representing wineries from all over Washington state, Woodinville is a destination that rewards connoisseurs and casual enthusiasts alike.

Launched in autumn of last year, Rocky Pond Estate’s tasting room in the dynamic Woodin Creek Village district is the perfect place to showcase our critically acclaimed wines in the hub of Woodinville’s world-class wine, lodging, and dining scene.

Our owners and founders David and Michelle Dufenhorst hired regional super stars to lead the Woodinville project, creating what we believe is an unparalleled wine and hospitality experience! Open every Wednesday through Sunday, Rocky Pond Estate Winery in Woodinville offers a variety of wine and food tastings, including farm-to-table small plates prepared by our Director of Culinary, Chef Doug Setniker.

Rocks Society wine club members will be welcomed with exclusive options at the Woodinville location, including wine flights and small bite pairing menus of three delectable wine-and-food combinations curated just for them.

With elegant seating options for all, our beautiful Woodinville tasting room is also perfect for walk-up wine tastings, bottle service, and wines by the glass. Two large outdoor patios offer a variety of relaxing options for wine enthusiasts looking for an intimate al fresco experience.

Sip a sultry glass of our coveted 11 Dams or our silky Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from the Double D Vineyard. We’ll have you planning your next visit out to our idyllic estate winery situated between Wenatchee and Lake Chelan along the Columbia River before you know it.

Looking to make a day of it? We are proud to be centrally located next to some of the top Woodinville wineries and restaurants. Try our friends at Bayernmoor CellarsAlexandria NicoleAmbassador, or TruthTeller Winery. When you’ve almost had your fill, head over to nearby Brix Wine Café for one of the best burgers in Woodinville, and tell them Rocky Pond Estate sent you.

Sunset International Wine Competition

More Awards for Rocky Pond Estate Wines!

Three Wines Capture the Hearts of the Judges at Sunset Magazine

In the June publication of Sunset Magazine, three of our wines were awarded medals of the highest distinction in the prestigious 2021 Sunset International Wine Competition!

    • 2017 Rocky Pond Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – Double Gold | 95 Points
    • 2017 Rocky Rond Malbec Reserve – Gold | 94 Points
    • 2017 Rocky Pond Syrah – Gold | 93 Points

This is the second Double Gold and 95+ point rating for the 2017 Rocky Pond Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve and a second Gold Medal and 94-point rating for the 2017 Rocky Pond Malbec Reserve in just the past month after a great showing in the Seattle Wine Awards!

Sunset is the leading media brand of the Western lifestyle. Its International Wine Competition makes its winning wines part of the most influential wine program in the country. Its 42 judges are some of the most experienced wine professionals in the West, including winemakers, journalists, chefs, and many Master Sommeliers and Masters of Wine. Wines were judged from a field of over 2900 entries and only wines rating 90+ points were awarded Gold medals. Wines rated Double Gold were scored 95 points or higher and mean all the judges on the panel unanimously deemed it Gold-worthy!

We are excited to be included in this prestigious publication and are thrilled that our wines continue to get favorably mentioned. This speaks to our passion for continual improvement in the quality of the vineyards and the wine.

You can find limited quantities of these critically acclaimed wines in the online marketplace at RockyPondWinery.com, by calling (425) 949-9044, or by visiting one of the Rocky Pond Estate Winery tasting rooms in Lake Chelan or Woodinville.

Washington Tasting Room Magazine logo

Washington Tasting Room Magazine Selects Rocky Pond Winery As A Top Wine Club Worth Joining

Washington Tasting Room Magazine selected Rocky Pond Winery as one of eight exceptional wine club to join in Washington for 2021-2022. The particularly noted that our club is best to join if you love Estate-grown wines from the Chelan & Columbia Valley AVA’s.

Rocky Pond Double-Gold from Seattle Wine Awards

Rocky Pond Estate Winery Earns High Scores at Seattle Wine Awards

Taking Home 97, 94, and 93 Points on Their Estate Wines

June 2021
*****

Rocky Pond Estate Winery, the Washington producer crafting wines from their beautiful and sustainably farmed riverside and lakeside estate vineyards, was honored with some of the highest scores in the competition at this year’s Seattle Wine Awards. This marks the second year in a row that this young producer has made a major impact on this annual event that features the best wineries in the Pacific Northwest.

“We are ecstatic to see three of our most highly sought-after wines earning some of the highest scores in the event again this year,” stated Owners and Founders David and Michelle Dufenhorst. “These high marks reinforce our dedication to produce compelling wines of character through innovative viticulture and winemaking techniques. The most exciting thing is that this is just the beginning. We are just now scratching the surface of the full potential of our LIVE Certified/Salmon Safe estate vineyards, with their unique microclimates and soils, in our beautiful section of the Columbia Valley. The future is bright!”

Founded in 2006, The Seattle Wine Awards is the largest and most prestigious wine competition in the state of Washington. Their tasting panel consists of the best and brightest wine professionals in the nation and include the region’s top Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers, wine buyers, wine directors, sommeliers, and wine journalists.

Rocky Pond Estate Winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Bordeaux Red Blend wines were submitted alongside hundreds of entries and tasted blind by the all-star panel – they results were nothing short of spectacular.

Taking the category, the 2017 Rocky Pond Estate Winery Double D Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve received an eye-popping 97 points – the highest-rated Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon in the competition – and was awarded Double Gold. Equally impressive, the 2017 Rocky Pond Estate Winery Malbec Reserve was awarded 94 points and earned Rocky Pond Estate Winery a second Double Gold on the day. Finally, in the heavy-hitting Bordeaux-Style Red Blends category, the 2017 Rocky Pond Estate Winery La Domestique Reserve was given 93 points.

You can find limited quantities of these critically acclaimed wines in the online marketplace at RockyPondWinery.com, by calling (425) 949-9044, or by visiting one of the Rocky Pond Estate Winery tasting rooms in Lake Chelan or Woodinville.

Wine Press Northwest

Rocky Pond Brings Home The Platinum

November 2020
*****

Rocky Pond Estate Winery garnered a total of 5 Awards in
WinePress Northwest Winter Judging Contest!

Platinum Medal Winner
2017 11 Dams Cabernet Sauvignon

Double Gold Medal Winners
2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
2017 Stratastone
2017 Syrah
2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

Gold Medal Winner
2017 Clos Chevalle Syrah
Browse all of Rocky Pond Estate Winery’s exceptional wines!

View Archived Press & Awards
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