About Clearwater Canyon Cellars:
Education paved the way for success at Clearwater Canyon Cellars. Karl was awarded an undergraduate degree in Chemistry (University of Arkansas) and a Masters in Soils (University of Idaho). Coco earned undergraduate degrees in Microbiology, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (University of Idaho) and a Ph.D. in Food Science (Washington State University) within the enology and viticulture program. Our education allows us to truly understand grape growing and wine making.
In 2004, they were among four couples that originally founded Clearwater Canyon Cellars. For the first three vintages the winery operated out of a garage in the Lewiston Orchards. They produced their first commercial wine, the “2004 Renaissance Red,” a blend of about 100 cases with grapes harvested from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA in Washington. They continue to produce a Renaissance Red blend every year. The first of their local grapes were harvested in 2005 to produce a Merlot made entirely from grapes grown at Umiker Vineyard in Lewiston. Since then, they have produced many blends and stand-alone varietals grown in the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA, Horse Heaven Hills AVA, Rattlesnake Hills AVA, and Yakima Valley AVA.
In 2007, they made the move to a commercial location in the Port of Lewiston. Then in 2010, after years of many great vintages, the founding members of Clearwater Canyon Cellars went their separate ways and encouraged Karl and Coco to continue. Driven by their desire to work together each day toward the goal of producing ultra-premium wines from Lewis-Clark Valley fruit, they now solely operate Clearwater Canyon Cellars.
2016 was a banner year for Clearwater Canyon! The support of their ardent fans made it possible for them to move the winery to a state of the art facility on Coco’s Family’s Century Farm and the home of their Estate Umiker Vineyard. Coco and Karl represent the fourth generation to tend the land. It is a dream come true to now have the winery and vineyard all in the same location and on the farm that continues to be a special place for their family.
Clearwater Canyon Cellars’ Major Achievements:
2015 Idaho Winery of the Year from Wine Press Northwest
‘King/Queen of Platinum Awards’ from Wine Press Northwest
They’ve currently won 10 double platinum/platinum awards
Their Phinny Hill Carmenère has earned platinum or double platinum 4 vintages in a row (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014).
In 2014 CCCellars was the only winery to place two wines within the top 23 of ‘Great Northwest Wines Top 100’.
Their 2013 Selway Blend double gold and 97 points, tying it for the 19th highest rated wine in the world at the 2016 San Francisco International Wine Competition.
From the Winemaker: Coco Umiker
I was 22 when I scraped together the money to break ground on the Umiker Estate Vineyard (on my family’s 100 year old wheat farm) with my husband Karl Umiker. A year later, in 2004, we started Clearwater Canyon Cellars with three other couples by investing every last cent we had. That same year I juggled being winemaker for our first commercial vintage at Clearwater Canyon with working 100 miles away as a cellar worker and lab manager at Whitman Cellars in Walla Walla, Washington. I gained a great deal of experience that vintage and made some lifelong friends in the Northwest wine scene. In January of 2005 I left Whitman Cellars to begin work on my doctorate at Washington State University. As it turns out, WSU is approximately 30 miles from Lewiston. This allowed me to remain close to my small winery and vineyard. When I had time to break away from the rigors of research and classes I could spend it with Karl in our growing vineyard and cellar. Managing operations at a commercial winery and vineyard while studying enology and viticulture helped take my learning to great heights. My doctorate research and winery project me to dive deeper into the details of my winemaking and work to answer research questions that are relevant and practical to the industry.
Through my doctoral research I became one of the worlds few experts on Brettanomyces bruxellensis. This doesn’t make me very cool at parties but if you are battling with Brettanomyces in your winery you might find this interesting. This niche allowed me to share my research through scholarly presentations at national and international wine industry conferences such as the Internation Cool Climate Symposium, Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers annual meets, and American Society for Enology and Viticulture annual meeting. Possibly one of the most interesting opportunities my research brought was an invitation to teach my research techniques to the Chilean wine industry in 2006. In Chile I was able to give lectures and hands-on instruction on methods of detection and management of Brettanomyces. I met wonderful people while working that were gracious enough to guide Karl and I through several Chilean wine region to get an in-depth look at their techniques and styles of viticulture and enology. As my research progressed so too did the winery.
As my Ph.D. was wrapping up I took a faculty position at Lewis Clark State College teaching in the Division of Natural Sciences teaching Microbiology. It was a wonderful experience that was difficult to let go of in 2012 when the winery became demanding enough that it required the 100% focused attention of both Karl and myself. Karl was able to leave his day job as a research scientist in soil science at University Of Idaho a year earlier. We now spend our days driven by our desire to work together each day toward the goal of producing ultra-premium wines.
Vineyard Manager is Karl Umiker
Lewis-Clark Valley AVA
Clearwater Canyon spearheaded the establishment of Lewis-Clark Valley American Viticultural Area approved in April 2016. This AVA is the first to encompass land in both Idaho and Washington. The Umikers also got to enjoy the media attention of being awarded of ‘2015 Idaho Winery of the Year’ and Coco being the 536th recipient of the Washington State University Alumni Achievement Award in November 2017.