I’d like to close out the year by acknowledging the scores of smaller wineries in the Pacific Northwest.
I always struggle with how to classify these wineries. Mom and Pop operation sounds like a casual hobby that got out of control. Boutique winery gives the impression of something inaccessible and standoffish. I think “handcrafted” fits the bill. It lets consumers know that the winery pays attention to small details and provides a product that can compete with the high volume production of larger operations.
A perfect example is Hightower Cellars, located in Eastern Washington’s Red Mountain appellation. Husband and wife Tim and Kelly Hightower literally run the entire winemaking process from start to finish. They’re also wonderful hosts and you’ll be hard pressed to find a nicer pair of people in the wine business.
Last month a group of friends and I paid them a visit. We spent almost two hours barrel tasting, sampling new releases and chatting with them about the fall crush. This is the kind of service that only a smaller winery can provide and it’s one of the things that makes taking a wine tasting tour so enjoyable.
New releases include the 2003 Murray Cuvee Red Wine (about $16), named for the Hightower’s Yellow Labrador and the 2003 Walla Walla Blend (about $22). Also currently available are the 2003 Merlot (about $23), a big wine loaded with dark cherry flavors and the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $31) which is drinking awfully well right now. It also displays cherry fruit with subtle tannins and a velvety finish.
Quantities are limited but they can usually be found locally at the Fairhaven Food Pavilion, Community Food Co-op and the newly opened Purple Smile at 1143 11th Street. More information: www.hightowercellars.com.