Tuesday, January 29, 2013
The Joys of Experimentation at Hestia Cellars
Shannon Jones of Woodinville’s Hestia Cellars first became interested in wine while traveling throughout Europe and New Zealand playing rugby. However, it was a trip to Greece that solidified his desire to start making it. “I grew up in a big Greek family,” Jones explains. He says of his trip back to the Peloponnese, “I just fell in love with the whole culture around food and wine.”
Jones returned home from his trip and began taking weekend classes at UC Davis, completing a two-year certificate course and subsequently taking classes at WSU. In 2004, he and his wife started Hestia Cellars, naming the winery after the goddess of the hearth in a nod to his Greek roots. At the time, Jones was managing human resources and corporate accounting systems but before long he decided to dedicate himself to his winery full time.
“I knew that this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” Jones says of making wine. “I had no idea how it was going to work out, and financially it’s obviously not the smart thing to do. But you’ve got to make that decision that you want to live your life, have fun, and enjoy it.”
The hallmark of Jones’ approach at Hestia has been experimentation. Over the last eight years, he has experimented with different varieties, vineyard sources, and winemaking techniques. Part of his DNA, Jones says that this process is far from finished. “I think we’re still trying to figure it out,” he says, and Jones’ inquisitive nature makes it seem sure that he’ll always feel that way.
Hestia’s current lineup includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Malbec, Merlot, and Tempranillo. Jones sources fruit from StoneTree on the Wahluke Slope, Boushey in the Yakima Valley, and Andrews Ranch in the Horse Heaven Hills among other sources. Jones says of his approach to finding growers, “It’s got to be a partnership between the grower and the winemaker. Most growers that we work with have that passion around what they are doing and are having fun doing it.”
In the winery, some of his experiments have worked, and some have been less successful. “The first time I tried to do whole cluster Syrah it was an absolute nightmare!” Jones recalls with a laugh. “I learned from it but I also dumped $4000 worth of grapes down the drain.”
Other experiments, however, has been far more fruitful, such as a focus on whole berry fermentation. “For me, it gives softer tannins,” Jones says. “I want that big, soft, velvety mouth feel.” He also leaves the juice on the skins for an extended period.
For any small producer - Hestia Cellars makes 4,500 cases of wine annually – such experimentation can be costly and consuming. However, Jones firmly believes it ultimately leads him to better results and that it is essential for the overall advancement of the state’s industry.
“I think we’re just scratching the surface of what Washington can do,” Jones says. “One of the next big things in Washington is getting people to go away from what they’ve learned and get used to just making wines. I think a lot of people will start finding their styles. The next fifteen or twenty years it’s going to be really exciting to see what happens here.”
Hestia Cellars Merlot Columbia Valley 2009 $28
(Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine full of plum, cherry cola, medicine cabinet, licorice, and spice notes. The palate is broad and expansive with deliciously rich, fleshy blackberry flavors backed by plump, chewy tannins. Boushey and StoneTree vineyards. 14.2% alcohol. 200 cases produced.
Hestia Cellars Malbec Columbia Valley 2009 $30
(Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with abundant peppery spice, plum, cherry, and herbal notes. The palate is expansive and soft, full of plum and spice flavors with more tannins than are often found in this variety. High on the delicious scale. 14.2% alcohol. 205 cases produced.
Hestia Cellars Malbec Columbia Valley 2010 $30
(Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with light herbal and olive notes along with plum and spice. The palate has fresh, pure fruit flavors and a drawn out finish exhibiting both intensity and restraint. 100% Malbec. Andrews Ranch Vineyard. 200 cases produced.
Hestia Cellars Tempranillo Columbia Valley 2009 $35
(Good/Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with eucalyptus, vanilla, herbal notes, and tobacco. The palate is seamlessly stitched together with cherry flavors and grainy tannins. StoneTree Vineyard. 150 cases produced.
Hestia Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008 $35
(Good/Excellent) An aromatic wine with abundant cola, cherry, licorice, pencil lead, and medicinal notes. The palate is full of cherry flavors with firm, slightly dry tannins. 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot. Andrews Ranch and StoneTree vineyards. 14.2% alcohol. 400 cases produced.
Hestia Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009 $35
(Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with black cherry, licorice, medicine cabinet, and cola notes. The palate is full of plum and cherry flavors with soft tannins. 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot. Andrews Ranch and StoneTree vineyards. 14.2% alcohol. 425 cases produced