So, what's up with Sagelands Winery? The word on the street is that the facility is being closed. The sign on the door says it is closed for remodeling. Maybe Diageo is pulling the plug on the brand or perhaps all production is being moved to Canoe Ridge to consolidate production and reduce costs - important in these days of bargain-priced wines.
At one time, Staton Hills/Sagelands was the most visited tasting room in the state. Situated just outside Yakima, it is close for locals and the first winery on the Yakima Valley wine tour. It is an attractive facility with a nice view of Mt. Adams. Traffic to the tasting room has been dwindling ever since they pulled out of the Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail, the local organization that promotes visits to the tasting rooms in the Rattlesnake Hills. Sagelands was a founding member of the Wine Trail and was quite active in its formation. Then they hired a new tasting room manager who thought the Wine Trail was hokey or I think she said "unprofessional". (The Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail is made up mostly of owners, not corporations, so meetings can be a little raucous. Imagine 15 winemaker/owners in one room trying to agree on one thing.) After they weren't on the map, people going 70 mph on I-82 did not plan to take exit 40, instead waiting for exit 44 for Piety Flats and Masset Wineries. They remained members of Wine Yakima Valley, a Prosser-based organization (40 miles east) that has broader goals and does not focus solely on foot traffic to the tasting rooms. Tasting room traffic at the member wineries of the Wine Trail remains high, despite the economic downturn. After all, it is the closest wine country to Seattle, just 2:15 away via freeway.
The winery was originally called Staton Hills, after the founder Dave Staton. Most of us in the area questioned the name Sagelands when it first came out. I guess some focus groups thought it was a good name, implying the dryer side of the state as opposed to soggy Seattle.
What's happening? I don't know. I will leave the research to the real wine writers who are secretly following this blog.