Tucker Cellars Winery
Tucker Cellars Winery
Tasting Room Hours:
Summer Hours - Daily 9 am - 5 PM
Our winery is a sociable, informal place, surrounded by a Red Heaven peach orchard. We also have a picnic area set among 20 different kinds of vinifera for those who enjoy sipping good wine in the warm Yakima sun. Please come by for a tasting! One of the family is always on hand to pour, answer questions, and listen to your comments.
Tuckers are one of Washington’s oldest grape-growing families. Dean Tucker, founder of Tucker Cellars near Sunnyside, took me home recently to meet his mother Vera and his brother Cliff.
Vera lives in a pretty, turn-of-the-century, white farmhouse, not far from where she and her late husband, Melvin (M.F.) used to sharecrop wine and table grapes for vinifera grape cultivation in the state of Washington.
Inside, I saw her face beaming under a shock of pearl-white hair, blocked only by a jungle of houseplants she advertises for sale on a sign outside. “We leased an orchard of apples when we came out here during “the Crash,” from Nebraska,” she recalls. “Apples didn’t work very well, so we signed on with Bridgman in about 1933.” Dean recalls that his dad still grew grapes there until 1946.
Vera popped off into a bedroom to find some photographs and she soon came back with browning pieces of ledger paper, dating back to the ‘30s and ‘40s. One from 1945 listed American varieties like Chasselas Rose, 30,115 lbs. Diana, 5,511 Brilliant, 3,051 etc., which netted about $55 per ton. European varieties included Muscat, 170,417 lbs. Riesling, 22,773 Malvoisie, 84,208 Semillon, 35,470 and Mr. X, 792 which netted $65. 19,071 pounds of currants that year brought in a whopping $300 per ton.
In 1962 they sold 1793 grade cuttings from their own place, including Pinot Noir, White (varietal researchers, please note) Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay.
Vera and Cliff laughed over a photograph of the Tucker family booth at the Valley Harvest Festival during the second World War. Cliff went to work as plant foreman for Bridgman’s Upland Winery in 1938 and worked on the road as the marketer/salesperson just after he was, before computers defined the position.
“Our best wines were usually Rieslings, Sauternes, and a Chateaux Rouge which was semi-sweet, “Cliff suggests. “We had fermenters on the top floor and the winery was built on the side of the hill. The only time I thought we were really in trouble was once when I reported for work and tripped over the new winemaker who was lying on the floor drunk.: He also recalls seeing Gallo’s tank trucks rolling up regularly in the 1950’s. The winery still stands on U.S. Grape property.
“I really liked a Zinfandel we made—I think we called it Burgundy,” he adds and Vera describes the berry clusters, one large with a little “baby” on the side. Cliff recalls clearly when Bridgman decided that research showed Johannisberg to be a better producer than Grey.
Bridgeman wasn’t happy with his first winemaker, but the next one stayed for about 20 years. Cliff recalls that wines were filtered for bottling from two huge stainless tanks, and he described the technical aspects of distilling Niagara and Delaware grape-alcohol.
Dean drove me back to his winery which he operates with his son Randy. The whole Tucker family operates a fruit stand on Ray Rd., and the winery is bursting out of it, demanding more space all the time. Before I left, he recalled how many valley growers pulled all their vinifera out in favor of Concords which produce grapes for jellies and juice.
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