Arrow-right Camera

Color Scheme

Subscribe now

Mother’s Day weekend an opportunity to sample newest vintages

By Megan Dhein For The Spokesman-Review

Regional wineries are celebrating Mother’s Day weekend with spring release, “a time that traditionally wineries are ready to release new products and people are excited about the new vintage,” Patricia Butterfield, Winescape owner, said.

Butterfield is also the president of the Spokane Winery Association, which includes 12 area wineries and two specialty wine shops.

“We’re a small nonprofit, and our goal is to advocate for wine in this community and to heighten people’s awareness of the quality of wine,” Butterfield said.

According to Natalie Conway-Barnes, winemaker with Latah Creek Wine Cellars, four local wineries – Latah Creek Wine Cellars, Arbor Crest Wine Cellars, Worden’s Washington Winery and Mountain Dome Winery – started collaborating on wine events around 1986. These conversations were the foundation of the association, which added members and formalized over time.

Conway Barnes is the daughter half of the father-daughter team at Latah Creek Wine Cellars, and the two said they’ve witnessed a lot of changes over the years.

“(Spokane is) unique in that every winery here is owner-operated, so that’s an unusual circumstance,” Mike Conway, Latah Creek Wine Cellars owner/winemaker said. “A lot of wineries outside of the area are owned, but their winemaking is done by someone else.”

Many Spokane wineries and shops remarked upon the congenial relationship they have with each other. Jessica Walsh, owner of Outwest Wines & Ciders, just joined the association at the beginning of the year.

“I think a lot of it is to help just support each other,” Walsh said. “If people ask me … ‘Where else should we go?’ I like recommending other wineries within the association. I also really appreciate the information sharing.”

In fact, Sarah Lathrop, Liberty Lake Wine Cellars, said Walsh just observed their bottling operation the other day and Barrister Winery had supplied Liberty Lake with bottles.

“It’s just overall a really helpful group,” said Lathrop, who is also the Spokane Winery Association treasurer.

Wine club memberships can play a key role in the financial security of the winery as well as creating community. Russ Feist, co-owner of Barili Cellars, said Barili relies on its members.

“I think that’s one of the things our members like is (that) they can come down, they can sit, they can talk with the winemaker – which is Gary and I – and just have a conversation,” Feist said. “Since we are fairly small, we don’t really have any other employees and they can talk about the wine, talk about the grapes, talk about the process.”

Craig Leuthold, Maryhill Winery co-owner, described wine club members as the “heart and soul” of the winery.

“That was one of the reasons that we put a tasting room in Spokane, which was our first satellite tasting room, was being able to actually reach people in an urban environment because our winery is really remote,” Leuthold said. ” … It was all about being close to where the customers were so that they could frequent us and we could build a one-on-one relationship with the customers.”

The relationships these spaces form are important on both sides of the bar. Recently, Helix Wines lost Steve Bledsoe, a tasting room manager.

“We sent out an email of remembrance about Steve to all our club members and within less than five minutes from that email going out, one of our club members who lives upstairs in our building came to the window, and she gave me a big hug and in tears,” said Denise Hendricks, Helix tasting room lead. “ … We know our club members really well, they’re like friends.”

Judie Schumacher, a current wine club member at Liberty Lake Wine Cellar, said she looks forward to Thursdays, when the winery has their member’s night, where a selected wine is available for $6 a glass.

“A lot of members come in because it’s a wonderful deal, and over the course of the time we’ve been going, we’ve struck up some friendships there,” Schumacher said.

Wine club member perks vary from winery to winery. For example, Arbor Crest Wine Cellars members receive tickets to their summer concert series, among other goodies.

“It makes us so happy when they actually come up and use their membership benefits,” said Karen Ballew, Arbor Crest Wine Cellars retail sales manager.

While wine destinations like Walla Walla often have club members from across the country, many Spokane wineries members are local to the area. Vine Wine, a specialty wine shop in Deer Park, said all its members are local.

“It’s a very integral part of our business being successful at this point,” said Jollene Vining, partner at Vine Wine. She also noted that the shop carries wines from many of the local wineries in the association. Spokane Winery Association changed their bylaws to include wine shops in their membership. The other wine shop member is Vino! A Wine Shop.

“If more people get interested in wine it’s better for the whole – all boats rise when the tides come in,” said John Allen, Vino! A Wine Shop owner/manager.

Not all wineries decide wine clubs are right for them. Townshend Cellar used to have a wine club but decided to step away from it.

“We’ve been in business since ‘98, and what I’ve found in the time that we’ve been doing, the most important thing is that people have a consistent, affordable product that they can drink nightly, weekly, whatever,” Brendon Townshend, Townshend Cellar owner said. ” … That doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a wine club where you’re trying to do new releases, new products all the time.”

Because Spokane doesn’t have the ideal climate for growing grapes, most wineries source from elsewhere in the region, but Arbor Crest has a rosé from grapes grown on their vineyard in Spokane.

“It’s not a very big vineyard, and it’s more decorative than anything, but we have discovered that it makes a beautiful rosé,” Ballew said.

Just because most wineries in town don’t grow their own grapes doesn’t mean they don’t use their location to their advantage. Take Barrister Winery, with a tasting room near the railroad tracks, for example.

“All of our barrels get that micro-vibration, so everything’s so smooth,” said Dana Ryan, Barrister Winery manager.

When talking about where a wine’s grapes are from, wineries refer to the American Viticultural Area, or AVA, of the grapes. According to the Washington State Wine Commission, Washington is home to 20 distinct AVAs.

For Terra Blanca, all its grapes come from its 300-acre estate on Red Mountain. Barili also sources from Red Mountain, as well as Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley and others. Maryhill has its main winery in Goldendale, but source from 20 different vineyards all throughout the Columbia River Gorge.

The big picture? “Wine is inherently expressive of time and place, and that’s just so magical,” Butterfield said. ” … With our weather, just almost everything can be made beautifully in Washington.