Information on the Owner, Wine Maker and Wine Area

Ellensburg Canyon Winery (ECW) has drawn on Gary R. Cox’s experience as a Plant & Soil Scientist for his expert wine making.  His initial expertise was developed by obtaining his Bachelor of Science from Southern Illinois University in Plant & Soil Science and his Master of Science from Washington State University in Agronomy & Soils.  Gary then became a Master Watershed Stewart dedicated to balancing water rights for both fisheries and agriculture, a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager minimizing the impact of chemical usage on the environment, an Instructor of Agroecosystems at Yakima Valley College for over seven years teaching Sustainability and Terroir of Washington and Agroecology.  Gary’s second passion is fishing on the rivers and he is an avid fly-fisherman on the quality waters of the nearby Yakima River.

The Columbia Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) is Washington’s largest viticultural area extending from the Okanogan in the North, to Oregon in the South, East along the Snake River to Idaho, and West along the Cascade Mountains. The Yakima River, emanating from the headwaters high in the Cascades, provides pure virgin water through the Kittitas Reclamation District system and facilitates sustainable wine grape production. The foothills of the Cascade Mountains form a unique microclimate along the Western Boundary of the Columbia Valley AVA.

Planted in 1998 in the Northwest corner of the Columbia Valley AVA is the 17-acre Cox Canyon Vineyard Estate of which 7 acres is in production. This is a beautiful West sloping site on an alluvial deposited Benwy silt loam soil laid down upon the uplifted basalts which form the entrance to the Wild & Scenic Yakima River Canyon. Volcanic ash has been deposited in layers from nearby Mt. Rainier, Adams, and St. Helens eruptions over time and provides valuable micronutrients to the soil profile. Elevation varies from 1400 to 1525 feet, higher than other Yakima Valley sites, provides for good air drainage, and allows for thermal amplitude to occur (diurnal temperature fluctuations of ~ 50 F which develop flavonoids in the grapes). Designation as the Ellensburg Canyon AVA is underway with the TTB.

This Terroir ripens late, producing low yields (2.5 tons/acre) with small berry size, deep color and great concentration of fruit flavors. The temperatures may be 3-5 degrees cooler on average, but the increased hours of sunlight from a more Northerly latitude during the middle of the growing season provide optimal conditions for intensely flavored fruit. This coupled with companion cropping with currants (e.g. raspberries, native huckleberries, elderberries, and blackberries) allows for Xenia to occur (the direct effect of pollen on seed characteristics) which produce additional flavors within the wine grape seed desired by the winemaker. These soils allow for deep root penetration of ~ 25’.

The ECW took special care in developing this site, as rock had to be moved during planting. Said rock has been repositioned within the vineyard rows to capture heat during the day, releasing it back during the night to facilitate even respiration and sugar production. All pruning’s are mulched back to the soil to encourage mycorrhizal fungus associations to form within the vines, facilitating water and nutrient uptake. Close attention is paid to irrigation applications utilizing state-of-the-art precision agriculture technology to stress the vines (Regulated Deficit Irrigation) from which result intense fruit flavors.


This 20-year-old vineyard shows great promise and has already resulted in award winning wines.  To date Ellensburg Canyon Winery has won: 8 Gold, 5 Silver, 8 Bronze Medals and an Outstanding/Best Buy from Wine Press Northwest Magazine have been awarded to Ellensburg Canyon Winery wine.  Our Red Bordeaux Blend, Cabernet franc, ‘White’ Cabernet franc, Rieslings, Chardonnay, and Port Style Wines are excellent example of our unique Terroir at an affordable price point.

The Washington Cabernet franc, Malbec and Riesling are among the finest wines now being produced in the world. Cox Canyon Vineyards is dedicated to being a preeminent producer of these premium wine grapes in the Columbia Valley and is fully committed to the concept of creating great Terroir (the French term used to define the many conditions which make each vineyard site unique within a growing region).

The potential of this vineyard site is great with endless possibilities for producing distinctive tastes within the State.