Skysill Estate Vineyard

Walla Walla Valley

Abeja Winery at night

Skysill Estate Vineyard

Walla Walla Valley

Abeja Winery at night

Wine is a beautiful, mysterious thing. At its finest, it is a perfect expression of place, crafted with minimal intervention to allow the individual character of the grape and its terroir to shine. Our founders' interest in exploring the specificity of outstanding vineyard sites led Abeja's founders, Ken and Ginger Harrison, to Skysill.

The property's ideal slope orientation and elevation provide excellent air drainage and an extended growing season. The height also offers a breathtaking 360° view of the Blue Mountains and surrounding wheat fields, inspiring the vineyard's name from the old English word for horizon. The Skysill is "the line at which the earth's surface and the sky appear to meet."

planting and proximity


The Harrisons acquired the Walla Walla Valley farmland, now Skysill, in 2015. Planting commenced in the Upper Vineyard in 2016 with 40 acres of vines on their own rootstock. Eight Cabernet Sauvignon clones are planted on 24 acres of the Upper Vineyard, a differentiating factor in the cellar that helps winemakers craft layered complexity at blending. Three clones of Chardonnay occupy nine acres, with Merlot (5 acres) and Cabernet Franc (2 acres) rounding out the Upper Vineyard's Bordeaux selections.

Located just a mile northeast of the winery, Skysill's proximity to Abeja allows winemakers to collaborate closely with the vineyard team throughout the growing season on essential viticulture practices that influence grape quality, such as pruning, canopy management and irrigation. Then, as harvest nears, easy access to the vineyard allows winemakers to taste Skysill grapes daily, informing precision picking decisions block-by-block and ensuring grapes arrive at the winery at the peak of ripeness.

geography and climate

Geography and Climate

The vineyard's elevation (1,400-1,550 ft.) sets the stage for an advantageous swing between daytime and nighttime temperatures during the growing season. This "swing," known as the diurnal shift, helps protect the grapes' natural acidity, locking in a wine's bright fruit character and yielding balanced, high-quality wines with excellent aging potential.

With its proximity to the Blue Mountains, Skysill enjoys a robust mountain valley wind system. During the day, a gentle valley breeze pushes warm air upslope from the valley floor. At sunset, a mountain breeze surges down the Blues. Good air drainage promotes fast drying of foliage, reducing disease pressure in the vineyard in the spring and driving cold air downward to guard against freeze damage in the winter.

The vineyard's south and southwest-facing aspect support the ideal development of the grape skin's tannic structure, a necessary component of a wine's long-term aging potential. High light intensity enhances photosynthesis, critical to the grapes' ripening, color development and flavor.

Due to its proximity to the Blue Mountains, Skysill receives 20" of rainfall annually, more than other areas of the Walla Walla Valley but lower than California and Oregon growing regions. Limited rainfall allows our vineyard manager to control water to the vine in a way that limits vine vigor while heightening the grapes' flavors and concentration.

deep, well-draining soils

Deep, Well-Draining Soils

Soils found in most Walla Walla Valley vineyards below 1200 ft. elevation were formed by a cataclysmic sequence of ice age events known as the Missoula Floods, but because of Skysill's elevation, no sediment from these floods is found here. Thick layers of loess define the site instead. Deep basalt bedrock, formed from thick accumulations of lava flows that erupted more than 15 million years ago, is found far below the surface, overlaid with thick layers of quartz-rich loess. These deep, silt loam soils are well-draining and remarkably homogenous, promoting even ripening at harvest.

Good soil drainage is critical to the health of a vine. It forces the roots to grow deep in the soil, allowing the vine to resist drought and our vineyard manager to control vine vigor through irrigation. The vine receives just enough water to drive flavor to the grapes instead of an overabundant canopy. At the same time, Skysill's soils have sufficient density to hold enough water and nutrients to sustain the vine. A thick layer of loess also supports root penetration to bolster the vine's water and mineral absorption and ensure the plant's health.

the vineyard’s story, expressed by its wines

The Vineyard’s Story, Expressed by Its Wines

Growing a vineyard is a slow, methodical process. While Skysill's potential was apparent from the start, it takes time to appreciate the nuanced complexity of a new site. We first harvested Skysill in 2018, picking and fermenting grapes in small lots, then slowing aging and regularly tasting barrel by barrel. With each vintage, the vineyard's quality and the grapes' distinctive character continued to impress. By 2020, there was no denying Skysill's terroir, resulting in two vineyard-designated wines that speak to this exceptional site's unique character and quality.

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