The Washington wine industry prides itself on community. Wineries and vineyards often help each other out, from the winemaker next door texting another to borrow a spare bin to another needing corks or a hot tip on a desired vineyard block up for grabs. More competitive wine regions do not see camaraderie like this — even with Washington producing the second-most wine in the country. But it is common place in the Evergreen State especially in Eastern Washington.
This kind of solidarity sparked an email conversation earlier this year between two people at two iconic Washington wineries. J.J. Williams, sales manager at Kiona Vineyards and Winery and third generation to work the vineyard-winery, discovered that 1978 was the first year their Red Mountain AVA vineyard produced fruit that was sold to a winery — now-shuttered Preston Wine Cellars in Pasco, with then-25-year-old Rob Griffin at the winemaking helm. Williams brought that to the attention of Megan Hughes, Griffin’s daughter and the assistant winemaker at Barnard Griffin, the winery Griffin and his wife Deborah Barnard established in 1983 when the UC Davis grad went out on his own.
“We have this binder that my grandma collects all these press clippings and accolades and in there was a Preston label from 1978 Kiona Vineyard Riesling,” Williams says of how the idea of collaboration started. “I think Kiona and Barnard Griffin grew up in parallel and went through a lot of the same challenges…. Our brands have a lot in common. Instead of viewing each other as dreaded competitors and someone who needs to be vanquished, we’ve collaborated.”
Because of their wineries’ and families’ shared history, Williams and Hughes decided to honor and celebrate this 40-year milestone and collaborate on a very special wine. In October, the grapes were picked from the Red Mountain block that started it all — a 3.5 acre lot at the estate that plays home to 43-year-old vines — to produce this special, single varietal Cabernet Sauvignon. The same block of fruit that was sold to Griffin at Preston back in 1978 is supplying his wine again today.
“There are a lot of wineries in Washington that I think command respect [within the] industry and for us, Barnard Griffin is certainly one of those wineries,” Williams says of the team vinifing his family’s grapes.
And now we wait until 2021 when this wine will be ready. The offer is not yet available for eager Washington wine lovers to claim — the wine has just recently been racked and is still a bit out from the final blend. Williams says to keep an eye on both Kiona’s and Barnard Griffin’s websites (plus this handy sign-up form) and social media for announcements as the wine is expected to sell out quickly.
Though the wine is currently nameless, label-less and without a set case estimation, Williams promises the wine will be tasty because Kiona and Barnard Griffin don’t make any other kind. When available, proceeds from this wine will benefit Second Harvest Food Bank, which services the people of the greater Tri-Cities, Washington.
Forty years ago, roughly 10 wineries called Washington home. In 2018 more than 940 producing. Working together and collaborating made sense then as it does now — so much you can taste it.