Liminal Greatness: The Fruits of WeatherEye


The WeatherEye sites are planted entirely above the Missoula flood plain (over 1200 feet) atop Red Mountain. Ryan Johnson, whose long years of vineyard experience include 15 years at Ciel du Cheval and the planting of the Force Majeure vineyard, did the unique design and layout for this stunning site. Cameron Myrhvold purchased the land almost 20 years ago and encouraged and supported the notion that grapes could thrive in such a windy, rather desolate, high elevation location.

Todd Alexander initially moved north from serving as Bryant Family winemaker in Napa to take over the winemaking at nearby Force Majeure. He is now responsible for those wines as well as several other brands, including the estate wines from WeatherEye.

The Red Mountain AVA stops at the ridgeline, but the vineyard climbs over the top and continues on the north side of the mountain. “Not quite half the vineyards are on the north side,” Alexander explains, “and therefore not part of the Red Mountain AVA. So a big difference is the way the grapes ripen here – longer hang time, less intense sun. Ryan has also planted different clonal material than at Force Majeure. There’s a lot of variation in soil type. Everything is planted high density, meter-by-meter, a lot of shade so even in the kind of mid-summer heat we’ve been getting it’s doing really well.”

Johnson and his team farm the site in various “micro-blocks” matching vine densities and trellising to the specific soils, topography and exposures. Most of the vines are head-trained according to traditional Rhône valley viticultural practices, at elevations as high as 1400 feet. The extreme terrain, wild variations in soil types and labor-intensive cultivation pay off, the principals believe, by providing “opportunities for growing wine grapes, limited only by our imagination.”

Currently planted to 33 acres of Rhône, Bordeaux and Spanish varieties, WeatherEye fruit is in great demand. The first estate wines under the WeatherEye label were made in 2018, a tiny production of Syrah and Grenache. The 2019 vintage brought the total production up to around 400 cases. The 2020 vintage introduced the first white wines. (Quick notes on both 2019s and  early release 2020s are re-posted below). My notes on the 2020/2021 vintage wines will be featured next month.

Just ten wineries are able to obtain some WeatherEye grapes, and along with the estate wines made by Todd Alexander, the wines from Liminal winemaker Chris Peterson are the standouts.

Liminal (meaning “at the threshold”) is the project of Peterson and business partner Marty Taucher. It resulted from an ongoing search for new vineyards to grow their Avennia winery. “Avennia had been growing nicely,” Taucher explains,

“and we were pleased with how the wines were being received. But we wanted to consider adding some new fruit to the portfolio. In the summer of 2018 we started looking in Walla Walla and particularly the North Fork but didn’t see anything that was ready for us in the near term. On the way back to Seattle, we started talking about what my Microsoft friend Cam Myhrvold had been planning for his land on the top of Red Mountain. We knew he had brought in Ryan Johnson to manage it so no harm in checking it out to see the progress that had been made. Chris texted Ryan and he invited us for a tour.

“Gobsmacked is the correct term for how we reacted. Ryan had meticulously paired his viticulture strategies with the rugged land throughout the site. We got excited about the possibility of creating wines from the different and unique blocks that we explored with Ryan that day. Our timing was fortuitous, as Ryan and Cam had not yet really started to market the fruit extensively and 2018 was going to be the first commercially available vintage.

On the drive all the way back to Seattle we talked about how we could possibly incorporate new blocks of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre as well as the Bordeaux varietals into our Avennia mix. It seemed nonsensical to simply make more of our Avennia wines with the fruit. Kind of defeats the purpose of what Ryan and Cam were accomplishing. So we decided to create an entirely new line-up of “smallish” production (50 – 200 cases) wines and focus on making the most of the unique blocks that Ryan and Cam have given us exclusive access to, particularly the area we call the High Canyon.

“We introduced the Liminal portfolio as a separate entity in 2020. Cam and Ryan appreciated that we were going to put the focus completely on this vineyard. With Liminal, the focus is 100% on the fruit from WeatherEye. So that’s the story. Ryan and Cam have been great to work with and we appreciated the opportunity to get in literally on the ground floor. We are not partners in the vineyard, but we are probably their largest customer.”

PG:  Thank you Marty for this background. As I was tasting Liminal wines for the first time – prior to doing much if any research on the history of the vineyard – I too was gobsmacked. I spent several days with the wines, carefully tasting their slow, steady evolution. Liminal wines are released twice yearly to list members (sign up here.) The next allocation period will begin in August 2023 and will feature the 2021 High Canyon Series (Viognier, Grenache, Syrah) and 2021 GSM. A few back releases are still listed for sale on the website. The Liminal and WeatherEye wines profiled here, though not inexpensive, are in my view astonishing values for their rarity, uniqueness and ageability.

Liminal Wine

Liminal 2020 High Canyon Series WeatherEye Vineyard Viognier

Few if any Washington vineyards have achieved legendary status in their first few vintages. WeatherEye is one, and one sip of any WeatherEye wine tells you all you need to know. Viognier is not a major presence on Red Mountain, and yet this wine stakes a credible claim for it being an essential grape there. In just its third vintage it stands out for its concentration, finesse and length. It captures the citrus flesh and rind, botanical nuances and precision focus of the best examples I’ve ever had. And goes the extra mile, extending the finish while adding further details of mineral, matchstick and metal. Sold out. 48 cases; 14.2%; $50 (Red Mountain) 95/100

Liminal 2020 Vineyard Series WeatherEye Vineyard GSM

Other than my first exposure to Rhône-style wines from the Rocks District and Rocky Reach AVAs, I have never been instantly convinced that here was a unique terroir whose young vines have already captured its essence. A stunning display of power and finesse, this mix of Grenache (46%), Syrah (28%) and Mourvèdre (26%) underscores deep flavors of mountain strawberries with natural minerality and black tea tannins. Despite the high finished alcohol it seems to be a bit restrained – no hint of overripe or jammy fruit, nor any burn in the finish. In other words, it’s beautifully aromatic, balanced, orchestrated and detailed, with the promise of Rhône-style ageability ahead. 187 cases; 15.4%; $60 (Columbia Valley) 96/100

Liminal 2020 High Canyon Series WeatherEye Vineyard Grenache

This is pure Grenache aged in neutral oak and sourced from the original vines at the highest point of Red Mountain. This generous wine is loaded with blackberry and black cherry fruit. Instead of the funk you might find in a Rocks District Grenache, the defining terroir that meshes this wine together is a natural minerality. The site allows the acids to remain strong and supportive despite the high alcohol, and the sophisticated winemaking of Chris Peterson ties it all together with no need for new oak. It’s a tour de force already, and as the vines mature future releases should only get even better. 68 cases; 15.1%; $85 (Red Mountain) 95/100

Liminal 2020 High Canyon Series WeatherEye Vineyard Syrah

The High Canyon Series from Liminal is dedicated to the original vines that climbed Red Mountain to previously unplanted heights. The tension, detail and potency of these wines is beyond compare. This is Syrah with the precision and density of the finest Rhônes, yet with a particularity to the fruit and minerality that comes from this special site. Power, focus and density characterize this vineyard, here with extra concentration and length. I generally avoid comparisons to specific French wines because Washington is not France! But in many respects this is every bit as good as the best of Côte Rôtie, without duplicating it. This is a wine I could happily sip and savor for days. 122 cases; 15.1%; $85 (Red Mountain) 96/100

Liminal 2020 Block Highlight Series WeatherEye Vineyard Block 16 Syrah

Defining this exceptional vineyard as “a study in specific terroirs, with many small distinct aspects, elevations and trellising systems” the Block Highlight Series highlights particular blocks deemed the most compelling the vintage. This was given one quarter new oak (other Liminal wines get neutral oak), perhaps to punch up something deemed missing. Block selections are basically components, but really good components, so no criticism there. What I love about this wine is the absolute purity of the fruit – dense blueberry and plum and blackberry flavors, with a juicy edge. Aromatically complex with rich black fruits, espresso, a touch of char and potent, graphite flavored tannins, this wine lingers almost indefinitely, and pushes the fruit more forward than the winery’s other Syrahs. I love it. 90 cases; 15.2%; $70 (Columbia Valley) 96/100

Liminal 2020 Block Highlight Series WeatherEye Vineyard Block 47 Cabernet Sauvignon

This is pure Cab treated to 100% new French oak aging. This is a seriously important wine. In the pantheon of Washington Cabernets it deserves a place with iconic wines such as Quilceda Creek, Leonetti Cellar, Betz and L’Ecole’s ‘Ferguson’ bottling. The density is exceptional; it’s packed with deeply layered flavors of black fruits, cassis, ground espresso, dark chocolate, black tea and tobacco. This stunning wine should cellar well for decades. I’d taste a bottle every five years until your cellar runs dry. Sold out. 68 cases; 15%; $125 (Red Mountain) 97/100

WeatherEye Releases (previously reviewed)

These are quick notes from a tasting last summer. As noted, some are still listed on the website as available for purchase.

WeatherEye 2020 Roussanne

Good balance, lightly peppery, firm, subtle, expressive. Citrus rind, native yeast.

25 cases; 14.5% (Red Mountain)

NOTE:  The 2021 Roussanne (not yet tasted) is currently for sale:

2020 WeatherEye Marsanne

Tight spacing, lower elevation than the Roussanne. A little skin contact. Aromatic, complex, spicy and packed with interesting fruits, marzipan.

25 cases; 14.8% (Red Mountain)

NOTE:  The 2021 (not yet tasted) is currently for sale:

WeatherEye 2020 L’Atomique White

Intentionally intense, color is from extended skin contact, but no punch down, no extra extraction, not an oxidative style, not an orange wine. 55% Viognier, equal parts of the rest, all used barrels. All picked together, de-stemmed, not pressed, fermented open top tank until almost dry (on the skins), barreled down to finish.

38 cases; 15.3% (Red Mountain)

NOTE:  The 2021 (not yet tasted) is currently for sale:

WeatherEye 2019 Estate Grenache

Intense, concentrated, with dense raspberry and black cherry fruit. Tannins are drying but sanded smooth, and even on the third day this is remarkably fresh and flavorful. The relatively high abv gives a liquorous trail to the finish.

80 cases; 14.8%; $85 (Red Mountain)

WeatherEye 2019 Syrah

Sleek, steely, firm, tight, sculpted, this walks a fine line among various styles. Tart, lightly brambly fruits seem encased in cement. It’s an ageworthy and definitive style that is set apart from other Red Mountain Syrahs.

140 cases; 15%; $85 (Red Mountain)

NOTE:  Still listed for sale on the website:

WeatherEye 2019 Tempranillo

Light leather, cherry tobacco, graphite, black cherry and polished, soft tannins are all in the mix. All the WeatherEye reds have a definitive twist to the tannins; all are impressive given that the vineyard was barely five years old in 2019.

100 cases; 14.7%; $85 (Red Mountain)

NOTE:  Still listed for sale on the website:

Paul Gregutt
Paul Gregutt
Paul Gregutt has been covering the wines and wineries of the Pacific Northwest since the mid-1980s. From 2002 to 2012 he wrote a weekly wine column for the Seattle Times and authored two critically-acclaimed editions of ‘Washington Wines & Wineries – The Essential Guide’ (UC Berkeley Press). He served as the Northwest editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine from 1998 until 2022. Early on he was an original staff member of both the Seattle Weekly and KZAM-FM. He lives with his wife Karen and his rescue dog Cookie in Waitsburg (pop. 1204), a farm community about 20 miles NE of Walla Walla. When not tasting and writing about wine he writes songs, plays guitar and sings in his band the DavePaul5 ( Follow his writing at PaulG on Wine,, and in the Waitsburg Times.


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