Much of the time when we plan our monthly winemaker events, a dinner with our partners at Fleur de Sel and a tasting here at the shop, we schedule wineries that we know. We plan it this way because we know the wines and have enjoyed them for some time, and we feel our customers will enjoy them as well. Occasionally though, our distributors will come to us with a winery or winemaker we are less familiar with, one they feel will be a great addition to our shop and the wine market overall, and one they feel warrants our customer’s attention.
Just this past week we hosted JJ Williams, co-owner and grape grower at Kiona Vineyards and Winery. Kiona is notable for a number of reasons. They own and farm the oldest vineyard in the prestigious Red Mountain Appellation, located near Benton City, Wash. The Kiona estate vineyard was planted by JJ’s grandfather in 1975. Kiona is also one of the largest landowners, farming more than 270 acres around the state with much of it located in the Red Mountain AVA. Red Mountain is important, as it is one of the smallest growing areas and also produces some of the most sought after and expensive “fruit” anywhere in the Northwest. On the winery side of the operation, Kiona has been producing fabulous wines for more than 40 years while still selling significant amounts of fruit to other wineries around the state. Even if you have not yet had a Kiona wine, chances are you have had wine made from Kiona grown grapes.
Here is the best part: the Williams family and Kiona do all this work producing outstanding wines and yet they have never gotten “silly” with their pricing the way many producers have in the Northwest. This is what we respect most about JJ and Kiona.
At both events, wine consumers responded enthusiastically to the wines. JJ did a great job presenting the wines and an even better job in explaining the philosophy of Kiona, their emphasis on working exclusively with small retailers over big box stores and preferring to be with small, locally owned restaurants over national chains. Obviously music to our ears! JJ’s command of the broad array of grape varietals the family owns and how they all fit together into the large-but-well-thought-out portfolio of wines they produce was truly impressive. He is an articulate and passionate advocate for the Northwest wine industry as a whole, and specifically his own wine. It was a great pair of events and we discovered what we feel will be a long-term friend and a great partnership.
We tasted five of the Kiona Wines and here are the ones that we liked the most and our customers bought the most of…
The 2018 Kiona Chenin Blanc ($19, $17.10 Wine Club price) was just a joy to drink! While part of the reason it was so well received is that you don’t see a lot of domestically produced Chenin Blanc, the rest of the reason was clearly the quality of the wine. It is fermented dry and shows a lovely combination of minerality, citrus and apple flavors from aromatics to palate flavors.
The 2016 Kiona Sangiovese ($26, $23.40 Wine Club price) was a stunning surprise for us. We find that domestic producers (and specifically those in Washington) tend to oak “Sangio” too much. In its native Italy, Sangiovese is treated very delicately with oak barrel aging; they recognize the delicate nature of the varietal employing modest oak, if any at all, to allow all the lovely fruit flavors to come through. The Kiona is light in color and shows lovely raspberry flavors and spring berry aromas. It is precisely what Sangiovese is meant to be with perfect balance throughout the wine.
The 2016 Kiona Estate Cuvee ($19, $17.10 Wine Club price) was the best-selling wine at both events. Cabernet dominant, the wine is an extraordinary balance of fruit tannin and oak at a simply amazing price for the caliber of the wine. Its roots are clearly in Bordeaux, but with enough new world influence to make it a summer crowd pleaser for all your parties.
We are proud to have hosted JJ and to welcome Kiona wines to the shelves of the dinner party! We will be carrying all three of these wines regularly on our shelves in addition to the Kiona Lemberger. Consumers can also expect to see more of the Kiona wines in our weekly wine special, ‘The Friday Night Flights.’ We are also thrilled to have made a new friend in the wine business in JJ and expect it to be a great long-term relationship.
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George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018. George is also published in several other publications around the country. After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/#!/dinnerpartyshop.