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Betz Family Winery

by Christina Kelly, Avalon Editor/Writer, 2/14/04

Betz Family Wines Rolls On After Bob's "Retirement"
New Wines, Great Scores, New Additions to the Family

No one in the wine industry thought Bob Betz would slow down after he retired last year from Chateau Ste. Michelle, the largest winery owned by the largest wine company in the Northwest.

He said he would slow down, clean out the garage, plant more basil and spend more time producing wine from his small Woodinville winery, Betz Family Wines.

But Bob Betz has an internal source of fuel that continues to fan a fire in the wine industry, and his latest crop of wines is no exception. Instead of slowing down, Betz is working to take his wines to grander level, while educating and mentoring those who follow in his footsteps.

"I guess I'm busier than ever," said Betz, who admits his plate is full with his new batch of wines, a new video, consultant work and worldwide travels. (He recently completed a wine cruise to the Caribbean and has another one planed with Chateau Ste. Michelle to Italy in May).

"I've been very blessed and I know it," he added.

Betz, who holds one of the nation's few Master of Wine degrees, will release two Bordeaux blends on March 1.

Awards, Awards, Awards

After 28 years in the wine industry (at Stimson-Lane) you would think Bob Betz would be impervious to winning awards and honors.

No so, especially now that he has launched his own small winery and spends more time doing the work that drew him to the industry in the first place.

"There is something to be said about knowing every barrel - it's one of the few advantages small wineries have," Betz said recently. "I know, by tasting, what is occurring in every barrel, and which ones will be my problem children."

Betz still spend a small amount of time as a consultant to Stimson-Lane, keeping track of the collaborations with other winemakers, such as Marchesi Anttoinori of Italy (Col Solare) and Ernest Loosen of Germany (Eroica).

But the passion has turned to his own fine-tuning of wines, something he missed as he was moved up the ladder at Stimson-Lane.

It's like Captain Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard moving from the bridge to a desk job - there is just something missing about the thrill of being in the on the front lines.

Betz Family Winery Named Artisan Winery of the Year 2003
- Wine & Spirits Magazine, November 2003

With his entry into small wineries, Betz was named Artesian of Year for 2003 for Wine & Spirits Magazine. His Syrah (sold mostly at the winery) was selected as one of the top Syrahs in Washington (a great feat, since so many are on the market) by the same magazine.

Steven Tanzer, The International Wine Cellar, put Betz Family Wines in a short list of Washington Superstars.

"The superstars in my tastings this year (2003) which were conducted mostly in Washington, will come as no surprise to wine lovers who track this states wines, are: Andrew Will, Betz Family Winery, Cadence Winery, Cayuse Vineyards and Quilceda Creek Vintners."

It is high praise indeed for such a short time as a small winery, and one that has Betz glowing with the pride of a newcomer, albeit nearly 30 years in the business. In addition, a recent book published in England, with a global analysis of the wine industry - The Wine Report 2004 - named Betz Family Winery to first place in its list of "Up and Coming" wineries from the Northwest, and placed the winery second in its Cabernet Sauvignon Pere de Famille second to Quilceda Creek.

"I like the company we're in," Betz said.

The Wines

The 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Pere de Famille has the highest percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon produced by Betz. About 70 percent of the fruit comes from Red Mountain, helping the wine achieve depth, concentration and ageability. This wine has black cherry, currants and pencil graphite in the mouth, along with fresh herbs and pepper.

"There is a fruit purity to the 2001 - it is definitely Cabernet for those who love that flavor in the mouth," Betz said. "These wines continue their evolution - it's enjoyable to participate in that process."

The 2001 Clos de Betz is really about Merlot in a very big way. Washington state grows some of the best Merlot in the world, and Betz is showcasing this fruit in an elegant way. The wine has a plush, silky mouthfeel with currant, black cherry and a smoky, plumpness that begs for food.

In fact, most of the wines produced by Betz are geared towards food. No slouch in the kitchen, Betz says he wants his wines to compliment the dinner table, not overwhelm.

On the Horizon

Betz has small amounts of Petit Verdot and Grenache in the barrel. He has not decided what he will do with the juice, but barrel tastings show great potential.

Right now, both Bob and Cathy have another production seeking their attention: they just became grandparents for the first time. Their daughter, Carmen Severns, who heads up the winery's sale and customer service, gave birth recently to Jake Severns - the couple's first grandchild.

The new grandparents expect to give the new mother some time off from winery work.

Chances are, they will take a little time too.

"He is perfect," said the beaming grandfather. "Life just doesn't get any better than this."

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