Aanpama Dream

Peggy shares her dream that became reality as Sundale Vineyard and Ranches.

When I was six years old, I would lie on my back in the grass dreaming of a special property, with rimrock behind, a river in front, and rolling land between. I drew this picture in my mind over and over as a child.

In 1986, my family home burned. One of the only things salvaged from the home was the center of one of the burned packed boxes that, during the fire, had fallen from the attic all the way down to the basement. This box held what was left of my scrapbooks, and in the center of the burnt remains was a singed drawing of the land I had dreamed about ever since I was a six-year-old kid.

In 1997, I began looking for this property that I had in my head. I started in Prineville, Madras, and Bend, and all through Central Oregon thinking that was where it would be. One day I was flying up the Gorge with a friend in his Cessna to his private airstrip in Skamania. I told him about my search and that I hadn’t found my ranch yet. He suggested that I go further up the river past Lyle and Goldendale, because he thought what I was describing existed up there.

The next weekend I drove up to Goldendale and went into the local real estate office. They said they didn’t have anything except for a barren piece of land with no water, no power, and no road. They said it was too far for them to go with me. I was fine with that so I headed up there alone. When I pulled up onto the property, it was the exact land I had drawn over and over when I was six. I had found my ranch.

What I didn’t know when I bought the property was how big four hundred and twenty acres really is. I didn’t realize that my property extended to the canyon to the east. A year after I bought it, I learned from the previous owner that my property included Old Lady Canyon. Documented in the books Undaunted Courage by Steven E. Ambrose and Seeking Western Waters: The Lewis and Clark Trail from the Rockies to the Pacific by H. K. Beals, Meriwether Lewis, Ruth Strong, and Emory M. Strong, Old Lady Canyon has historic significance. Lewis and Clark had breakfast on my property at the mouth of the canyon where it flows into the Columbia River. They ate smoked fish with an old Indian lady.

The folklore in the region has two origin stories for the name of Old Lady Canyon. The most recent story concerns the Indian woman who was a matriarch of the Indian tribes. She had her encampment in this canyon. As the story goes, young men that were sons of chiefs were sent to spend a summer with the old lady in the canyon before each one took on the role of a chief. The old Indian woman’s grave is next to the canyon.

The earlier story is about a herd of horses. The whole region where my Sundale Ranch and the Old Lady Canyon is called Horse Heaven Hills. Early in the 1800s, there were herds of horses that ran these hills. A matriarch mare led the herd that lived and ran Old Lady Canyon, which is very uncommon. For several decades, this mare took the stallion’s position at the head of the herd.

The wine of Aanpama Vineyard is produced from grapes that grow cuddled between the rimrock and the river, which creates a microclimate where Sangiovese grapes thrive. Sangiovese is unique in that it requires a longer growing season and higher heat units than most grape varietals; this location provides all of that, so the grapes grow very well here. The name “Aanpama” comes from a local Klickitat Indian tribe’s word for “sundial” which refers to Sundale, where the ranch is located. Whether Sundale or sundial, the area gets plenty of sunshine and only nine inches of precipitation annually.

I believe the ranch and Old Lady Canyon found me. So raise your glasses and cheers to the history of the region, to the old lady, to the horses, to a good glass of wine, and to the joy that it gives you!