An accidental discovery or a destiny finally fulfilled?
Hailed as one of the best growing regions in the state in 1970 remained virtually unplanted until the accidental discovery in 1992. Walter and Judy Haig were flipping through a scrapbook from the original homesteader that listed an old US Agriculture map identifying what crops were planted in 1900. Wine grapes were on the list.The journey to fulfill the lands destiny began.
The lower Lake Roosevelt area formed by the Grand Coulee Dam creates the perfect microclimate for growing Bordeaux varietal grapes. The long summers, cool nights and extended growing season allow for maximum hang time producing fruit forward low sugar wines.
The Haig family wine story began with providing world-class grapes to wineries across the state through 2004. With the 2005 vintage, son Michael Haig, took over vintner and winemaking responsibilities. It’s obvious in talking with Mike that he loves his fruit and he loves the process. “My job is to stay out of the way and produce wine that tells the story of the vintage.” “Too often,” he says, “wineries try to make a wine that doesn’t fit the style of the grapes they have.” We talked about fads in the wine industry and Michael is a believer in staying true to what his vineyard produces (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.) “We are 100% estate grown. We don’t buy grapes from anyone.” A fact he is very proud of.
Whitestone has a tasting room, storage facility, and production facility in Wilbur, WA (about 16 miles from the vineyard). In April 2009, they opened a tasting room at 111 S. Cedar in West Downtown’s Carnegie Square. “Business has been great, but everyday we still hear from people who had no idea we’re here.” Part of the successful launch can be attributed to Whitestone’s commitment to Social Media like Twitter and Facebook. Whitestone is one of the few Spokane wineries taking advantage of this medium to connect with their consumers to drive brand loyalty. Mike, a self-professed techie says, “With Facebook we can post an event notice and see immediately who has responded.” Their first holiday release, Pieces on Earth V.1 went on sale just before Thanksgiving and all 135 cases are sold out (or will soon be after this prints). Promotion was done mostly through e-mail list, wine club members and social media.
Mike and I also spoke about the near term future for Whitestone. Currently producing 2500 cases per year, they are pursuing a new production facility – preferably right on the vineyard. He says, “too often people are pre-occupied with being the ‘next’ Chateau St. Michelle or whatever, I want to be the ‘first’ Michael Haig. From what I can tell the Whitestone line up is big, fruity with big tannins for grilling, steak, pot roast, and ham. The wines are held in oak for up to 30 months and will cellar well for another 5-7 years.
Whitestone is finally seeing the destiny of the land fulfilled 40 years after it was proclaimed.
The Stats: 111 S Cedar – Spokane Tasting Room is open Thursday – Sunday from Noon – 6pm. Friend them up on Facebook Whitestone Winery and follow them on Twitter @PIECESOFRED. WEB: www.whitestonewinery.com
Pieces on Earth V1 (2009 limited release – 135 cases)
- The Stuff: 34% Merlot 33% Cabernet Sauvignon and 33% Cabernet Franc
- The Swirl: Very dark plum, nearly opaque. Strong legs indicating high alcohol (14.1%) and acidity
- The Sniff: Dark cherry, plums, nutmeg, smoke, with a subtle hint of cocoa at the end
- The Sip: Wow, it’s like I dove into a pool of cherry nutmeg pool, drowning in that Chocolate Chucker Cherry sauce (not as sweet). Very berry front end with strong acidity on the upper mouth and medium tannins. The finish goes on for a good 10 seconds going tart then finishing smooth.
- The Score: At $17.95 (if you can still find it) I rate this wine a 5 out of 5. Mike and Whitestone have created a fantastic holiday season wine that will sip well around the fire and hold up to cranberry, prime rib and ham dinners.
In the video Mike mentions that Social Media is great but the goal is to get people to enjoy life over a glass of wine! I couldn’t say it better myself. Life is meant to be enjoyed with friends and there is no better way than over a glass of wine or cup of coffee.