2016 Kontos Cellars, Alatus Blend, $45
Winery info: The Kontos family has six generations of history in the Walla Walla Valley, dating back to 1858. Their journey into winemaking began when Cliff Kontos co-founded Fort Walla Walla Cellars in 1998. Working alongside his father from an early age inspired his son Cameron to follow in his father’s footsteps. Cameron worked for eight years at Forgeron Cellars as assistant winemaker alongside Marie-Eve Gilla, before starting Kontos with his brother Chris. Alatus is his signature blend, named for his grandpa “Doc” Campbell’s 63-foot sailboat.
Winemaker: Cameron Kontos
Grapes: 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot, 8% Malbec, aged in French and American oak, about 40% of which is new.
Vineyard Source: From Pepper Bridge, Summit View, Seven Hills and Les Collines, all premier Walla Walla Valley vineyards.
Flavor profile: Cameron creates blends with fruit from the same varietal, sourced from different Walla Walla vineyards, to produce wines with great complexity, letting each varietal express its own character and origin. This wine is lovely and approachable now, with flavors of ripe red fruit, inviting depth and complexity, and soft, well-integrated tannins.
Availability: 240 cases produced. This is the end of this vintage and they’re moving on to the 2017.
Drinkability: Enjoy anytime, now through 2025.
Food Pairing: Try it with duck, braised meat, burgers, or anything off the grill.
2017 Cairdeas Winery, Trí, SMG, $42
Winery info: Cairdeas (pronounced “car-diss”) takes its name from an ancient Gaelic word meaning friendship, goodwill, or alliance. It was founded in 2009 by former West Seattleites (and club members at the shop) Charlie and Lacey Lybecker. Inspired by the wines of France’s Rhône Valley, their focus has always been on producing wines in that style from Washington fruit. In 2012 they moved their winery from West Seattle to Lake Chelan. This wine, Trí, gets its name from the Gaelic word for three, and is a blend of the three most common red Rhône varietals.
Winemaker: Charlie Lybecker
Grapes: 60% Syrah, 30% Mourvèdre, 10% Grenache, aged in neutral French oak.
Vineyards: All three grapes are sourced from Boushey Vineyard in the Yakima Valley, one of the most highly sought after vineyards in the state. Some of the Syrah fruit also comes from Lawrence Vineyard in the Frenchman Hills of the Royal Slope, a cooler site where the fruit ripens more slowly, and the longer hang time promotes exceptional flavor development.
Flavor profile: This wine is sleek and elegant, with savory red fruit flavors, nice brambly notes, and hints of spice, all of which evolves on the palate and lingers on the finish. It is very balanced and complex.
Availability: They made only 387 cases and, because it received great press and was mostly earmarked for their wine club members, there is not much of this vintage left.
Drinkability: You could enjoy this one soon, or let it develop for two to three years.
Food Pairing: Try it with lamb burgers or perhaps a peppercorn steak.