Twenty years ago (about 1997) Joel Mackey bought ten acres of Red Mountain with the intent of growing cherry trees, but he had no water rights so the land stayed sagebrush for a few more years. It occurs to me his farming roots from Eltopia would have made him check out this detail prior to purchasing the land, but hey, we all have dreams and his vineyard is nicely established, so shifting gears mustn’t have been too hard. This bit of ground has been christened ‘Monte Scarlatto‘, Red Mountain in Italian in honor of his mother’s heritage. It is nice to see what he has done with the place and what he still has planned for it. The tasting room used to be the garage of the house above. Its bathroom is roughed in and functional but the walls are heavy clear painters-plastic, kind of an odd juxtaposition with the lovely light fixtures already hanging in the room – but with my construction background, I get it and it will be lovely. The patio off the east side is well protected from the dry winds through
with a brand new fountain on one corner. To the south side of that is a part of the nine-hole golf course (with the tasting room called the 10th hole).
All of the grapes are estate grapes: Barbera, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and more Barbera; lots of Barbera, but that is the Italian grape.
We began our tasting with the 2013 Barbera Blush, a sweet fruit Rose’ of Barbera. This was followed by the 2011 Merlot, a fruit-forward, easy drinking wine not as big as most Walla Walla Merlots we are used to. The 2012 10th Hole is an acidic Bordeaux blend with minimal tannins and lots of red fruits. Then the 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; all bright red fruits filling your mouth.
Everyone else in the tasting room left before we had our last tasting of the ‘Dawn’s Bikini Barbera’, a tribute to Joel’s fiancé Dawn as she
lost her fight with cancer several years ago. Joel provided the background about how Dawn would work in the fields, planting the vines in her bikini and short shorts, how she was a fitness buff and worked out on the dance pole that is now at the corner of the bar. Each June there is a ‘Dawn’s Bikini Bash’ with live music and catered food (last year was Creole) and proceeds going to the TriCities Cancer Center.
2011 was the first vintage Monte Scarlatto Vineyard produced grapes. Joel told us about having no equipment of his own and using the Airfield Estates press between 7 and 9 AM after being up until 2 AM siphoning the wine off of the fruit as he had no pump, so he could bring just the fruit with him and just the pressed wine back home. Crush was a literal term at this point as much as a season. But Joel is still here, with 2014 under his belt and 2015 a dream yet to come.
Meanwhile, Joel’s son is at WSU in the Enology program with a year and a half to go before he graduates and some beer brewing background under his belt. But Dad insists he will work elsewhere before working for him, which is probably a good thing for both father and son.
As we were leaving Zinfandel, the winery dog, was happy to have some attention. I pet her and attempted to take a picture of her in her cute poses, but before I could she would be right against my leg wanting more affection. Finally, inspired, I asked my partner in wine to get her attention so I could catch at least a photo, even if it was just an ordinary photo. Zin, as her tag refers to her, wanted more petting and love, but she got conversation. Oh well, I am sure the guys working in the vineyard and the winery ensure she is well-loved.