Living Columns & Blogs

Northwest Wines: Thurston Wolfe wines consistently delicious and approachable

Everyone at Thurston Wolfe gets a wine. First is owner/winemaker Wade Wolfe (D.R. Wolfe’s Family Red), followed by wife and co-owner Becky Yeaman (Sweet Rebecca) and their son, Josh, (JTW’s Port).

Yeaman’s brother, Michael Yeaman (a geoscientist), is honored with The Geologist red blend. And even their dog, Chance, gets in on the action (Second Chance Rosé).

Wolfe’s Cabernet Sauvignon, called The Teacher, honors Stan Clarke. Clarke, a longtime Washington winemaker, viticulturist, educator and writer, died in 2007. He was Wolfe’s best friend, and he even introduced Wolfe and Yeaman when she was working at a Yakima Valley winery in the mid-1980s.

It’s all part of this small family operation in the Yakima Valley town of Prosser, where Wolfe has spent most of his career. He arrived in Washington in 1978 to work as a viticulturist for Chateau Ste. Michelle. He left in the mid-1980s to begin a consulting career, then went on to launch Thurston Wolfe in 1987 and later become general manager of Hogue Cellars until about a decade ago.

Across the board, Wolfe’s wines are consistently delicious and approachable. Here are several Thurston Wolfe reds we’ve tasted in recent weeks. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or call the winery at 509-786-3313.

Thurston Wolfe 2012 The Teacher Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $25: Dark plum, Bing cherry and blackberry aromas include mincemeat spices, forest floor, anise and chocolate. A taste brings smooth, round flavors of ripe cherries, blackberries and dark chocolate with a medium structure of fine-grained tannins.

Thurston Wolfe 2012 Zephyr Ridge Petite Sirah, Horse Heaven Hills, $20: Those who crave the power of this Rhône variety and enjoy the influence of oak will become enchanted as it opens with notes of dark toast, hazelnut, vanilla and coffee. Yet it’s supported by deep and darkly textured black fruit such as blackberry, poached plum and blueberry. The tannin structure is akin to a pugilist’s fist in a velvet glove.

Thurston Wolfe 2012 D.R. Wolfe’s Family Red, Horse Heaven Hills, $16: This is a fun blend of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Lemberger and Syrah. It carries a theme of Chukar Cherries from beginning to finish with aromas and flavors of cherries and milk chocolate, along with notes of dark plum and coffee. Smooth tannins and easy acidity give it a pleasingly medium weight to the structure.

Thurston Wolfe 2012 The Spaniard, Columbia Valley, $20: Taking inspiration from the Iberian Peninsula, Wade Wolfe blends Garnacha, Tempranillo and Syrah to create a juicy, food-friendly blend reminiscent of the Rioja. The nose of Rainier cherry, strawberry-rhubarb compote and Super Sweet 100 tomatoes includes a pinch of sage and a drizzle of molasses. On the palate, it brings dark cherry and black currant flavors.

Thurston Wolfe 2010 The Geologist, Washington, $50: Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec make up this premium blend that is filled with dark purple tones of dark cherry, blackberry, elderberry, chocolate, vanilla and dried herbs. It’s beautifully structured with notes of minerality, balanced tannins and a finish of Western serviceberry.

Thurston Wolfe 2012 Malbec, Horse Heaven Hills, $30: This wine is remarkably suave, dark and layered from start to finish, with aromas and matching flavors of black currant, blackberry, cola, fresh-baked brownie, coffee and crushed leaf. Sandy tannins and mountain berry acidity makes for a medium structure and easy finish.

Thurston Wolfe 2012 Howling Wolfe Zinfandel, Horse Heaven Hills, $20: The nose is full of black cherry pie and plum with hints of black olive, toasted oak, candied ginger and green peppercorns. A smooth entry carries along more cherry and plum flavors, joined by vanilla and Red Vines licorice.

Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at