“We wanted to learn as much as we could, and getting dirty seemed like the best way to do it.”
Imagine, if you will, two engineers in an early 1960’s office north of Richland, WA. Crisp white button downs, thick black rimmed glasses, tie clips, and pocket protectors: the whole thing. One engineer is just barely out of college, shorter, with a gregarious nature and a spring in his step. The other, also in his first “real” job, is taller, and has a cool, confident California swagger.
These two young men were destined to do great things together, even if they didn’t know it yet. In fact, their paths wouldn’t cross until one fateful morning when they would come into work and find their desks pushed together, seemingly out of the blue. It was on this day that John Williams and Jim Holmes would meet at their jobs at General Electric, and the course of the Washington wine industry would change forever.
Their friendship was nearly instantaneous. John had an entrepreneurial spirit, and an entrepreneurial family. He was willing and able to take tremendous risk, even with four young children at home. Jim came from Vallejo, California, and brought an appreciation for great wine and an analytical mind particularly adept at seeing potential future outcomes.
It wasn’t long before they turned their scientifically-oriented minds towards wine and grape growing, first as a hobby and later as a potential investment. They partnered with Dr. Walter Clore, considered by the industry to be the Father of Washington Wine, to run a test vineyard for Washington State University. In order for the experiment to be a success and to collect trustworthy data, Dr. Clore needed partners with rigorous methodology and attention to detail; John and Jim fit the bill perfectly. This years-long experiment allowed John and Jim to grow their knowledge base to the point where they were accomplished viticulturists.
Eventually they would take what they learned with Dr. Clore, empty out their retirement accounts, and plant a vineyard. It was, in fact, the first vineyard on what would later become the Red Mountain AVA, now considered one of the finest areas in the world for Cabernet Sauvignon. The year was 1975, and the name of the vineyard was Kiona.
We still farm those original vines; historical importance and nostalgia aside, they produce some of the most interesting, delicious, and sought-after wines in the state. Our 2013 Estate Red Mountain Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon is the latest link in the chain of tradition and goes all the way back to 1975. Now over 40 years old, these Cabernet Sauvignon vines produce wines that are immensely layered and nuanced, with a degree of finesse and elegance that can only be achieved with time. The wine is spectacular. As a small-production Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon made from the oldest vines on Red Mountain, it’s the grand-daddy of every other Red Mountain wine in existence. With a small 7-barrel production, we know the wine will become a collector’s item.
While Cabernet Sauvignon was an integral part of Red Mountain’s story since the very beginning, it was about 20 years later, in the mid-1990’s, when non-Bordeaux varietals started popping up here in meaningful quantities. Red Mountain Syrah, in particular, is prized for producing wines of profound concentration, color, and character. Our 2013 version is 100% varietal and one of the most popular wines in the tasting room. It’s rich, dark, brooding, and pairs well with a lot of different foods.
Last but not least is one of our most cherished grapes, Chenin Blanc. Planted in Kiona’s sophomore 1976 block, these vines have produced more than thirty memorable vintages of this crisp, clean, immensely drinkable and food-friendly off-dry white. When Kiona the vineyard evolved into Kiona the vineyard and winery in 1980, we launched with two wines, and one of them was Chenin Blanc. It’s been a stalwart part of our lineup ever since.
Thank you, and enjoy!
- JJ Williams