Energizing The Columbia

It’s not just about the many flowing streams in spring but the sound. 

At the end of each of these powerhouse ducts is a turbine – imagine the thrum of one of these 170 ton monsters spinning at 200 RPM.


The thunder of the spillways is humbling.

Once you’ve understood the noise, then you can appreciate the scale of both the dam and the overflowing spillways. There are 31 hydroelectric facilities on the Columbia and its tributaries and most everyone we saw this past month was overflowing with water.

There is the quieter hum and crackle of transmission lines. For the Bonneville Power Administration alone this means 15,238 miles of lines. And it all starts with tiny springs and little drips of snowmelt and ends at your wall socket. 

Columbia Crest 2

We saw quite a few water intake piers like this on both sides of the Columbia. Everyone of those fire hydrant shaped objects are high capacity and high speed pumps moving large volumes of water up to the Columbia plateau. In the far distance is another field of grapes. It takes 872 gallons of water to make one gallon of wine. 

The blue machine with the gray probe (top right) is an auger that is dipped into each bin and measures the content and degree of acidity. After checking (and beginning of computer tracking), each bin is then dumped into a large underground hopper and the contents are corkscrewed underground and out of sight to a building just of the left of the blue tent.

This day they were delivering grapes for making white wine.  Smaller but definitely edible, however, the crunch of the seed put you off. It wasn’t but little more than a generation ago that seedless red grapes were just being developed.

Marketing is everything. It’s a good price until you realize you’ve just paid to be an advertiser for Columbia Crest.

Everything has a name right? Well the leftover solids from a run of wine grapes are called “pomace.” It can be recycled on site but it also has a use in baking flour, cosmetics and spa treatments and scrubs.  

Go overboard at the tasting room and you get screwed.

Columbia Crest Empire 1

Columbia Crest Fields

At first all you see is grapes. Acre after acre of grapes as you drive along the plateau above the Columbia River.

Columbia French Provencial

Then, coming up the driveway, you enter something that could have been transplanted from a French wine district. This is the public face of where every bottle of Columbia Crest wine starts out.

Columbia Crest Interior

It is as palatial as many a French chateau. We were told that this portion of the reception area is full of tasters on weekends. A lot of car and motorcycle clubs make this a regular stop when out this way.

Columbia Crest Taste

The marketing of wine has become a big business and Columbia Crest sits comfortably towards the top of of NW wine producers. As you can see from the these last couple of photos, image is important. 

Columbia Crest Reserve

Taste is equally as important. Under the wine tasting floor is an even more expansive cellar for many of their more upscale red and white wines.

Columbia Crest Factory

Not quite as visible as what you see when you arrive, this sight is more reminiscent of an industrial tank farm. I could not see just how much land was taken up by the rest of their production and storage facility but this image gives you an idea of the scope of Columbia Crest’s operation here.

Columbia Crest Winery

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Columbia Crest Winery 45.956020, -119.621010