Woodward Canyon Winery, named for the canyon Owner Rick Small’s family farmed and where the Estate Vineyard is now located, was established in 1981 by Rick Small and his wife, Darcey Fugman-Small. Woodward Canyon was the second winery in the Walla Walla Valley, and the Smalls were instrumental in the process of obtaining federal approval of the Walla Walla Valley Appellation in 1984. The winery has consistently produced premium, age-worthy cabernet sauvignons and merlots as well as chardonnays. From the outset, it was determined that quality would take precedence over quantity. Consequently, Woodward Canyon has remained small, increasing its production from 1,200 cases in 1981 to its current size of approximately 15,000. Roughly half of total production is under the Woodward Canyon label and the other half is under second label, Nelms Road.
Rick planted the first of forty-one acres of the Woodward Canyon Estate Vineyard in 1976 on his family’s dryland wheat ranch. Rick’s roots run deep in the land that has been farmed by his family for three generations. The hillside vineyard now includes cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and barbera, as well as several experimental varieties. The Estate Vineyard is Certified Sustainable by LIVE and is Salmon Safe. The Smalls are also experimenting with organic and bio-dynamic farming practices at the Estate Vineyard. The winery also purchases grapes from select growers and is a partner in Champoux Vineyard which lies above the Columbia River in the Horse Heaven Hills appellation. Woodward Canyon has a strong belief that the quality of the wine starts in the vineyards; grape-growing and winemaking after all, are still agriculture.
In 1998, Woodward Canyon also began producing wines under its second label, Nelms Road. Nelms Road offers merlot and cabernet sauvignon, and soon to be a red wine blend made from Walla Walla Valley and Washington State grapes. It was developed to produce delicious and affordable red wines from young vineyards or declassified Woodward Canyon Winery production. This declassification process assures that Woodward Canyon is always striving for the highest quality at all levels. All Woodward Canyon and Nelms Road wines are produced at Woodward Canyon Winery in the Walla Walla Valley.
Woodward Canyon is a founding member of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance and of Walla Walla Valley Vinea, the Winegrower’s Sustainable Trust.
The Smalls continue to be involved in the day-to-day operations of the winery and vineyard, with Rick serving as Director of Production and Darcey as General Manager. In 2010, their children Jordan Dunn-Small and Sager Small joined in the ownership of the winery and serve on the board of directors. Winemaker Kevin Mott and Sales Director Thomas Woodley were also included as partners in the winery in 2011. In 2013 Jordan joined the winery fulltime to assist with sales and management. Sager returned to Walla Walla in 2015 and is a full time Enology and Viticulture student at Walla Walla Community College. Having cooked in some of Seattle’s best restaurants for over a decade, Sager is also Woodward Canyon’s resident chef for winemaker dinners and private events.