What does tuna and Cabernet Sauvignon have in common?  Very little but it’s an excellent combination all be it not necessarily food and wine. Instead the combination is about vines and people. Big Tuna is my nickname for my good friend Dick Beightol. Dick owns Phinny Hill vineyard where we get much of our Cabernet Sauvignon and all our Carmenere grapes from. 

I guess the nick name requires some sort of explanation.  So gracious is Mr. Beightol that on each of my visits to his family’s vineyard, if the timing is right he offers me a tuna fish sandwich. Hence the name Big Tuna! Now I must admit that the timing of my arrival is nearly always deliberate. I know it sound terrible the thought that I make a conscious effort to intrude on the Beightol lunch but I swear they don’t mind and you have never had such a great tuna fish sandwich.  What makes it special? Well the fact is the tuna is from a special boat that line catches the tuna and the mercury levels are lower. It is simply made, but more over it is made by a good friend who is always smiling. I know it sounds corny but the sandwich is made with love and you can taste it.

Like his sandwich, Big Tuna and his family put such effort and joy into their vines you can taste it in our Phinny Hill wines. I enjoy working with such a great family and over the years they have been able to give us advice with our own vines. I even remember Dick driving all the way out from his home to help me fix some damaged pipes.  How he got here in an hour when it takes me an hour and 45 minutes to make the same trip I have never asked. 

Now you know about the people that produce Phinny Hill’s fruit I should mention the terrior.  Phinny Hill is situated in the Horse Heaven Hills a few miles north of the Columbia River.  Across the street lies Champoux vineyard. Such notable wineries as Quilceda Creek, Andrew Will, and Woodward Canyon own that vineyard and make amazing wines from their grapes.  Phinny Hill has the same depth of tannin and varietal correct character as Champoux vineyard.

What makes Phinny Hill fruit different is the abundance of gravel in the subsoil.  The soil has an amazing capacity to transport minerals into the vines. This makes a wine that is more elegant, showing finesse rather than brute force. This lends itself well to my style of winemaking.

Our Phinny Hill wines are not simply about the geology, climate, and geography but also about the culture of my friends at Phinny Hill who work the land with pride. They are about our relationship. The care they take in the vineyard makes me do a better job in the cellar.

Cheers to the good folks at Phinny Hill.

Ryan Raber

Tertulia Cellars

Winemaker