Episode #11 Lone Canary Winery

“I didn’t have the skills to be a plumber and the aromatics are much better.” This was the response from Lone Canary wine maker Mike Scott when I asked “Why did you get into wine making?”

**UPDATE MAY 14, 2010**

After 30 years of wine making in Spokane and 7 years as the co-founder of Lone Canary Winery, Mike Scott is no longer with Lone Canary. They company was sold in late 2009 to Spokane wine maker Don Townshend. While efforts were being made to bring the company into profitability, financial issues forced a change in direction. “The only thing I regret is not having the proper goodbye for the people who have grown to love Lone Canary and Mike Scott wines,” says Mike. After efforts of a third party investor fell through to purchase the winery, Don has decided to move Lone Canary to his Caterina Winery location on North Washington. What will become of Lone Canary? Will the wines be distinct and different from Don’s other brands? In this writer’s opinion, Lone Canary is on life support without Mike Scott’s involvement. The two are inextricably linked. How Lone Canary can survive is a story for another post…until then…thank you Mike for all the great years and all the fine wine.


Through his charming accent and quick wit, Scott’s passion for Washington wine comes through strong. After moving to Spokane to pursue a woman, in 1980 Mike found himself womanless and listless in need of a direction. Chance led him to interview for a tasting room job with Spokane winemaking pioneer Mike Conway of Worden’s Winery (Conway later went on to found Latah Creek). Scott was quick to pay tribute to the pioneers of Spokane wine who took risks to bring local wine into the mainstream while paving the road for people like himself. “Conway made me who I am…in his own image,” he joked – but mostly serious.  Scott also wanted to pay special tribute to an oft unsung hero in the Spokane wine industry, Jack Worden. Worden opened the first Spokane winery in 1980 at a time when Washington wine was but a blip on the international scene.

Wine selling transformed into wine making which gave Mike the first real creative spark that he experienced in life. After learning the wine making craft at Latah Creek through 1990, Scott moved on to work for Steve Livingstone which led to the birth of Caterina Winery in 1993, in which he worked as the head wine maker. In 2002, Steve and Jeanne Schaub approached Mike for a business partnership that gave birth to Lone Canary in 2003.

Choosing a name was not only a difficult task but a potentially costly one. After researching a name that was memorable and conveyed Washington, they came across the state bird, the American Goldfinch also known as the Wild Canary. Perfect! The name was available and they proceeded with logo design, packaging, Federal approval, promotional materials…until…a call from lawyers representing bourbon maker Wild Turkey. Evidently the powerful Kentucky company owns the rights to the name “wild” on an alcoholic beverage – especially when paired with the mighty American Goldfinch (canary). Rather than pursue expensive litigation, the name Lone Canary was born.

With that behind them, Mike, Steve and Jeanne moved forward with the wine making operation. Six years of success – and a few missteps – has brought the operation to 4000+ cases. Crushing is done in Pasco and aging occurs in the Spokane tasting room / warehouse. Brand popularity necessitates growth, prompting the team to look at larger locations in the area. Current wine offerings are the 2007 Barbera, 2007 Syrah (reviewed below), Bird House Red (blend), 2007 Cuvee Rose, 2007 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, 2005 Merlot, 2007 Sangiovese, 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, and a 2008 Pinot Grigio.

My final question, “What’s next for Mike Scott and Lone Canary?” Mike’s eyes lit up as he talked about his newfound passion for the Italian varietals that grow so well in the Yakima region. He’s excited about the Barbera, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, and the future release of Dolcetto and Nebbiolo at some point. I find it interresting that an English man moves to America to make Italian wine! “We were meant to drink wine,” says Mike, “I want people to be impressed with the quality of the wine in the bottle, rather than the price on the bottle.”

From everything I can see, this funny little bird that went toe to toe with a wild turkey (and lost) is one to watch (and taste).

The NectarView:

2007 Syrah (100%) $21.95 – only 40 cases left

  • The Swirl – Very dark and opaque, low legs – indicating lower alcohol content
  • The Sniff – An initial blackberry earthy smell is first. Subtle oak gives this smooth smelling wine enough anticipation heading into the sip.
  • The Sip – a soft front with a little lilac floral component, mild acidity, and smooth fruit (definitely not a fruit bomb). Dangerous sipping wine because of its contagious taste.
  • The Score – At $22 I score this wine a $$$$ (out of $$$$$) This is a Washington Syrah to put on your list to try. If you’ve grown tired of the $8 Australian Yellow Tail, give this Yellow Finch / Canary a try.

Visit Lone Canary at 109 S. Scott / www.lonecanary.com / Twitter @clooneycanary and Facebook at www.facebook.com/lonecanary. Stop by Thursday – Sunday from Noon – 5PM for your own tasting experience. Enjoy live music every first Friday of the month as a part of Spokane’s First Friday 5-9PM.

Enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY!


Owner of Nectar Tasting Room in Spokane, WA. (@nectarwine) Publisher of Spokane Wine Magazine (@spowinemag), author, speaker, consultant and internet marketer with Nectar Media (@nectarmedia)

7 comments on “Episode #11 Lone Canary Winery

  1. drinknectar

    I liked the name origin of Lone Canary referencing Wild Turkey, very interesting. Heard that your having an article published in a national publication. That’s awesome!

    1. drinknectar

      That’s odd, the comment above looks like it came from me but it’s not me. Thanks to whoever made the comment, not sure how you got signed in to my account, but glad you enjoyed!

    1. drinknectar

      Its great to have you stop by Kori. Let me know the next time you plan a Spokane trip. Love to meet you and taste with you.

  2. Pingback: Spokane Wine Tour | Drink Nectar

  3. William Maltese

    Can always count upon you, Scott, to come up with truly relevant and timely, as well as interesting information on the wine industry. I did ask you about “coffee”, didn’t I?

    1. drinknectar

      William, I think you mean Josh – :) – but I know you know me…maybe you’ve been drinking too much wine.

      Yes you did ask me about coffee! I need to get out and review another shop!



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