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Making History in the Yakima Valley

Tucker Cellars Tasting Room has assembled its wine history with artifacts from the Wine Industry in the Yakima Valley. The time line starts at the geological formation of the Appellation that makes it a premier wine area, then onto 1869 with French winemaker Charles Schanno from Alsace, France planting the first grape vines in the Yakima Valley with cuttings from a vineyard in The Dalles and from the Hudson’s Bay Company outpost in Vancouver. Vineyards planted in the 30’s by Vera and Melvin Tucker were added to by son Dean and wife Rose.  Presently, the winery and vineyards are run by 3rd generation Tuckers, Randy and Debbie. 



History of the Tucker Family in the Yakima Valley

Home to the Yakama Indian Tribes, the first white men to see and visit the Columbia Basin and the eastern end of the Yakima Valley were Lewis and Clark on their expedition to find a route to the west coast. They passed through the area where the Yakima River, Snake and Columbia all joined, on or about October 17, 1805. They stopped briefly at the confluence of the Yakima and the Columbia, although they did not proceed upriver. The river was then known to local Native Americans as 'Tap Teel', although the area has been inhabited since prehistory

A French Winemaker from Alsace-Lorraine named Charles Schanno is credited with planting the first vines in the Yakima Valley area in 1869. Schanno purchased cuttings from a vineyard in The Dalles, Oregon and the Hudson’s Bay Company outpost at Fort Vancouver and hand carried them back to the Yakima Valley.     

 In the early 20th century, an attorney  named William Bridgman pioneered the modern wine industry in the Yakima Valley. Bridgman helped draft some of the state's earliest irrigation laws for wine growing and planted his first vineyard in 1914. Many of the vineyards established in the Yakima Valley during this period came from Bridgman's cuttings.

Following the repeal of Prohibition Bridgman opened Upland Winery. He influential in promoting the use of varietal labeling for wines made in the Yakima Valley, including the state's first dry Riesling, after the Alsace manner of making Riesling.

     melvin Having moved from Nebraska after “the Crash” to the Yakima Valley, Melvin and Vera Tucker sharecropped wine and table grapes for Bridgman from about 1933 until 1946. Sons Dean and Clifford continued their parents’ love of and involvement with the wine grape; Dean as a grower and later starting a winery, and Clifford as a marketing and salesperson for Bridgman’s Upland Winery.

From the 1930’s it was known that the Yakima Valley was suited for growing great vinfera grapes.  Prohibition slowed down the development of the wine industry, and then World War II also had its impact.  After the change in the State’s laws in the 50’s allowing wine to be sold other than in a tavern or liquor store, the land meant for grapes would no longer be silenced.

One big asset for the wine industry in Washington Sate dates back to 1917 when the Washington State Legislature passed an act setting aside 200 acres of sagebrush desert  to become an agriculture research center known as the Irrigation Branch Experiment Station (today known as the IRAEC. Under Walter Clore, horticulturist, and his  guidance and vision, the Center expanded into grape growing and vinifera grape plantings. Research from the Center would become vital to the growing Washington wine industry. dean

In the 1980s the Yakima Valley saw a boom in the plantings of new vineyards and the openings of new wineries, among the first being Tucker Cellars Winery in 1981.

 When Tucker Cellars Winery started 29 years ago, there were 2 varieties of grapes grown and made into wine – Chenin Blanc and Riesling.  With Randy Tucker and wife Debbie assuming ownership of the winery, the Family of Wines has grown to over 15 varieties, always honoring the flagship wine grapes started by grandfather Melvin and father Dean Tucker. 


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