Dedication from vine to wine

Erik Dahle is the award-winning winemaker and co-owner of Tasawik Vineyards in Washington State. Dahle is originally from Bergen, Norway.

Erik Dahle is the award-winning winemaker and co-owner of Tasawik Vineyards in Washington State. Dahle is originally from Bergen, Norway.

Erik Dahle from Bergen shares his love of wine at Tasawik Vineyards

By Christy Olsen Field

Norwegian American Weekly

Washington state is a premium wine producing region, ranking among the world’s top wine regions and the second largest wine producer in the United States.  With more than 32,000 acres planted, the state has the ideal geography and climate conditions for growing quality grapes. Winemakers from all over the world come to Washington to create wines reflecting this region’s unique characteristics, and these hand-crafted wines receive wide acclaim for their consistently high quality. Washington wines are found nationally in all 50 states and internationally in more than 40 countries.

One of Washington’s rising stars in the wine industry is Erik Dahle of Tasawik Vineyards. Tasawik Vineyards produces estate wines from their vineyard overlooking the Snake River in Walla Walla county in southeastern Washington. Dahle owns and operates Tasawik Vineyards with Sara Broetje. Tasawik’s vineyard was planted in 2003, and released their first estate vintage in 2005. Ever since, the award-winning wines of Tasawik Vineyards have impressed the palates of wine judges and wine lovers alike.

Erik Dahle

Erik Dahle has cultivated a lifelong interest in wine, but it was not always his plan to become an award-winning winemaker.

Dahle is a native of Bergen, Norway, and grew up in the suburb of Nesttun. After serving in the Norwegian military for two years, he came to the United States to complete his degree at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. Dahle graduated in 1994 with a degree in international business and finance, and remained in western Washington as he worked for IKEA Seattle as Logistics Manager. He married Sara Broetje in 1996.

The 7.5-acre Tasawik Vineyards sits on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Vineyards.

The 7.5-acre Tasawik Vineyards sits on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Vineyards.

Dahle always had an interest in making his own wine, starting with his first batch at the age of 18 made from grocery store grapes. He continued to make homemade wine, and was happily surprised to discover the richness and quality of Washington’s burgeoning wine country.

When approached by Broetje’s parents to move to eastern Washington to be Systems Manager for Broetje Orchards, Dahle saw it as an opportunity to pursue what he loved: wine.

To learn the art of making wine, Dahle took several courses. He took the University of California-Davis winemaking course through distance learning, and several courses in viticulture and enology from Washington State University. It was here that he learned the dedication from vine to the wine, and laid the foundations for quality of Tasawik wines.

About Tasawik Vineyards

Tasawik Vineyards, owned and operated by Dahle and Sara Broetje, is located on scenic bluffs overlooking the Snake River, about 18 miles northeast of where the Snake meets the Columbia River in Walla Walla county. The vineyard is named after the Palouse Indian village of the Tasawiks, which was located by the shores of the Snake below the vineyard site. Though no longer married, Dahle and Sara Broetje are strong business partners for Tasawik Vineyards.

The vineyard was planted on 7.5 acres in 2003 with their favorite varietals: Cabernet, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Vigonier. Tasawik’s focus is to produce premium grapes that reflect the unique terroir, or the unique environmental conditions, of their vineyard, while producing consistently well-rounded and balanced wine to truly taste the fruit. For their first release in 2005, Tasawik produced 600 cases of their wine. After a hailstorm ruined 90% of their crop in 2006, Tasawik rebounded with 1,300 cases for their 2007 vintage, and estimates 2,000 cases for the 2008 release.

In August 2008, Tasawik opened their tasting room at the Winemaker’s Loft in Prosser, Wash.

Hailstorm Red

Hailstorm Red

Hailstorm Red

Tasawik’s latest release is the 2006 Hailstorm Red, which is the result of a devastating hailstorm that swept through the vineyard in May 2006. The vineyards are on a high plateau above the Snake River, and its geographical location magnifies the effects of bad weather. After a heavy thunderstorm, a hailstorm swept through, ruining crops across the region.

The vineyard lost 90% of its crop as the hail cut right through the tender new shoots. The year’s crop resulted in very small berries, and a crop load of less than 0.4 tons per acre. A few farmers discouraged Dahle from harvesting, noting it could cost more to pick the berries than leave them on the vine. After consulting some experts, Dahle decided to harvest, and found the fruit to be vibrant in color and intensity.

“It was winemaking in its most basic sense: you pick the grapes, crush them, store them in barrels for a while, and then bottle it,” said Dahle.

The result is stunning, characterized by stronger tannins and more peppery flavors found in other vintages. Hailstorm Red is approximately 60% Cabernet and 40% Merlot, and the grapes were co-harvested and fermented, and primarily aged in new French oak barrels.

The label is a photo Dahle took from his vineyard of the approaching storm that created Hailstorm Red. With only 120 cases produced, the Hailstorm Red already a top seller in its first weeks after its release.

Tasawik Vineyards has a bright and vibrant future ahead. In 2009, Tasawik was awarded the Double Gold medal for their 2005 Reserve Bordeaux Blend, the Andy Markin Award at the Washington State Wine Competition for the Best Washington Merlot, as well as several other accolades and honors for their top-quality wines.

Tasawik Vineyards is expanding its distribution to wine stores across Washington, but the wines are also available for purchase through their tasting room in Prosser, Wash. as well as their online store at www.tasawikvineyards.com. Dahle notes he would someday like to export his wine to Norway to share the beauty and quality of Washington wines in the Norwegian market. In the meantime, he will continue to bring bottles of Tasawik wine for his annual visit home to Norway.

To learn more about Tasawik Vineyards and to place an order, please visit www.tasawikvineyards.com.

This article was originally printed in the Norwegian American Weekly on October 9, 2009. For more information about the Norwegian American Weekly or to subscribe call (800) 305-0217 or email subscribe@norway.com.

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