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SMAK Wines

Fiona Mak of SMAK Wines

Sponsored by the Travelodge in Walla Walla

If you’re interested in wine at all, you can’t have failed to notice a significant change recently with respect to Rosé wine.  We’re in the midst of what some have called a Rosé Revolution.  With Rosé wines diverse in style and region lining the store shelves, there’s never been a more exciting time to drink Rosé.  Fiona Mak is contributing to the excitement with her new brand SMAK Wines, Washington state’s only Rosé exclusive winery located in the airport area of Walla Walla.  At SMAK, the wines and tasting room décor change with the seasons, making it possible to drink a different Rosé wine throughout the year.  For Fiona, Rosé is not only a wine, but also a lifestyle reminiscent of the French Riviera and embodying a fun and carefree state of mind.

With its high acidity and diverse taste profile from bone dry to sweet, Rosé is one of the most versatile food wines.  Why drink it only in summer?  Fiona makes a spring, summer and fall/winter Rosé, each with different varietals and taste profiles appropriate to the weather and foods of the particular season.  Looking ahead, the current fall/winter wine made with a blend of syrah, counoise, mourvedre and sauvignon blanc will become the fall wine, and a new sparkling Rosé will be the winter wine in 2020.  Fiona’s interest in Rosé was sparked by trips with her family to the French Riviera, and in summer she recreates her favorite French beach at the back of SMAK’s tasting room facility.   SMAK Wines reflects a unique concept that is helping to transform Rosé from a summer sipper into a year-round wine for all seasons.

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Wit Cellars

Flint Nelson, Cat Warwick, and Gina Adams-Royer of WIT Cellars

2017 WA Winery to Watch (Wine Press Northwest)

Sponsored by the Inn at Horse Heaven in Prosser

It was spring 2016 when Flint Nelson, Cat Warwick, and Gina Adams-Royer “jumped off a cliff,” taking the plunge to open their own winery.  Collectively, they had several decades of winemaking experience, and their skills and passions blended well like fine wine.  They wanted a winery name that was fun, simple, meaningful, and memorable, so a list of three-letter words came to mind.  None compared with “WIT”, which means intelligent humor, and is an acronym for both “Whatever it Takes” and “We’re in Together”.  It’s a perfect name, reflecting the humor, dedication, and team spirit behind WIT Cellars.  Wine tasting with these three friends is a fun and memorable experience, both for the amazing wines and the many stories and laughs.  The Prosser tasting room has a bar of barrel staves and concrete designed by Flint, as well as a library and comfortable chairs for tasting, reading and talking.      

Flint calls the Yakima Valley a “mecca” for wine grapes, particularly red varietals.  He believes the AVA will one day produce the best Cabernet Sauvignon in the world.  For white varietals, Flint and Cat turn often to the Ancient Lakes AVA where cooler temperatures help to preserve the acidity needed in white wines.  If you like dry Rosé wines, the WIT blend of sangiovese and syrah is one of the best such wines in the state.  The WIT team once did a side-by-side test of Rosé made by the saignée and the direct press methods, and decided hands down that the direct press method combined with early picking of grapes was best.  WIT Cellars offers many interesting taste comparisons, including of wine styles.  The WIT label wines are more fruit forward and new world in style, while the Mazzacano label wines are more restrained and old world in taste profile and weight.  Listen to this fun and fascinating interview to learn more about the memorable wines and people you’ll find at WIT Cellars.

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Time & Direction Wines

Steve Wells of Time and Direction Wines

Sponsored by the Travelodge in Walla Walla

It was a 2008 Washington Wine Commission Tour of state vineyards and wineries that eventually prompted Steve Wells to leave his sommelier job in New York City and move to Walla Walla.  More specifically, a sunset sip in Boushey Vineyard was the aha moment that made him decide to become a winemaker.   When he finished his studies in 2016 and Aryn Morrell gave him the chance to make his own wines, he turned to his forearm tattoos for his brand name and logo.  On his right arm is a pocket watch and on his left a compass, both his own designs that he blended into a single logo depicting Time and Direction, two key things needed for any journey in life.  His own journey has involved music, graphic design, video games, and sommelier work, all of which are on display in his new tasting room which opened in Walla Walla July 2019.

When I first met Steve he challenged me to figure out the meaning of his Rosé wine label.  I flunked the challenge, but was fascinated when he explained all the symbols.  Even more amazing is the wine, which is bone dry Grenache made from vineyard to bottling to be Rosé.  Time and Direction is a Rhone varietal winery that currently highlights viognier and syrah from newer vineyards such as Eritage, Solaksen, and Thunderstone.  The latter two are part of the outstanding Lawrence Vineyards located in the Royal Slope area slated to become a new AVA very soon.  Steve looks forward to growing as a winemaker with these young vineyards, and all signs suggest the future is very bright for both Steve and the vines.  For memorable wines, fascinating labels, great music and a friendly welcome, don’t miss Time and Direction on your next visit to downtown Walla Walla.    

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Palencia Wine Company

Victor Palencia of Palencia Wine Company

2019 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year (Wine Press Northwest)

Victor Palencia’s life has been one of amazing journeys, one of them being from student to rock star in the Washington wine industry.  But much earlier when he was two years old, he journeyed with his family from Michoacán Mexico to the US, settling in the Prosser area in 1987.  As a child he worked with his father on the land, cultivating everything from mint plants to wine grapes.  He knew in high school that he wanted to be a winemaker, and with the help of supportive mentors and a Leonetti Scholarship, he completed the enology and viticulture program at the Walla Walla Community College.   Victor graduated and had his first winemaking job before he was 21, so had to rely on his nose because he wasn’t allowed to taste.  This focus on aromatics still influences his winemaking, as he strives to ensure that each varietal in a glass shines through from first sniff through lingering finish.       

Victor’s love and respect for the land, symbolized by a shovel, has led to three distinct wine brands, all harkening back to his roots.  The Palencia label is dedicated to his father and depicts a sketch of David Palencia using a shovel.  Palencia wines are limited distribution mostly single varietal, single vineyard wines designed to showcase some of Washington’s premium vineyard lands.  The Monarcha Winery in Kennewick specializes in the more widely distributed Vino la Monarcha label, which displays on each bottle a beautiful monarch butterfly wing.  Like Victor once did, monarch butterflies migrate every year from Michoacán Mexico to the US and back.  Victor’s newest tasting room is Bodega Palencia in W. Richland, and that facility will be home to a third brand of wines that will specialize in Spanish varietals.  Victor’s grandfather was the first family immigrant, who left his home in Palencia Spain to start a new life in Mexico.  Grounded in family roots and a love and respect for the land, Victor’s wines have won an impressive array of awards, resulting in Palencia Wine Company being named 2019 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year.

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Rocky Pond Winery

David Dufenhorst and Shane Collins

2019 Washington Winery to Watch (Wine Press Northwest)

After cycling trips through the vineyard lands of Italy and France, David and Michelle Dufenhorst decided they wanted to create a vineyard and winery in their home state of Washington.  They fell in love with a Columbia River site south of Chelan, and started building a home.  Although there were no vineyards along the river, the land was rocky and sloped nicely down to the Columbia.  They hired vineyard consultants, who concluded the slope, soil, wind and water conditions were perfect for wine grapes.  Double D Vineyard was born with a 30-acre purchase that has grown to 200 acres today, 125 planted to wine grapes.  The Columbia River front land is so ideal for vineyards that a new AVA is on the verge of approval, to be named Rocky Reach, extending from Orondo south to the Wenatchee Bridge.  

In summer 2017, Shane Collins left Tsillan Cellars to become winemaker at Rocky Pond Winery.  He grew up on a fruit farm on the north shore of Lake Chelan and loves the taste profile of grapes grown in the area.  He spends much of his time in Rocky Pond’s two vineyards, Double D on the river and Clos Chevalle on the south shore of the lake.  He and the Dufenhorsts are very excited about their new winery not far from Double D, scheduled to be finished sometime in September.  There is also a riverfront wine lifestyle community in the works, with 6 lots offering river access close to what will soon be a third vineyard.  Boaters will be able to dock for food and wine pairings.  The Pond area of Double D includes an amphitheatre for concerts and can be rented for weddings.  For its many outstanding, award winning wines and unique tasting experiences, Rocky Pond Winery was named 2019 Winery to Watch by Wine Press Northwest.

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Bontzu Cellars

Sorin Dumitru of Bontzu Cellars

Sorin Dumitru says that everything he knows he learned from Grandpa Bontzu.  His grandfather was a shoemaker in Romania, but he also made wine.  Sorin grew up at his side in the vines and learned to make wine the traditional, natural way that he still employs here in Walla Walla.  Sorin came to the US in 2000, settling first in Seattle before making his way to Walla Walla Community College’s Enology and Viticulture Program in 2011.   He graduated in 2014 and opened Bontzu Cellars a month later in a can’t miss red barn out by the airport.  The winery logo reflects his roots, as it displays a large B for Bontzu with the outline of a shoe sole inside.   The tasting room recently moved downtown and offers live music and late-night hours on the weekends. 

Of the Bontzu lineup of wines, most are single varietal, single vineyard.  A Bontzu favorite that Sorin manages is five acres of Breezy Slope Vineyard, from which he gets many of his grapes.  This is the highest vineyard in the Walla Walla region at roughly 1800 ft., and is farmed with no irrigation or pesticides.  A unique wine that Sorin makes is his Rosé, which is 100% Counoise from Breezy Slope.   Although most of his wines are single varietal, he does do a couple of blends, including the legacy Shoemaker blend.  This is a super Tuscan blend with Sangiovese, Barbera and Merlot varietals.  Future plans include some Spanish style wines and a syrah from the Rocks.  Listen here to learn about Sorin’s Eastern European winemaking roots and how he is carrying on that legacy here in Walla Walla.

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The Thief Fine Wine & Beer

Emily Riley of The Thief Fine Wine & Beer

For online ordering: www.thiefshop.com

Thanks to the wine industry, the streets of small-town Walla Walla are now full of tourists rather than tumbleweeds.  Local wines flow from tasting rooms in town and in every direction out in the surrounding vine-covered countryside.  What has been harder to find is a nice wine from outside the Washington area, until about a year ago.  In spring 2018, Emily Riley and partners opened what everyone has been saying Walla Walla needed—a fine wine and beer shop specializing in wines and beers from around the world.  The Thief Fine Wine and Beer now occupies a two-story, 4,000 sq ft corner space in the heart of downtown Walla Walla.  It’s open 7 days a week until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., and you can bring food in to enjoy with glass pours or a bottle from the shelves. 

Whether you want to sit at a bar or around a table in a living-room setting, The Thief is a comfortable space for tasting, learning and socializing.  Glass pours of familiar and hard-to-find wines change regularly, and themed tastings occur every Thursday night for $10 or less.  Wine bottles for purchase are organized by region and varietal, and you will find wines from all the famous regions and many lesser known ones as well.  For example, if you are in search of a vin de paille (straw wine) or vin jaune from the Jura region of France, you will find both at The Thief.  You will see uncommon varietals such as Centesimino, Zweigelt, Malvasia and Garganega.  And if you want to experience some prized bottles, ask about what’s housed behind the bar.   Travel the world of wine at The Thief in Walla Walla, and in this interview with co-owner Emily Riley.

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Devium Wines

Keith Johnson of Devium Wines

The name Devium, Latin for wayward or out of the ordinary, is perfect for Keith Johnson’s latest wine project.  Having lost his own way while working on an engineering degree, he ended up selling wine and being drawn to the winemaking process.  After graduating from Walla Walla Community College’s enology and viticulture program in 2011, he became part of Sleight of Hand Cellars’ winemaking team, and three years later launched his own Devium Wines project with the goal of pushing boundaries and being unique.  His winemaking is rooted in history and tradition, as well as in minimalist, natural winemaking techniques, all explained in this interview.   For Keith, the grapes and vineyard must shine in the wines, whether the bottle holds white Pinot Noir or Mourvedre without any sulphur , and he produces both of these unique wines.  Because of his commitment to early picking, all of his wines are ideal for pairing with food and not too high in alcohol.

Keith is also drawn to unique and special vineyards, such as Weather Eye atop Red Mountain, which he regards as the most exciting new vineyard in Washington state.  Future plans for Devium include a Graciano blend from this vineyard— ”Rioja, meets Rhone, meets Washington”.  He will also release some sparkling wine in 2021, one of several wines that will contain new artist labels by Squire Broel and Jim German.   In this interview with one of Washington’s most unique winemakers, learn about the benefits of foot crushing grapes, eliminating sulfites from wine, spontaneous fermentation, mixing Grenache Blanc with red varietals, very old oak, diverse trellising of vines, drunken conversations, and much more.  

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Paradisos del Sol Winery

Paul Vandenberg of Paradisos del Sol Winery and Organic Vineyard

If you want a unique and friendly wine tasting experience, Paradisos del Sol is just the place.  You are likely to be greeted by a turkey or rooster, as you pass the creative bottle display along the walkway to the tasting room door.  On the wall opposite the entry is a sign that reads, “ SIP SIP BITE SIP”.  Its origins go back to winegrower Paul Vandenberg’s earliest tasting days in the mid 1970s.  As he tasted his was through California wine country, people would say as they poured, “You can just imagine how good this wine will be with poulet à l’estragon,” but there was no accompanying bit of chicken tarragon on the counter to aid his imagination.  This happened repeatedly, to the point that he vowed if he ever had a tasting room, there would be food bites to go with wine sips.   He has kept his vow, as the sign suggests.

Paul made his first wine for extra credit in 9th-grade science class.  He became a paid member of the WA wine industry in 1983, and has since worked at many Pacific Northwest wineries.  In 1999 he started his Paradisos del Sol label, and today operates a 20-acre “farmery”, a quarter of which is planted to vines.  Paul spends most of his time in the vineyard, which is certified organic, and works to grow grapes as near to perfect as possible.  Whether considering oak protocol, ideal release time, what we should call fortified wine made in the US, and most other winemaking practices, Paul is an unconventional winemaker.  For example, he released his Rosé last fall, the 2016 vintage fermented and aged in oak.  Since he believes “wine should not taste like lumber”, he is careful to use barrels 15 to 30 years old.  Listen to this interview to hear more about his unique winemaking philosophy and unique wines such as Angelicas.

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Betz Family Winery

Louis Skinner of Betz Family Winery

Since its beginning in 1997, Betz Family Winery has helped to put Washington on the world wine map with its outstanding, highly sought after Bordeaux and Rhone style red wines.  Bob and Cathy Betz started the label with 150 cases, built a state-of-art-winery in 2005, and sold the winery to Steve and Bridgit Griessel in 2011.  Bob stayed on for five years as winemaker, and continues as consulting winemaker and the winery’s patriarch.  In 2016, Louis Skinner was promoted to head winemaker, and works now with Bob, Steve and Bridgit to constantly test and push winegrowing concepts in order to improve wine quality with every vintage.   If there is one word that provides a guiding light at Betz it is improvement, as you’ll see in this interview.

Louis attributes his passion for wine to a wine-obsessed friend on a mission to steer him from gin and tonics to wine.  After the friend organized a tasting of fine wines, Louis was hooked, and found himself lingering in the grocery store wine aisle, instead of passing it by.  He studied winemaking and then interned with Betz in 2010, where he learned the power of data to shape the hundreds of decisions made in any given vintage.  One new decision can revolutionize your winemaking, as Louis explains here with a recent change made at Betz in sulfur dioxide management.  The Betz team is seeking improvement and making decisions not only in the winery, but also in the vineyard, where they inspect vines and collect data once or twice each week throughout the growing season.    Listen here for information on the key role that declassifying barrels plays in raising wine quality, differences between Betz’s 4 single-site syrahs, changes made to the Betz winemaking process in the past several years, and much more.  

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Gamache Vineyard & Vintners

Roger Gamache of Gamache Vineyard and Vintners

Thank you to our show sponsor, Canyon River Ranch in the beautiful Yakima Canyon

Although Roger Gamache grew up on a hops farm and intended to enter the corporate world when he graduated from Central Washington University, he ended up planting wine grapes instead.  That was 1982, when there were barely 3,000 acres of vines and a dozen wineries in Washington state.   Dr. Walter Clore identified an area thirty-five miles north of Pasco as ideal for grapevines, and so Roger and his brother Bob started turning the slopes into a vineyard, first with 25 acres of Sémillon, the easiest vines to get at the time.   Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Cabernet followed by 1985, with most of the fruit going to Chateau Ste. Michelle.  From early on Roger and Bob adopted the view that “wines are made in the vineyard,” but they didn’t start their own Gamache Vintners label until 2002, with Charlie Hoppes as consulting winemaker. 

Roger and Bob nurtured Gamache Vineyard into one of the elite vineyards in the state, and recently sold it to the group that owns Sagemoor Vineyards.  Roger continues to do viticulture work on his small Daley Vineyard  on Red Mountain and owns Gamache Vintners in Prosser.  The Gamache winemaking team sources fruit from Gamache Vineyard, as well as from some of the finest vineyards in the Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills AVAs.  The team makes Bordeaux and Rhone style wines in three different collections, sometimes naming wines after family members, including the one who first came to North America from France in the 17th century.  Listen here to learn more about these wines, why Dr. Walter Clore picked the Gamache Vineyard site in the early 80s, what kinds of things are done in the vineyard to create different wine styles, key research needed in the wine industry as we move forward, and much more.

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Barnard Griffin Winery

Rob Griffin of Barnard Griffin Winery

When Rob Griffin came from California to Washington in 1977 to make wine, many people thought he was crazy.  There were only two wineries at the time in Eastern WA, and one of them, Preston Wines, had offered Rob a job as head winemaker.   He came north to get winemaking experience, assuming he’d return to California in a couple of years.  More than 40 years later, he’s firmly rooted in Richland, Washington where he and his wife Deborah started their Barnard Griffin label in 1983.  They began in rented space with fruit borrowed from a friend, and didn’t have their own facility until 1997.  Today that Richland facility includes a tasting room, lovely restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, and fused glass studio that offers classes for every level of experience.   Production has grown from several hundred cases of white wines, to over 70,000 cases of white, red, rosé, and port wines. Barnard Griffin is now one of the two largest family owned wineries in the state.      

From the beginning, Rob’s goal has been to make wines of consistent high quality at affordable prices.  His signature white, red and port wines range in price from $10 to $17, and are amazing for their quality, consistency and character. The Rosé of Sangiovese has won many awards, and all 16,000+ cases are sometimes sold out by July.  Rob also makes Reserve and special release wines available mostly at the tasting room or through the wine club.  For great wines with a humorous nod to the Rhone, his Côtes du Rôb and  Côtes du Rôb Blanc are must tries at the tasting room.  No trip to wine country would be complete without lunch or dinner at The Kitchen at Barnard Griffin, where one experiences live music on the weekends, a choice of Barnard Griffin wines, and food that’s “globally influenced, regionally sourced.” Listen to the interview to learn more about Barnard Griffin wines and the history or our WA wine industry from the state’s longest continuing winemaker.

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Sleight of Hand Cellars

Trey Busch of Sleight of Hand Cellars

If you like your music on vinyl and your wines magical, then Sleight of Hand Cellars is the place for you.  Whether visiting the Walla Walla or SODO tasting rooms, you’ll find record albums lining the shelves and magic posters decorating the walls and bottles.  The winery’s appropriate motto is: “Great wine, great music, lots of fun.”  For co-owner and founder Trey Busch, music is “like oxygen”, and it’s always on in the tasting rooms and winery.  Even the name “Sleight of Hand” comes from a Pearl Jam song, a favorite band for Trey, who can often be found playing air guitar when he’s not sipping or making wine.   Although the tasting rooms and wine labels are fun, the wines are serious when it comes to quality.  The Levitation Syrah, for example, made Wine Spectator’s top 100 list in 2018.

Speaking of Syrah, Sleight of Hand makes several, and has a club for folks who want only syrah wines in their annual shipments.   The Psychedelic Syrah is from the Stoney Vine Vineyard in The Rocks, which Trey thinks is the most unique AVA in North America.  Although this is a single-vineyard wine, most Sleight of Hand wines blend multiple vineyards and AVAs, even with single varietal wines.  For Trey, winemaking and painting are similar—more vineyards and colors mean more complexity in the final product.  The winery’s signature wine is the Archimage, which is a Cabernet Franc and Merlot blend, with the former varietal always dominant.  It’s an ode to the renowned Cheval Blanc, says Trey, who believes Washington produces the finest Cabernet Franc in the world.  Find out about this and much more from this fun and fascinating interview.

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Abeja Winery

Daniel Wampfler and Amy Alvarez-Wampfler of Abeja Winery

Abeja means bee in Spanish, and the name is an homage to the winery’s respect for nature, sustainability and agricultural roots.  Founders Ken and Ginger Harrison launched their first vintage in 2001 with the goal of producing world-class Cabernet Sauvignon.  That remains a primary goal at Abeja, with Cabernet constituting roughly 70% of the winery’s total production.  The wines are made in a beautifully renovated mule barn, which is just one of the many 100+ year old renovated farm buildings that now make up the Abeja Winery-Inn, and provide enchanting facilities for weddings, dinners or overnight stays.  With its sought-after wines, estate vineyards, gracious facilities, and stunning rural setting, it’s no wonder that Abeja is considered one of the top wineries in Washington to visit.

Daniel and Amy met at Columbia Crest Winery where he was working mainly with red wines and she with whites.  They married in 2009, and came to Abeja in 2016 as Head and Associate Winemakers.  The husband-wife team is continuing the traditional trajectory of Abeja, but has added Cabernet Franc wines to the lineup of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Syrah, and Viognier.   Daniel and Amy make all wine making decisions together, doing their best to apply science to art, which is the heart of their winemaking philosophy.   It’s not typical to go from making a million or two cases of wine to making 5,000+ cases, but that’s what Daniel and  Amy have done, as they explain in this fun and informative interview.

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Structure Cellars

Brian Grasso & Brandee Slosar of Structure Cellars

SODO Urbanworks in South Seattle is becoming a destination place for wine, beer and food.  So it’s no surprise that Structure Cellars co-owners Brian Grasso and Brandee Slosar decided on this venue for their winery and two tasting rooms.  Each tasting room offers a unique experience, with distinct wines and music, but they share the friendly, passionate spirit that Brian and Brandee provide with every pour.  A recent visitor to Structure Cellars said of the tasting rooms, "I would go there every weekend if I lived in Seattle....I think people know each other, and the owners know their people."   Brian and Brandee care passionately about their wines, and their many club members and visitors.  Diverse music, memorable food, and award-winning wines are what you will find at Structure Cellars events and tasting experiences.

A major architectural project and passion for wine came together to create Structure Cellars.  While sipping Brian’s first wine amidst exposed studs and joists in their fixer-upper home, the couple thought about the foundation of both their wine and their house—structure.   Structure Cellars was born that evening, eventually licensed in 2011, and by 2017 the cellars included two tasting rooms and a winemaking facility.  Although Brandee admits to failing at architecture, she has a degree in the field, and her knowledge influences the name of the cellars and many of the wines.   For example, the white-label Structure wines are all “Foundation” wines, and the blue-label wines all have Project Titles such as Oculus, Bartizan, Piloti, and Newel, all architectural terms.  Brian and Brandee also make brown-label, terroir driven wines, which are all single varietal and single vineyard wines.   Listen here for the stories behind the wines, the names, and the couple who create a joyous experience in the SODO neighborhood of South Seattle. 

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14 Hands Winery

Keith Kenison of 14 Hands Winery

14 Hands Winery is one of the most amazing success stories in the U.S. wine industry.  Starting in 2005 as a producer of restaurant-only wine, 14 Hands today produces over 2 million cases of wine distributed nationally and internationally in restaurants and retail outlets.  The name “14 Hands” is rooted in place, referring to the height of wild horses that once roamed the hills of Eastern WA, and appropriate for a winery located at the base of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA.   14 Hands is part of the parent company Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, but operates independently in a beautiful new facility opened in 2014 in Prosser, WA.  Keith Kenison has been at the helm as head winemaker for 14 Hands since the earliest restaurant wines were created.   An Oregon psychology major turned Washington winemaker, Keith has led 14 Hands to its current status as Washington’s second largest winery.

14 Hands is known for quality wine at affordable prices, and this combination helps explain its remarkable success.  Most 14 Hands wines available in retail outlets display a label with brightly colored wild horses and sell for $10 or $12 a bottle.  The Hot to Trot blends have been phenomenally successful, with the red blend now one of the best-selling red blends in the U.S.  The 14 Hands Brut and Brut Rosé sparkling wines made with the traditional Champagne method are an amazing bargain at $15 a bottle.  In 2014, 14 Hands added Reserve wines to its line-up, which are $22 and $35 per bottle, and are sold only in the tasting room or online.   There is also a Vintage Series wine that is the best of the vintage each year.  The 14 Hands wines are so well known and popular that the winery produces official wines for the Kentucky Derby. 

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Hyatt Vineyards & Winery

Leland Hyatt and Marty Johnson of Hyatt Vineyards & Winery

Long before Rattlesnake Hills was an official wine region, Leland and Lynda Hyatt planted a 15-acre vineyard in the area and sold their first wines several years later in 1987.  Those 15 acres have expanded to nearly 200 today in 4 different vineyards, all within several miles of the original plantings.  Their wines are made with estate fruit, which includes Bordeaux, Rhone, Zinfandel, Riesling, Chardonnay and Black Muscat varietals.  The setting is perfect for picnicking, concerts or weddings, with beautiful views of the Yakima Valley and the mountains beyond.   Hyatt is part of the Rattlesnake Hills wine trail offering many different winery stops, so a perfect destination spot for a day or weekend of tasting.

Hyatt Vineyards is known for estate grown, family owned, quality, affordable wines made under the Hyatt Vineyards and Roza Ridge labels.  Most of the wines are priced between $10 and $15, with a few Roza Ridge wines at $20 per bottle. You will find both single varietal wines and a few blends, as well as some varietals not typical to Washington state.  For example, Hyatt produces a Zillah Gorilla Zinfandel, which offers a taste profile very different from a California Zinfandel.  They also produce a Rosé with Black Muscat, a varietal created in the mid 19th century by an Englishman, and an ice wine with Riesling.  Hyatt Vineyards is one of the largest producers in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA, with roughly 15,000 cases made each year and marketed nationally.   

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VanArnam Vineyards

Kent and Allison VanArnam

Kent and Allison VanArnam have created a destination vineyard and winery atop the Rattlesnake Hills with stunning views of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier.  After purchasing the orchard property in 2007, they removed over 6,000 pear trees one by one with their tractor, planted each and every grape vine, and built an impressive facility that includes tasting room, winery, catering facilities, and indoor/outdoor dining venues.  They did all the work themselves, designing and building the structures, stage, gardens, and even the stainless steel fountain!  A Tuscan-style guest house for renting is in progress, as is the clearing of additional acres for vines.  Their day jobs are in Ridgefield not far from Vancouver, WA where they have a second tasting room in the Cellar 55 Co-op Tasting facility. 

VanArnam Vineyards is planted to Bordeaux and Syrah varietals, and all the red wine produced is from estate fruit.  The single varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Syrah wines are 100% varietal, though the VanArnams also produce two red blends—Melange and Red River.  The 2011 Melange received 91 points from Wine Spectator, and is to date the only VanArnam wine that has been submitted to Wine Spectator.  The VanArnams also produce white wines, typically with Viognier, Roussane and Riesling varietals from nearby vineyards.  Listen to the interview to learn about this stunningly beautiful sipping stop along the Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail, and the VanArnam winemaking philosophy, including information about vin de goutte, yeast selection, reserve wine protocol, and much more.

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Sagemoor Vineyards & Wines

Kent Waliser & Lacey Lybeck of Sagemoor Vineyards & Wines

Led by Seattle attorney Alec Bayless and foreign correspondent Albert Ravenholt, a group of investors purchased land for Sagemoor Vineyard along the Columbia River north of Pasco in 1968.  At that time, Washington had barely a half-dozen wineries and no sizable commercial vineyards.  When in 1972 planting of vines began at Sagemoor and the nearby additional properties of Bacchus and Dionysus, Washington’s first large-scale commercial vineyard was taking root.  Today Sagemoor Vineyards includes these three original vineyards, as well as Weinbau and Gamache, totaling over 1,000 acres in both the Columbia Valley and Wahluke Slope AVAs.  Director of Vineyard Operations Kent Waliser and Vineyard Manager Lacey Lybeck work with Sagemoor staff to customize grape-growing practices for the winemaking needs of over 100 wineries throughout the state.

When Allan Bros., Inc. purchased Sagemoor Vineyards in 2014, Kent saw an opportunity to pursue his long-time dream of having a Sagemoor brand of wines.   He formed partnerships with several winemakers, and Selections by Sagemoor was born, going public in early 2018.  It is an online retail shop offering three-bottle boxes of wines carefully selected to highlight the strengths and diversity of Sagemoor Vineyards.  Some boxed selections also have an educational component, as they contain historical information, tasting notes, and  wines selected around a theme, such as the role of the winemaker or the differences in blocks of the same varietal.  Interested consumers can join the list to hear about Sagemoor Selections, with no obligation to buy.  Listen to this interview to hear more about the wines, vineyard history and characteristics, viticultural issues needing further research, potential hazards in the vineyard, and much more. 

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Beckham Estate Vineyard

Andrew & Annedria Beckham

In 2004, Andrew and Annedria Beckham bought land on Parrett Mountain in Oregon’s Chehalem Mountains to build a pottery studio.  Andrew was a ceramics artist/high school art teacher and looked forward to making pots in his new studio during hours outside the classroom.  Annedria was about to pursue a degree in physical therapy.  But then they discovered vineyards on nearby mountain slopes, and their careers took a very different path.  By 2005 Andrew was volunteering in local vineyards and wineries, and in the same year planted their first vines.  It was the beginning of what is today one of the most unique wineries in North America.  When Annedria showed Andrew an article about an Italian woman doing punch downs in clay vessels just as ancient winemakers had done, he said, “I can make those.”  The Amphorae Project was born, and Beckham Estate Vineyard became known for its uniquely designed clay vessels, or Novum, and the amazing wines fermented and aged inside.  Andrew now sells the vessels commercially, but can’t make them fast enough to meet global demand.

Beckham Estate’s original 6+ acre vineyard was planted to Pinot Noir and Riesling.  With the purchase of an additional 20 acres, Andrew and Annedria planted Trousseau Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Aligoté, and several high alpine Italian varietals.  Some or all of these varietals may end up in future wines.  For now, Beckham’s tasting room offers three estate Pinot Noir wines aged in oak, and Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Grenache, Syrah, and Vermentino wines made in clay amphorae.   Listen to the interview to hear more about these wines, the challenges of creating clay vessels appropriate for winemaking, the effect on wines of fermenting and aging in clay, and much more.

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