In 1980, Jeff Gordon, along with his wife, Vicki and brother Bill decided to plant wine grapes on a sagebrush-covered slope overlooking the Snake River in southeastern Washington’s Columbia Valley.
Family owned and operated since 1983, producing consistent premium-quality wines that are exclusively the product of our estate
In 1985, he released his first small lot of Chardonnay wine produced from their estate vines, and today the Gordon Estate brand is growing in both production and acclaim.
Before planting the vineyard, Jeff sought out the expertise of Dr. Walter Clore, the “Father of Washington Wine.” Together the two inspected a 200-acre parcel of sagebrush-covered land near the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. Dr. Clore strongly approved of the land that would soon become Gordon Brothers.
At the time the vineyard was planted, there were 19 wineries in Washington and less than 5,000 acres of winegrapes in production. Jeff and Vicki quickly fell in love with the camaraderie of the small, but remarkably supportive winemaking community. Now, the Washington wine industry has grown to over 1000 wineries and 50,000+ acres of winegrapes, but the Washington industry still maintains its solidarity.
Along the way, there have been a few changes. In 1998 Jeff’s brother Bill retired. That same year a new wine production facility was built on the vineyard that greatly centralized all aspects of the winemaking process. In 2001, Jeff’s daughter and son-in-law, Katie and Marc Nelson, joined the family business. Marc manages the estate vineyard and cherry orchard. He works closely with the winemaking team on new varieties and management practices to constantly innovate and elevate the quality of Gordon Estate wines. Katie assists with farm and winery management.
In 2012, as things in the business and wine industry continued to evolve, the family decided it was time to implement a comprehensive brand audit. They believe that in order to remain competitive in an ever-changing industry, it is important to keep in touch with those who support your brand. It was through this communication with consumers, media and trade that the decision was made to change the brand name from Gordon Brothers to Gordon Estate.
In 2019, Gordon Estate was happy to announce they would be joining Bartholomew Winery, Palencia Wine Company-Monarcha Winery, and Cave B Estate Winery at the Columbia Gardens Wine & Artisan Village in the Port of Kennewick. They will open a tasting room at that location in February of 2020. Along with wine tasting, the village features local artists and food trucks.
A native of Washington State, Jeff Gordon was born in St. John near Spokane, Washington. The son of a farmer, Jeff worked the family dry-land farm where the Gordons grew wheat, barley and peas. Adept behind the wheel of a tractor by the age of ten, Jeff never got the soil out from under his fingernails. As a student in the 1960s, Jeff understood that the life of the American farmer was at a crossroads. Love for the land and the pride in the work were no longer enough. Modern farming required business acumen and scientific know-how. Jeff graduated from Washington State University in 1971 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture.
In 1973, Jeff began working for a major Washington State agricultural corporation. However, he was unhappy with the corporate obsession with the bottom line that sacrificed quality for quantity. Inspired by the buzz surrounding the Washington wine industry, Jeff became one of a handful of pioneers forging a new direction for Washington wines. In 1980, Jeff began planting wine grapes on a sagebrush covered slope overlooking the Snake River in Washington’s Columbia Valley. Much to the bemusement of local and fellow farmers, Jeff made a bold decision to plant red grape varietals. “We thought red grapes would work. We took a chance. It was the right thing to do.”
In addition to founding Gordon Estate, Jeff was also instrumental in the development of Washington State University’s Enology and Viticulture program. Jeff proudly served from 2005-2007 as Chairman on the Washington Wine Commission and was the first president of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers.
Marc Nelson grew up in the small town of Ephrata, located in central Washington state. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Technology & Management from Washington State University in 1998. He married Katie Gordon in 1999, and they joined the family business in 2002.
Marc is fascinated with winegrowing and being able to influence the quality of the wine by virtue of what he does in the vineyard is very rewarding. Marc understands wine quality begins in the vineyard, and he is determined to deliver the highest quality fruit to the winery. Marc believes in a conservationist approach to the wine growing, “We try to minimize our inputs and minimize cultivation to conserve soil structure and soil microbiology.
He is constantly working to hone his sustainable management practices.He works closely with the wine maker’s input to fine tune pruning, canopy management, fruit thinning, and water stress for flavor development and focusing varietal character.His diligence and drive is instrumental to the quality of Gordon Estate wines.
In addition to winegrapes, Marc grows cherries and organic alfalfa on the property. Marc is an avid bowhunter, loves the outdoors, and enjoys spending time with his family. Marc & Katie have three sons: Isaac, Max & Luke.
Jeff & Vicki Gordon’s daughter, Katie, grew up with the vineyard and winery. So it was only fitting that after she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics from Washington State University in 1998, she lend her talent to the family farm and winery.
Before returning to the family operation, she worked as Communications & Government Affairs Coordinator for the Washington State Potato Commission for three years. During that time, she married Marc Nelson. In 2002 Marc and Katie moved on to join the family business.
She is now an integral part of the winery operation, overseeing branding and operations. Katie graduated from the Washington AgForestry Leadership Program in 2018. She’s a member of the Government Affairs Committee for the Washington Winegrowers, on the Board of Directors for TRIDEC, and on the Advisory Council for WSU Tri-Cities. Katie is passionate about her community, agriculture, and the WSU Cougars. Katie and Marc have three sons: Isaac, Max & Luke.
Jeff Gordon’s decision to plant red varietals in the mid-80s was considered ill-advised by the conventional wisdom of the locals, but time and a beautiful array of estate-grown wines has proven that his decision was correct.
The land itself, and the Gordon Estate tradition of respectfully nurturing its full potential, has always been central to the success of the winery. The vineyard is sustainably farmed and the surrounding cherry orchards and cropland are certified organic.
With a unique volcanic soil breakdown that includes basalt, sandy loam, clay loam and gravelly loam, the earth of the Gordon Estate vineyard produces grapes of great depth and intensity.
The south-facing site is perched some 620 feet above sea-level along the Snake River. The vineyard has excellent air drainage and benefits from the river’s moderating influence. The vines are sometimes blanketed by snow in the winter, but spring and summer offer sunshine and warmth allowing the grapes to ripen completely. Temperatures during the growing season can fluctuate from 95 degrees Fahrenheit the day to 55 degrees Fahrenheit at night, enabling the grapes to develop high acids and high sugar levels.
Gordon Estates VineyardsWith an absence of phylloxera in Washington, all of the Gordon Estate vines grow on their own rootstock yielding ‘true’ grape varietals. Typical vine spacing is 6’ by 10’, and vertical shoot positioning is applied to maximize sun exposure. Thanks to an abundance of water from wells near the shores the Snake River, the vineyard is amply supplied for irrigation.
The majority of the 104 acre estate vineyard is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Syrah, with smaller lots of Gewurztraminer, Tempranillo, Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah.