Côte Bonneville: Patience, Humility, and Terroir in Washington Wine Country

Posted March 30, 2015

Stephen Fahy DWS


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It’s hard to believe that over a week has elapsed since my fateful visit to Dubrul Vineyard.

Hugh and Kathy Shiels took ownership of Dubrul Vineyard vineyard - situated at the foot of Rattlesnake Hills in Washington’s oldest viticultural region, the Yakima Valley - in the early 1990s, and  in the face of vociferous protest from the experts at the time. The model back then (and, to a large extent, today) dictated that vignerons grew the fruit, and winemakers bought and made wine from it. But the Shiels held onto an estate model, in which the owners grew their own wine grapes and made their owns wine from it. Not only did they believed it possible, they were confident that it would yield magical wine.

They were right.

Polished, poised, powerful and teeming with personality, Côte Bonneville’s estate model has been paying off for years. Last week I got to taste through their current releases, and I was struck by a few things. First and most obvious was the character that shone through these wines. Second was the fact that Côte Bonnevile holds back their wines until they feel they are ready to drink as evidenced by the fact that their current flagship wine is from the 2008 vintage (although I was able to score their magnificent 2007) while most wineries up and down the West Coast are into their 2012’s!

"I brought in several of the Côte Bonneville wines because they captured the patience, terroir, and humility that most wineries (and winemakers) lack."

Best of all, the vineyard boasts marvelous riches that could only be understood by taking a Hugh Shiels-led vineyard tour in his enormous Chevy Suburban. Ancient Floods, 1200 feet high, that rose and roared through the area; volcanic activity that pushed and pulled subterranean plates; a clashing of vineyard aspect that tricked and teased with random changes in soil type and required a parental-level of care and attention; all of these things coalesced to create a distinct, and thoroughly impressive terrior.

Côte Bonneville and their Dubrul Vineyard shook up the establishment when it was the first winery in the area to charge over $100/bottle, but considering the Grand Cru-like status of this vineyard site, I am surprised pricing hasn’t doubled (shhhh!).

I brought in several of the Côte Bonneville wines because they captured the patience, terroir and humility that most wineries (and winemakers) lack. Côte Bonneville wines are at once cerebral and sublime, making them classic interpretations of varietal and terroir. As artfully explained by Kathy Shiels, Yakima and much of Southeastern Washington is an area of generational farmers. Once the Shiels discovered how to listen to and train their land, in all its multi-faceted greatness, they proved over and again the greatness of their wines.

Check out what I brought back from Washington State and Côte Bonneville and enjoy a slice of history with me. Cheers!


Hugh and Kathy Shiels


Stephen C. Fahy, DWS is the Sales Director and a Wine Buyer at the Wine Library. Prior to this, Stephen managed the buying and sales initiatives for stores large and small in both New Jersey and Manhattan. In addition, Stephen sold to some of Manhattan’s top restaurants and retailers while a Wine and Spirits Consultant for Importer/Distributor, WINEBOW.