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Terlato Buys Klipsun
A Red Mountain landmark changes hands

Patricia and David Gelles named their Red Mountain vineyard Klipsun after the Chinook word for sunset. They bought the 227-acre lot in 1982, planting it in 1984.

The vineyard quickly became known for growing firm, concentrated cabernet sauvignon, and the 120 acres of grapevines now contribute to wines from Quilceda Creek, DeLille, Mark Ryan, Col Solare, L’Ecole No. 41 and other producers.

The sun has set on the Gelles era at Klipsun: On April 14, the Gelleses sold their vineyard to the Illinois-based Terlato Wines International.

Initially a wine importer and marketer, Terlato has broadened its business to include vineyards and winemaking, purchasing Rutherford Hill Winery in 1996, Chimney Rock Winery in 2000 and Sanford Winery in 2002. Klipsun is Terlato’s first acquisition in Washington State.

John Terlato John Terlato
“My passion for farming and for grape growing and wine growing stemmed from the purchase of the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard,” explained John Terlato, vice chair of Terlato Wines International. “I found myself spending the majority of my time talking about farming, grape growing and winemaking. It affected my view of the business. It gave me a deeper understanding of the role of the vineyard to making great wine.

“If you asked me ten years ago about the role of grape growing in making great wine, I would have said it’s 75 percent growing to 25 percent what happens in the cellar. Today, I would say up to 95 percent in favor of farming.

“We’ve been interested in Red Mountain for some time,” he added, acknowledging that his brother and Terlato Wines International CEO Bill Terlato identified Klipsun as a target for acquisition over a year ago. “We were waiting for the right opportunity.”

Terlato bought 20 tons of grapes from Klipsun during the 2016 vintage, which were vinified by Brian Carter of Brian Carter Cellars in Woodinville. Carter will remain as their winemaker.

Terlato plans to plant another 30 to 40 acres on Klipsun, and has already acquired the water rights to do so. They’ve hired Dick Boushey to manage the vineyard crew, and have retained Julia Kock, Klipsun’s vineyard manager since 2005.

In the meantime, Terlato plans to continue to sell fruit to Klipsun’s current customers.

As for Patricia Gelles, she says she’s not retiring, and plans on consulting for other vineyards.

“I will probably stay in the business in some way, shape or form,” she says. “Thirty-five years is a long time to be in the business and it is not easy to just walk away.”

This is a W&S web exclusive feature.