Cayuse Vineyards ᛡ Christophe Baron took a circuitous route to Washington, beginning in Champagne where he was born into a family of vintners. When he was twelve years old, he was sent off to live with his uncle who ran Maison Baron Albert. His father would take him into the vineyards and his uncle showed him how to make wine. He spent three years at the Lycée Viticole D’Avize, where he was “a bad student”, and then transferred to Beaune which he found a revelation. From Champagne, where different villages, varieties and vintages are blended, he now found himself in a region where vineyard-designated, single varietal, single vintage wines and the whole concept of terroir are revered. He familiarised himself with Burgundy and its wines, worked at Chartron et Trebuchet in Meursault, and become an accolyte of the religion of terroir.
To improve his English, he went to work in Oregon, ending up at Waterbrook in Walla Walla. He longed to find somewhere to plant Pinot Noir but Walla Walla was too warm, so he went to the Willamette Valley to find a site and interned at Adelsheim. After this he travelled the world in search of his ideal site for Pinot Noir: to Barossa (?), Marlborough, and even Romania. In 1997, at the age of twenty-seven, having returned to Oregon to look for ten acres of land in the Willamette Valley on which to plant Pinot Noir, he stumbled across an orchard planted in a field that was littered with stones. The rocky terrain reminded him of the galette-strewn terroir of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and despite the general incomprehension and disbelief that met his announcement that he intended to buy it, that is more or less what he did. That particular site was not actually for sale, but in 1997 he bought a five-acre, run-down cherry orchard for $25,000 and shortly after leased two more sites.
He now has sixty-two acres of vineyards clustered around The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, a sub-appellation on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley AVA: ten vineyards over fifty-nine acres and an additional two-and-a-half acres on a steep hillside of the Blue Mountains. He has blazed a trail, for his own vineyards are now surrounded by others, the Rocks now one of the most coveted AVAs, producing some of the best wines made by Washington wineries.
He follows the principles of biodynamic farming with vines part of a broad ecosystem that includes farm animals. All the wines are made from estate vineyards. Cayuse is the flagship, but Christophe is lavishing attention on Horsepower (see later) and Hors Categorie as distinctly different site-driven entities.