After helping to create animated films like Shrek and Monsters, Inc., Thane Hawkins transitioned to a career in wine-making and founded Hawkins Cellars in 2007 with his first bottling of Oregon Pinot Noir.
A decade later, Hawkins, along with vineyard owner and business partner Debra Michelson, have opened a new tasting room on Underwood Mountain, and will harvest their first acre of Pinot Noir grapes this fall.
Underwood Mountain is a premium grape-growing region for Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. Nearby winery AniChe Cellars and the prestigious Celilo Vineyards have helped put Underwood Mountain on the radar of both wine enthusiasts and winemakers.
“We’re thrilled to bring more attention to Underwood Mountain and invite visitors to taste our wines sourced from some of the region’s best vineyards in Eastern Washington and Oregon,” said Hawkins. “We believe that Underwood Mountain has tremendous potential and will one day stand on par with the Willamette Valley as the country’s premier cool climate growing region.”
As an avid skier, hiker and climber, Hawkins has always been drawn to the Columbia River Gorge to enjoy the outdoors.
Once he started traveling east of the Cascade Mountains, his visits to vineyards in eastern Washington rekindled his enthusiasm for big red style wines.
“Once I discovered the region’s potential for Rhone varietals like Syrah and Viognier, I was hooked.” He adds, “The Gorge fits my winemaking personality because within a 40-mile radius you can source everything from cool climate Pinot to Cabernet Sauvignon.”
As for his career pivot, despite obvious differences, Hawkins sees many similarities. “Everyday I get to do something that’s creative, challenging and connected to the earth. Both my careers have required a blend of creativity, science and problem solving that takes a unique type of personality. But, wine-making also requires a sixth-sense that is only developed over many vintages. I feel like I’m just scratching the surface.”
The new Underwood location features a winery and tasting room that is open seasonally. Majestic views of Mt. Hood rise behind the one-acre Cloud Cap vineyard planted with Pinot Noir grapes.
Visitors can enjoy wine tasting on the expansive lawn with a picnic, a game or two of croquet and for now, a peaceful, under-the-radar wine region.
“There is so much potential in this region, and I hope one day we have a designated Underwood Mountain AVA,” says Hawkins. “We’re surrounded by award-winning vineyards and enjoy temperatures at our higher elevation (1,400 feet) that are perfect for growing cool climate varietals.”
The new Underwood Mountain tasting room follows on the success of Hawkins Cellars’ popular Dundee, Ore., tasting room, which was recently recognized by Travel + Leisure Magazine as one of the “Top Vineyards Around the US.”
“I was astonished that our small winery would garner this type of national recognition,” says Hawkins. The Dundee tasting room is open Thursday to Sunday and hosts a variety of tastings and events such as live music in the outside courtyard.
Founded in 2007, owner and winemaker Thane Hawkins sources fruit from both the Willamette Valley and Columbia Valley in eastern Washington for his award-winning wines reflecting Rhone-style varietals such as Syrah, Viognier, and Mourvédre, as well as Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. After working harvest at Wine by Joe, in 2007 Methven Family Vineyards hired Hawkins to be their assistant winemaker.
While working at Methven, he had the opportunity to produce a small quantity of his own wine and Hawkins Cellars was founded.
Today, Hawkins continues to work closely with the most recognized growers in both Oregon and Washington to produce small lots of handcrafted wines with distinctive varietal character. Hawkins Cellars offers a year-round Club Cuvée wine club with three annual wine deliveries and special member events and discounts.
The Underwood tasting room, located at 10401 Cook-Underwood Road, is open during the summer Thursday to Sunday from noon to 6 p.m., and seasonally through Thanksgiving weekend.
For more information, call 503-554-9885.