Full Circle

C. R. Sandidge Wines, on the north side of the Lake Chelan, the community of Manson, Wash. houses a number of wineries. The tasting room for C.R. Sandidge sits on the town’s main drag in a modest building that only hints at the global success of its winemaker.

After a 30-year career that has earned him awards and accolades enough to fill a barrel, Ray Sandidge now crafts his superb wines in Manson, a local boy coming full circle to his origins. “Back in the early ’70s, I used to fish this lake with my father when I was a kid so it’s a special place for me,” he says.

In the early 1980s, Sandidge was a research scientist at WSU’s Prosser station working part-time with another Washington wine legend, Rob Griffin (Barnard Griffin Winery). His interest piqued, he soon was making wine of complex characteristics that belied his mostly self-taught education.

By 1985, Sandidge signed on as winemaker for New York’s Pindar Vineyards; two years later, he was living in Germany, making award-winning wines for the Georg Breurer estate winery. Again his talent was undeniable; his Riesling took top marks in a major competition, the first ever for the 134-year old German winery. Sandidge added to his knowledge with lengthy forays to France learning Rhône, Alsatian and Bordeaux styles and techniques.

But news of Washington’s emergence as a wine region enticed him back to his home state. By 1990, he was working alongside the heralded Brian Carter, crafting wines for Apex and Washington Hills. Carter’s deep interest in blends put a stamp on Sandidge’s winemaking.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better and more generous co-winemaker,” Sandidge says of his long-time friend and mentor. “He has such a big heart, and his blending skills are superb.”

Stints at Hyatt and Kestrel followed and then family matters drew him to the Chelan area where a few local wineries were eager to engage him as a consulting winemaker.

Ray and his wife Athena (who has a strong background in wine sales) launched C.R. Sandidge Wines to create blends that reflect Sandidge’s knowledge and experience, as well as information gleaned from European winemakers and Brian Carter — use excellent fruit from multiple vineyards, go easy on the oak treatment, aim for full body, and ensure the wines match well with food.”

“Our wines reflect Ray’s focus on quality and longevity,” says Athena, “wines that age well and are food friendly.”