Whitestone Winery’s estate vineyard is located in the shadow of Whitestone Rock on the shores of Lake Roosevelt. The reservoir was created by the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River. Before the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam, the area currently around the vineyard was one of the most prolific vineyard and orchard regions in the state. With the construction of the Dam, the vineyards and orchards were inundated, and lost to time.
In the 1970’s, Walter Clore, recognized by the state of Washington as the “Father of Washington Wine,” performed a study on the Lower Lake Roosevelt Area. The conclusion of his research was that the area formed by the Grand Coulee Dam, stretching to the confluence of the Spokane River and Columbia River, was one of the best wine grape growing regions in the state. Nobody took action on his research, and like the inundated vineyards, his work seemed destined to be lost to time.
In 1992, Walter and Judy Haig were enjoying a nice glass of wine and entertaining friends on the deck of their Lake Roosevelt summer home. The conversation that night turned to the history of the land. The prior owners of the property had passed down a scrapbook from the original homesteader about the property. In the scrapbook was an old US Agriculture map identifying what crops were planted at the turn of the past century. To everyone’s shock, wine grapes were highlighted on the land where they sat.
Passionate about wine since the early seventies while living in Santa Barbara, the Haig’s contacted Washington State University’s viticulturist expert Robert Wample. Soon after, a history was uncovered, research was brought to light, and a journey started to grow and make some of the finest wines in the world.
Vineyard: Lake Roosevelt Shores Vineyard
Vineyard Location: 60 miles west of Spokane
16 miles north of Highway 2
29 miles behind Grand Coulee Dam
Appellation: Columbia Valley
Acres in Production: 5 acres Merlot
5 acres Cabernet Sauvignon
6 acres Cabernet Franc
Geography: South Slope
Rainfall: 12-13” annual
Temperature: Warm Summer Days
Cool Summer Nights
Soil Sandy Loam
Growing Season March to November
The site of our estate vineyard is distinctive for its microclimate perfect for growing Bordeaux varietal grapes. The vineyard has four well-defined seasons. Highlighted by our summer’s long sunny days and cool nights, that are created by the vineyard’s location and proximity to Lake Roosevelt, this provides the ideal conditions for balanced and mature fruit. The temperature differential from mid-September to early November is 10 to 15 degrees warmer at night than the areas away from the water. This allows for maximum hang time, allowing us to harvest the fruit only when it is ready.
Two years of research and preparation were put into the vineyard before a single vine was planted. Every care and consideration was taken into account from our nine-foot row spacing, to the orientation of the rows to best maximize airflow and sunlight. Each of our 21,000 vines was planted in a hand-augured hole over 30 inches deep to maximize water during the summertime and for freeze protection during the wintertime. Every effort in the vineyard is designed to deliver the best possible grapes for our wines.
Winery Name.................................Whitestone Winery
Winery Location...........................Eastern Washington
............................................................Hwy. 2 in Wilbur
After years of growing grapes and selling them to the wineries in Walla Walla and elsewhere around the state, the Haig family decided to start their own winery. The town of Wilbur was chosen because of its closeness to the vineyard, and its abundance of asphalt, water, and electricity. An old service station was renovated, and a small batch of Merlot was produced.
In 2004, the vineyard sold its last grape to another winery. Starting with the 2005 harvest, Lake Roosevelt Shores Vineyard fruit would only be available in Whitestone Wines.
July of 2005 saw the winery open up a small tasting room at the production facility in Wilbur. The old service station was again providing relief to the travelers of Highway 2. Since renovating the old service station in 2001, the winery has since expanded with a new barrel aging building and 10,000 square foot production facility. These expansions give us the perfect space and environment to craft, produce, and age our wines.
In April of 2009, Whitestone Winery opened up a brand new tasting room in downtown Spokane, WA. The new tasting room allows us to showcase our wines and our passion for winemaking in a downtown urban location. We take great pride in treating our guests to a first class tasting experience, from educational meet and greets with the winemaker, to live music the first Friday of every month. The Spokane Tasting room is open year round Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Noon to 6pm. The Wilbur tasting room is open Fridays and Saturdays 11am to 4pm Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Whitestone Winery is completely a family business. Michael Haig runs the vineyard and is the head winemaker. His parents, Walter and Judy, who started the operation, help out around the winery and vineyard (especially when it comes time to taste and blend). Michael’s wife, dogs, and cats serve as a Greek Chorus.
Michael Haig’s interest in winemaking and viticulture started when his parents, Walter and Judy Haig, discovered that their lake property was perfect for growing grapes. Mentored by Robert Wample, the sixteen-year old Michael got his start by helping set up and plant the Lake Roosevelt Shores Vineyard. As the vines grew and matured, so did Michael’s love and appreciation for the wine industry. While delivering the grapes to the wineries in Walla Walla, Michael was able to learn about winemaking from some of the best winemakers in Washington. When the time came for the family to start not just growing grapes, but producing wine, they did not have to look far for a winemaker. With professional degrees in Accounting and Economics, and over half his life spent in the wine industry, Michael is perfectly adept for the viticulture, winemaking and business aspects of the industry.
Our winemaking philosophy begins in the vineyard. Great wine comes from great fruit and it is the winemaker’s job to showcase the gifts of Mother Nature. We do not buy fruit from any other source, our wines are 100% Estate. We pick the fruit only when it is ready, and do not add anything to our must; we let nature balance our fruit for us. We small batch ferment all of our wine and treat each day’s lot as a unique expression of the vineyard. We utilize different fermentation practices, yeast strains, and barrels to create different blending components. What we strive to achieve is a wine of the highest quality, which reflects the uniqueness of our vineyard with complexity, depth, and balance.
2007 Washington Merlot of the Year
For our 2002 Merlot by Washington CEO Magazine
Concordance Gold & Best Red Blend
For Pieces of Red v.2.03 by Indy International Wine Competition
2008 Washington Wine of the Year
For Pieces of Red v.4.11 by the Compass Wines Newsletter
In addition, each of our different vintages of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc has won multiple Gold and Silver at the four largest wine competitions in the United States.