Latah Creek Wine Cellars, Spokane, WA

Latah Creek Wine Cellar opened in 1982 in Spokane Washington.
Latah Creek Wine Cellar opened in 1982 in Spokane Washington.

We had an interesting visit to Latah Creek Wine Cellars; during our visit their server was hacked, at the time it was supposed by an ISIS jihad group.  Instead of the website they created, Iranian museum photos were coming up, page after page.  What on earth would a group of hackers want with a family owned winery in Spokane?  Shell shocked, the owners, always busy, had to drop everything and focus on the immediacy of the website.

Mike, Natalie and Ellena Conway of Latah Creek.
Mike, Natalie and Ellena Conway of Latah Creek.

Onto the more pleasant aspects of our visit, the people and the wine.  I come from a close-knit family, we do some pretty big projects together over the years, but the Conway family is a model to follow.  Mike and Ellena opened Latah Creek Wine Cellars in 1982, as they welcomed their only child, Natalie.  From vineyard visits to bottling and time in the tasting room, Natalie was immersed in the winery her entire life. She and her father make wine side-by-side with the anticipation that she will take over the winery at a future date.  Her two daughters are following in her stead, this could be a multi-generational winery.  The photo at the right is about five minutes before the website debacle.  Ellena is the business side of the winery including stocking the tasting room gift shop, cooking and hostessing the winery events.  We were able to spend a few minutes with each of them; genuine, lovely and creative people; even in the face of a crisis they could still find something to smile about.

Personalized wine labels for those memorable occasions, pick your wine, your label and you have a perfect gift.
Personalized wine labels for those memorable occasions, pick your wine, your label and you have a perfect gift.

Vicky poured for us, and of course we chatted.  She and her husband are motorcycle riders too!  As Latah Creek does specialty labels for births, weddings, and other special events, Vicky is their point person for that service.   We told her about the bottle of 1994 Chenin Blanc that was personalized for the birth of my dear Husband’s youngest daughter.  That wine was still in the bottle when I met them in 2007 – no, it had not been stored properly.  When we decided to pull the cork the results were as expected: the cork crumbled, the wine was well passed its peak and the bottle was the most salvageable part.  I made her a nightlight with it, but alas, I can’t find a picture of it to share with you.

Making 13,000-15,000 cases annually, Latah Creek has something for everyone.  Ellena has written and published three cookbooks with wine pairings suggested throughout them, she is also writing a cooking blog linked to their website.

The wines:

  • Latah Creek's Riesling blended with huckleberries for a very popular and award winning wine.
    Latah Creek’s Riesling blended with huckleberries for a very popular and award winning wine.  This is how the original label looked.

    2012 Chardonnay – from the ancient Lakes AVA, Milbrandt’s Familigia Vineyards, this double gold medal winning crisp apple and pear cobbler finishing smooth and spicy.

  • 2013 Pinot Gris – from the Yakima Valley AVA, Sunnyside Vineyards, opens with honey and violets  serenading the tongue with tropical fruits through a pineapple finish, another double gold medal winner.
  • Huckleberry d’ Latah – a non-vintage blend of Riesling and Huckleberry, local huckleberry, is a bright,fruity, sweet and lovely wine.  This is Latah Creek’s signature wine as it has become so popular over the years  including awards of Best in Class and Northwest Favorite.
  • Maywine – another non-vintage blend made in the style of the German Maywine, this is Chenin Blanc blended with woodruff and strawberries. The herbs provide a warmer palate than the huckleberry wine, 10.5% ABV, 5.5% RS.
  • 2012 Muscat Canelli – 10.5% ABV, 4% RS with a lovely astringent finish this is a sweet-tart white to pair with spicy food or sip on its own.
  • 2011 Ellena-Ellena – 100% Cabernet Franc that is a smooth, easy drinker, much lighter than the typical Washington Cabernet Franc, it reminded me of the Loire Valley Cabernet Franc wines I have tried.  It is named for co-owner Ellena, it is her favorite ‘house’ wine.
  • Latah Creek's Monarch Red blend.
    Latah Creek’s Monarch Red blend with the newly released label style.

    Monarch Red no.2 – non-vintage blend of 34% Merlot, 24% Tempranillo, 24% Malbec, & 18% Syrah at 13.5% ABV this is a full-bodied red blend full of Cassis, plum and smoke followed by tobacco and toast and brighter red fruits having a more apparent tannic finish, albeit still smooth.

  • 2012 Reserve Monarch Tempranillo – from the Wahluke Slope AVA, Lee Paloma Vineyard, full of black plum, Cassis, ripe gooseberry and baking spice with a subtle tobacco and vanilla finish – it has been newly released.
  • 2012 Reserve Monarch Primitivo – from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, Zephyr Ridge Vineyards, combine rich ripe blackberries and fresh ground pepper with newly cut oak, also a new release.
  • 2012 Reserve Monarch Petite Sirah – also from Zephyr ridge Vineyard, the third new release, is cherry and dark berries with vanilla and a hint of spice.
  • 2010 Natalie’s Nectar – 10.5% ABV, 10% RS is a Syrah-based dessert wine full in body and fruit flavor.

This is well-distributed wine, let me know if you can find it and what you think.

Cheers!

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