WALLA WALLA, Wash. – As the wine communities slowly move towards various levels of operation, this latest VineLines Dispatch column by resident photojournalist Richard Duval notes the openings of new wineries and tasting rooms as well as changes in wine personnel.
While many opened this past spring, we held back relaying news of openings until customers could actually visit.
In addition to the column, Duval is slowly and responsibly venturing into the wine communities to capture vineyards and wine people to help illustrate the ever-expanding industry. Watch for him with a Washington State University facemask firmly in place.
Itä Wines is the latest winery to open in the Incubator at the Airport District. Owner/winemaker Kelsey Albro Itämeri crafts small lot wines made exclusively from Walla Walla vineyard grapes – including a seldom-found Pinot Noir.
Staying in the Airport district is Prospice Winery, owned by winemakers Jay Krutulis and Matt Reilly, who left corporate careers and graduated from the acclaimed wine program of Walla Walla Community College. They aim for small lots of riper, more extracted wines with light oak.
Smoky Rose Cellars
Smoky Rose Cellars recently opened in the Westside district. Owner/winemaker Josh Roznowski – whose day job is vineyard manager for Doubleback — uses only Walla Walla Valley grapes in his Bordeaux and Rhône-inspired wines.
Just across the state line in The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater is Ducleaux Cellars, owned by winemaking team Toby Turlay and Chris Dukelow. The backyard tasting room – offering killer views of the Blue Mountains – is temporary while their new digs and Rocks vineyard takes shape. There are delightful stories behind the names of their Rhône-inspired wines.
Long a must-stop in downtown Walla Walla, Rôtie Cellars opened its long-awaited tasting room nestled in its Rôtie Rocks Estate Vineyard. The beauty of the bright wood-themed interior is only slightly bested by the near 360 degree view of The Rocks District vineyards and expansive Seven Hills vineyards just to the south. It’s perfect complement to the traditional Rhone blends made from Washington blends by winemaker Sean Boyd.
Kinhaven Winery and Vineyard
Kinhaven Winery and Vineyard has opened its chic Southside District tasting room, wide patio and its own jaw-dropping view of the Blue Mountains. “Small-lot wines with a big heart” are crafted by veteran winemaker David Stephenson for Kasey and Cameron Davenport, part of the family ownership group. You might recognize Cameron from his chef position at downtown favorite Passatempo Taverna.
Winemaker/owner Justin Basel built a home worthy of Solemn Cellars — adjacent to Pheasant Run, the family estate vineyard. Bathed in natural light from its many windows, the new tasting room features a spacious patio and a picturesque view of the Blue Mountains.
Fueled by his passion for wine and contemporary construction, owner/winemaker Dennis Murphy blended both in Caprio Cellars. Led by general manager Derek Brendle and customer experience director Emily Kiefer, the winery specializes in small-lot Bordeaux-style red blends made entirely from the two estate vineyards.
Toward downtown Walla Walla is Grosgrain Vineyards, owned by Matt and Kelly Austin, a pair of transplanted Californians who knew a good thing when they saw it. Situated on the refreshed and re-furbished property is the winery, tasting room and estate vineyard – featuring Nebbiolo, Aglianico, Grenache and Carignane grapes – and a four-bedroom vacation rental.
Lawrelin Wine Cellars
New wineries and tasting rooms dot the downtown district as well. Part of the popular Second Avenue Stroll, storied winemaker Kendall Mix finally carved out a home for his micro-winery project Lawrelin Wine Cellars.
Beyond his daily job as head winemaker for Jerry Milbrandt’s Wahluke Wine Co., and Butch Milbrandt’s Milbrandt Vineyards and Ryan Patrick Wines, Mix produces only about 250-350 cases per vintage from grapes drawn from some of the best vineyards in the state. Visitors can expect a stroll through history as Lawrelin focuses on verticals that stretch back several vintages.
Mark Ryan Annex
Moving into the newly opened Showroom on Colville is the Mark Ryan Annex, just an easy stroll from the winery’s Main Street tasting room. Fans of the famed Mary Ryan wines can find bottles from the entire family – including Megan Anne Cellars and its buzz-worthy Oregon Pinot Noir lineup – in this very contemporary setting.
Bergevin Lane Vineyards
Right next door is the new tasting room for longtime Walla Walla producer Bergevin Lane Vineyards. Winemaking will remain at the facility it has called home for nearly 20 years, the new tasting room reflects the upscale cool of its founding partner and driving force Annette Bergevin. On your visit, check out the colorful patio created by this proud Washington State University alum and fifth-generation native of the Walla Walla Valley.
- The next installment of the VineLines Dispatch will update Woodinville Wine Country, Wine Yakima Valley and the booming Vancouver USA scene.
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