Col Solare in the mist

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From my visit last Friday to Red Mountain, this was one of the first photos I took. This is Col Solare, co-owned by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Marchesi Antinori.

It was so foggy on this day that I came upon Col Solare unexpectedly, even though I’ve driven up Antinori Road a hundred times.

Hedges Cellars

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Hedges was the first grand winery on Red Mountain. It paved the way, if you will, for the likes of Terra Blanca, Col Solare and Kiona to build beautiful wineries on Washington’s smallest appellation. Took this photo Friday morning amid frosty, foggy conditions.

Frosty grapes on Red Mountain

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Sub-freezing temperatures, frost and fog Friday on Washington’s Red Mountain made for beautiful conditions. We found this leftover cluster of wine grapes.

Old soldier at Ciel du Cheval

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I was out on Red Mountain on a recent sunny afternoon and took a photo of this vine at Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, one of the ridge’s oldest and most venerable vineyards.

As you can see, the vine is all pruned and awaiting bud break.

Naked vines on Red Mountain

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I was up on Red Mountain late last week. It was a beautiful spring day, and I wanted to check out how close the vines were to bud break. Most looked like they were at least a week or two away from showing any green. This was taken near Hedges Cellars.

Stolen Red Mountain grapes still a mystery

Remember those grapes stolen last fall on Red Mountain? They created quite a stir, and they remain a mystery to this day, said Ryan Johnson, vineyard manager and partner at Grand Reve Vineyard high on Red Mountain.

Back in September, Johnson discovered that someone stole about $4,000 worth of Mourvedre - a little more than a ton of the rare grapes - in the middle of the night. They were destined for Syncline Cellars in the Columbia Gorge.

Today, Johnson still doesn’t know who took the grapes, but he does have a sense of humor about the situation.

"We need to thank them for all the great PR," he said. "We chuckle about it, but we also want to beat the crap out of them."

He said he has taken precautions to ensure it never happens again. While he wouldn’t tip his hand, he did joke about land mines.

"Whoever did it has heard about it," he said. "Everyone in the industry took it personally, as well. I think whoever did it will take their secret to their grave."

He marvels at how cleanly the thieves picked the grapes, especially since it was done in the middle of the night, and he added that he’d like to hire the crew to pick grapes - legitimately - because of the great job it did.

Whitman Cellars goes 404

Since being seized by the Walla Walla County sheriff on Jan. 28 for defaulting on more than $2 million in loans, Whitman Cellars has quickly disappeared.

First went its Facebook page, which basically vanished within a few days. Now its website has gone offline. Here is a cache of its history page.

Meanwhile, winemaker Steve Lessard, who had a 5% stake in Whitman, has moved on. Fortunately for him, he and longtime friend Randall Hopkins had launched Corvus Cellars as a side project in 2005 and opened a tasting room last fall at the Walla Walla airport.

I’ve known Steve for about 15 years, back when he first moved to Washington from California and was winemaker for Hedges Cellars on Red Mountain. He’s sort of come full circle, as Corvus’ estate vineyard is on Red Mountain. Last week, I chatted with Steve about the downfall of Whitman and the future of Corvus. We’ll have that video and story in the next couple of days.

Meanwhile, RIP Whitman Cellars. We are sad to see you go.