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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Divine pairings at winery’s Oktoberfest

Steve Christilaw Correspondent

Talk about a match made in heaven.

Food and wine. In just the right pairing, it’s magic.

Latah Creek Winery will show off some of that magic during its Oktoberfest celebration at its tasting room, 13030 E. Indiana Ave., next Saturday and Oct. 2. A special tasting reception will be Friday for those on the winery’s mailing list.

“We have two or three special events for the people on our mailing list,” co-owner Ellena Conway explained. “If someone were to come by and sign up for our mailing list, they would be included in the Friday night event.”

The winery, which opened in 1982, is one of only a few family-owned wineries in the state. Mike Conway is the chief winemaker – a veteran of Ernest and Julio Gallo as well as Franzia Brothers wineries before helping create Latah Creek as a joint venture with Hogue Cellars. Ellena Conway handles the financial responsibilities for the company while their daughter, Natalie, has joined her father to learn winemaking.

Latah Creek produces roughly 11,000 cases annually. About 25 percent of that total is made up of red wines like merlot, cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese. Another 35 percent is made up of chardonnay. The remaining 40 percent is divided up into smaller lots of Johannisberg Riesling, muscat canelli and proprietary blends of Maywine, huckleberry Riesling and Spokane blush. Last year the company released Natalie’s Nectar, a sweet red dessert wine made from cabernet grapes.

The Oktoberfest weekend will showcase many of the company’s wines in partnership with good food.

“We really enjoy that whole art of pairing wine with food,” Ellena Conway said. “That’s part of the real fun of wine. We’ll have about five different tables set up pairing food with some of our wines. For example we’ll have a table pairing our merlot, our cabernet and our cabernet-Merlot with these little chocolate-raspberry pirouettes, and we have our Riesling and our blush along with our huckleberry wine with a pecan vinaigrette salad. We have our muscat and Maywine at another table served with a hot pepper/peach preserve poured over brie cheese. We have our chardonnay and our sangiovese served with brats.

“Then we have our hot, spiced sangiovese with mulling spices, which is a neat thing.”

Most of the food and all of the wine samples are free during the weekend festival. The variety of German and Polish sausages will be sold as a fund-raiser for the Eastern Washington University swim team.

Another treat the winery will offer is the chance to taste some of the juice Mike and Natalie Conway will turn into next year’s vintage.

“We’ll be sampling the fermented juice we’ve received for the 2005 vintage season, which will be from muscat canelli grapes,” Ellena said. “Not everyone gets to experience that, and you certainly don’t experience something like that unless you visit a winery.

“You get a chance to taste the juice as it’s just come in from the vineyards. You’ll be tasting it just as the juice is settling and is at just the beginning of the winemaking process and then you’ll be able to taste the finished product of what that wine will be later. We’ll be inoculating with yeast early next week, so it will be about a week into that fermenting process. And we may have some juice from another vineyard that you’ll be able to taste.”

Juice from the state’s grape harvest is coming in almost daily, Ellena Conway said – making this an exciting time around the winery.

As part of the celebration the winery will offer special pricing on its wines and many of its gift-shop items. They will also hold an end-of-vintage sale on its 2003 Chardonnay and our 2003 sangiovese.

One item that will not be available is Ellena Conway’s much-anticipated cookbook sequel. Her first cookbook sold out. The sequel, called “Just Released,” should be available in November.

“Some of the food items we’ll have available were included in my first cookbook,” she said. “And some of the things we will be serving, like the hot pepper-peach preserve, are available for purchase here.

“The idea is to show that you can have some really good taste experiences without having to do anything really expensive,” she said.

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