Place Category: Wineries and Vineyards
Stavalaura is a small-batch, family-owned-and-operated vineyard and winery nestled just outside the small, friendly town of Ridgefield, Washington. The first vines were planted in 2003 by owner and winemaker, Joe Leadingham, and his daughter, Laura, as her high school horticulture project. (Laura had played with frogs as a little girl and just couldn’t dissect them, so she chose to take Horticulture rather than Biology). Laura had to come up with a final project for her class. Her Dad, Joe, wanted to help her figure out a project. As luck would have it, Joe went to work (pilot at Delta Airlines) during that time and Bob Morris, owner of Phelps Creek Vineyards and Winery in Hood River, was the co-pilot. Of course, during their flight, Joe mentioned the upcoming horticulture project. Bob generously offered Joe some Pinot Noir starts that he had, suggesting that Laura could plant a few rows as her project. What followed was exactly that!
After the horticulture project was aced, Joe began noticing how well the Pinot Noir grapes were doing. After the first vines produced delicious fruit, Joe planted more vines on the land he owned. The successful outcome with this first vineyard encouraged a desire to plant more grapes and learn about winemaking. He took the two-year Viticulture course and then the two-year Enology course through Washington State University. When he completed the courses, he began to think about planting more grapes, but he wanted to plant something entirely different from what was already growing here. WSU steered him to Cloud Mountain Nurseries where, after lengthy conversations with Botanist Tom Thornton, they decided that a good choice would be the Golubok grape (a teinturier grape with deep magenta coloring) with origins in Russia and Ukraine, and the Zweigelt-Rebe grape (the most widely grown red grape in Austria). The Zweigelt-Rebe is a grape that is lighter in flavor but has a beautiful color derived from its rich skin color.
After his decision, he purchased additional acreage and began planting it with Golubok (a southern Russian/Ukrainian grape), Zweigelt-Rebe (a northern European varietal), and more Pinot Noir vines (Pommard and 777 clones). Three years later Joe began to make wine from his grapes, which was consumed and shared with family and friends. This continued for the next several years. As more and more positive feedback came in, Joe began to contemplate starting a winery that would eventually be opened to the public.
Upon his decision to move forward, the question of a name for the winery arose. He wanted a name that would not only sound beautiful but would represent the qualities of his wines. He also wanted to incorporate his love of family in the name. Joe’s parents had four children, three boys and a girl (Valerie). Time passed and grandchildren arrived. Plenty of lively boys once again outnumbered three cherished little girls…cousins, Stacy, a pragmatic, engineering type, then Valerie, extremely creative and artistic (named after her Aunt Val), and lastly, his daughter, Laura, who was a happy mix of both traits. Although the three girls were uniquely different, when they all got together it was sheer delight! Joe realized that the very traits these beloved young ladies possessed (exacting scientific methodology balanced with artistic boldness) are the qualities that are required to make an enjoyable, beautiful, unique wine—-thus the name Stavalaura was born.
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