Mike Sauer, son-in-law to Harold Stephenson and brother-in-law to Vern Stephenson, returned from college in 1970 to start farming the Stephenson land. Vern worked general farming while Mike wanted to experiment with wine grapes on some of the land that was less suitable for field crop.
The first grapes planted in 1971 were Concord grapes, while the first red wine grapes weren’t planted until 1973, just three acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, naming the vineyard “Red Willow”.
The legacy was born. In 1983, the state would recognize the Yakima Valley AVA in which Red Willow sits.
Mike is a pioneer in the grape growing industry in Washington. He realized that “wine grapes do best on poor soil and vines love the hillside”. That hillside he speaks of is home to an iconic landmark, their own hillside chapel, build from stones from the farm, deposited there from the Missoula floods.
Red Willow Vineyard has continued to be family owned with both of Mike’s sons Jonathan and Daniel, and son-in-law Rick working by his side making this a 4th generation farming family.
We harvest our Cab Franc and Merlot from the lower elevation Marcoux block and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Mercer block. What I love about this fruit is the great balance and nice structure, across the board!
Mike and Jonathan always take the time to visit when we visit the vineyard, they, along with their entire family are probably some of the most down to earth, kind and caring individuals we have ever been blessed to know.