Force Majeure Vineyards was originally called Grand Reve. It was founded in Woodinville, near Seattle, in 2004. It was a collaboration between businessman Paul McBride and vineyard manager Ryan Johnson. Johnson had spent a decade managing vineyards in Eastern Washington’s prestigious Red Mountain AVA and he and McBride wanted to focus on Rhone-style varietals. Grand Reve, which means “great dream” in French, was soon winning raves and ratings in the mid-90s from Wine Advocate and other reviews. McBride and his wife Susan then changed the winery name to Force Majeure, and they’ve hired winemaker Todd Alexander to oversee winemaking. Alexander was previously winemaker at Bryant Family Vineyard in Napa Valley. More recently McBride and Johnson have also started a project they call the “collaboration” series in which guest winemakers make wines from Red Mountain grapes. Jeb Dunnick of Wine Advocate has called Force Majeure “One of my favorite estates in Washington… The focus here is always Red Mountain fruit, with grapes pulled mostly from the crème de la crème Ciel du Cheval vineyard, and increasingly from their estate Force Majeure Vineyard as more and more plots come online.”
Yakima Valley AVA was the first AVA created in Washington State. The valley, a 600,000-acre area in south central Washington, was granted AVA status in 1983. In 1984 Columbia Valley was given AVA status, and Yakima Valley was enclosed within the Columbia Valley AVA. Nevertheless, Yakima Valley remains home to the largest concentration of vineyards and wineries in the state. There are more than 60 wineries and some 16,000 vineyard acres, and nearly 40% of Washington wines are made with Yakima Valley grapes. The most frequently planted grape is Chardonnay, followed by Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Winemaking here dates to 1869, when a winemaker from Alsace planted grape vines. Vineyard planting and wine production plodded along slowly until the early 1980s when numerous modern pioneers started making well-reviewed Yakima Valley wines. Some of the state’s newest, most closely watched appellations, including Red Mountain AVA and Horse Heaven Hills AVA, are contained within Yakima Valley.
One of the most widely grown grape varieties, it can be found in nearly every wine growing region. A cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a hardy vine that produces a full-bodied wine with high tannins and great aging potential.