KIONA, Wash. — Nearly a decade after its creation, Anelare Winery has put down roots — just a pitching wedge downhill from Forrest and Kahryn Alexander’s new home in the Yakima Valley that features Red Mountain as a backdrop.
“We’re very excited,” said Kahryn, Anelare’s managing partner. “We have 10 acres on the property, and it comes with a barn that we’ll be fixing up over the winter to open up to the public and our wine club.”
The Alexanders, who grew up in the Tri-Cities and met while both were playing varsity golf in college, spent more than a year looking for a spot on Red Mountain where they could showcase their boutique wines and raise their two children.
[youtube id=”ZxaTQv12Sj0″ width=”620″ height=”360″]“We made lots of phone calls to people who didn’t even have property listed, but we found this listing at the last minute and saw this barn that had water and power,” Kahryn said. “The views looking up at the Horse Heavens, up Badger Canyon and over at Red Mountain are just beautiful. We think it will be peaceful for everybody, and peaceful for us as well.”
Their new home off Webber Canyon Road comes with 10 acres in the shrub-steppe and borders the Bureau of Land Management’s Horse Heaven Hills unit. Chandler Butte, at 2,045 feet elevation, casts its dusky shadow over the Anelare tasting room barn as hang gliders touch down several hundred yards away near McBie Road.
There’s also the potential for a successful estate vineyard. Precept Wine’s Skyfall Vineyard serves as an example less than a mile to the west.
“We would love to have vines on the property aesthetically, and we’ll see where it takes us as far as doing some estate wines,” she said. “The property would be so beautiful with them. The great thing about this property is we have room to grow.”
Fidelitas’ Hoppes continues to guide wine program
“We’re very excited about Charlie,” she said. “He’ll be making our wines and keep production over there, and our permanent home will be here on the Kiona hillside.”
It’s been a natural transition for the Alexanders, who created Anelare with Kahryn’s parents, Dr. Jim and Cindy Campbell, and timed it with the critically acclaimed 2005 vintage.
“We got started basically by following Charlie, Victor Cruz and the Gamache brothers,” she said. “We’d go out to Cañon de Sol and they had their fold-up tables with wine on the table and the taco wagon. How could you not fall in love with those guys and what they were doing?
“We got really excited, and Victor offered to do consulting winemaking for us,” she continued. “Both Forrest and I have business backgrounds, so with the access to fruit and being in such good hands and surrounded by wineries in the Tri-Cities, we thought it would be an opportunity that we should take. We have the passion for wine and food, and it’s been a really fun venture for us.”
They worked with University of Washington students in French and Italian studies to develop a name and label for their winery, turning the search into a contest. The Italian word for “desire” won out, and soon they established their winery bond at Cruz’s Cañon de Sol in Badger Canyon with their brand available only via their wine club.
“We didn’t sell by the bottle,” she said. “It was a great way to establish a base of customers, and the next year we introduced the Nonna Viola (red blend), which we sold by the bottle and distributed on a small scale.”
A few years later, they opened a tasting room in the Southridge section of Kennewick.
“It propelled our business, grew our wine club and grew our name,” she said. “It was a great thing, but there was a time when we wanted to own our own property.”
One constant is knowing that success starts in the vineyard. The Alexanders have maintained their relationship with West Hills and Gamache vineyards and slowly branched out, picking up contracts with Katherine Leone and Weinbau on the Wahluke Slope and famed Ciel du Cheval Vineyard on Red Mountain.
“In the wine industry, you’ll get calls about different allotments that people back out of,” she said. “The fun part is that there are options out there, and we feel fortunate that people are picking up the phone and calling us. We’re happy to have those great relationships.”
Alexanders to launch second label called Zio
They’ve kept production for Anelare between below 1,000 cases and focused on big reds, but they’ve recently launched a new, lower-price brand called Zio.
Much of the Zio production will be sold via a new partnership with Yoke’s Fresh Market — a small grocery chain based in Spokane. Their first release is a 2010 blend of Roussanne and Viognier, and the brand — an Italian word for “uncle” — is a tribute to family. One of their uncles is Earl Smart, a Tri-City wine professional who often pours at the Anelare tasting room. His signature beret has been incorporated into the Zio logo.
“We will still focus on our wine club, but we still love to meet new people so we will be open to the public,” Kahryn said. “We will be focusing Zio on distribution, and we will sell it in our tasting room.”
Anelare will remain their top tier, and it will continue to be sold in the Tri-Cities at Mid-Columbia Wine & Spirits, Fred Meyer and Albertsons. The Alexanders also plan to remain involved with Nectar Tasting Room and Wine Bar, a co-op in downtown Spokane.
“We are one of five wineries there, and you can walk in and taste a huge variety of wines,” she said. “We go up to Spokane a few times a year, and they’ll feature just Anelare wine. We have a fun night and meet a lot of great people. It’s a nice way for us to be downtown and have another tasting room.”
The irony, the synergy and the hope for Alexanders’ latest investment shows on their faces as they point out Red Mountain vineyards and wineries to visitors.
“You can see Fidelitas — and you can see our place from his patio,” Kahryn said with a smile.