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Novelty Hill Winery

Novelty Hill Wines

" I could wax euphoric about all of the latest releases from Novelty Hill, which offer impeccable balance, a profusion of carefully sculpted fruits, herbs and spices, and exceptionally fine-tuned oak aging. Suffice it to say that the 2005 Chardonnay, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc are as good as it gets; and the Stillwater Creek reds - a dark, spicy 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, a seamless, smoky 2004 Syrah , and a firm, cherry - laden 2004 Merlot are their equals." - Paul Gregutt, Seattle Times 7-4-07


Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

This full-bodied, aromatic Cabernet offers plentiful layers of ripe, fresh fruit. Deep and concentrated, with generous bla...



$23.95 Regular

More About Novelty Hill Winery

"Mike Januik, whose feats as a winemaker have graced the pages of this publication (Wine Advocate) for years due to his tremendous work at Chateau Ste. Michelle until 1999, is now master of his own destiny . . . he quickly catapulted this (Januik Winery) small operation to the forefront of Washington State's producers. . .winemaker Mike Januik is a magician with Merlot." Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate Novelty Hill Winery has it all going in the right direction. Consider this:

-- A talented winemaker in Mike Januik, who has more than a quarter-century of Washington wine harvests under his belt.
-- Estate grapes from Stillwater Creek in the Frenchman Hills. This is one of the state's best new vineyards.
-- A great package and modest prices."

The only thing Novelty Hill lacks is a great facility (the winery is in an industrial park in Woodinville, Wash.). But wait! Novelty Hill is building a destination winery with gardens on a four-acre parcel next to Columbia Winery (across the street from Ste. Michelle). Plans are to have it finished by next summer."
- Wine Press NW


Moonlighting vintners let passion, not profit, drive their hobby
By Kristina Shevory,
Seattle Times Eastside business reporter

reprinted with permission

Tom Alberg, one of the early investors in and a managing partner at Madrona Venture Group, is used to earning millions.

But at Novelty Hill Winery, which he founded in 2000, he's content with losing money while he learns how to make wine.

"I've had a bunch of people ask me, 'Can you make money at it?' and I tell them I project some day it will make money," Alberg, 63, said. "But this is not a vanity winery where I'll have fun and get rid of it after several years. This is a good, family-owned business, and we'll see what the next generation will do for it."

Alberg is among a growing number of business professionals who are starting their own wineries and turning a hobby into a full-time job. Part-time winemakers are fueling the growth of wineries in the state, which jumped 20 percent last year to 250 wineries. The exact number of hobbyist winemakers in the state is not available.

In California, they are more likely to be venture capitalists and high-tech business owners who operate with a hands-off approach to winemaking. In Washington state, however, new winery owners are more likely to include doctors, used-car dealers and ranchers who take a hands-on approach.

Hobbyists started Washington wineries that now are some of the most well-known in the state: Leonetti Cellars, Woodward Canyon Winery and Quilceda Creek Vintners were founded in the late 1970s and early '80s by amateurs who later retired from their day jobs to work full time at their wineries.


The current generation of winery owners who have other full-time jobs include Mark Newton at DiStefano Winery, a product-development manager at Microsoft; Denise and Brett Isenhower, pharmacists who co-own Isenhower Cellars; and Michael Manz, a child psychiatrist who makes wine at Mountain Dome Winery.

"People like Tom Alberg are a little different from the tech investors in California," said Steve Burns, executive director of the Washington Wine Commission. "Many people in California are hands-off about their wineries and only talk about them at cocktail parties on the weekends, but that's not the case with Washington."

Days jobs or no, the state's moonlight winemakers give up lots of free time to be at their wineries.

"I don't think a day goes by that I don't talk to (Alberg) or someone from his office about the winery," said Mike Januik, Novelty Hill's consulting winemaker and owner of Januik Winery. "This is a winery, but it's also a business operation."

Newton started DiStefano 20 years ago in a basement under a Christian bookstore in Ballard. Since then, he's hired five employees and upgraded to an antique-filled winery with a dining room lit with candle chandeliers, but he still spends most of his leisure time there. He communicates with his staff, four of whom have other jobs, by e-mail and phone.

"I've worked full time the entire time I've had the winery," Newton said. "When most people go home to watch TV or go to a ballgame, I go to the winery.

"I have golf clubs and used to play a lot. But if I have a choice between playing golf, sailing, or making wine, I'd rather make wine."

Newton's devotion has earned his winery high scores for its cabernet, syrah, merlot and cabernet franc.

Alberg's wines also have gotten critics' attention. His first wine, a sauvignon blanc released in April 2002, landed high scores from wine critics and quickly distinguished Novelty Hill from its competitors.

He followed that hit with a critically acclaimed merlot, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon and plans to release a syrah next year. He's increased production from 800 cases in 2000 to 5,000 cases in 2002, a number Alberg wants to triple in five years as he eyes national distribution of his wine.

Behind that success is Januik, former head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle.

Novelty Hill winery grew out of a dinner-party conversation between Alberg and Januik four years ago. Alberg and his family had long suspected that their 300 acres of Columbia Valley land would make an excellent vineyard but they had let it remain fallow for more than 30 years.

Januik offered to tour the site, found it suitable for grape growing and started planting vines in 2000.

The two, along with Alberg's wife, Judi Beck, founded Novelty Hill that year and started making wine using grapes from some of Washington's best growing sites. Next year, Alberg will make his first merlot and cabernet using grapes only from his family vineyard, Stillwater Creek.

Alberg's winery, in a custom-designed warehouse in Woodinville, is hardly noticeable. It has no signs advertising its presence, is not open to the public and doesn't mention Alberg's name on its Web site. But Alberg shrugs off the low-key approach.

"We'll get around to that later," Alberg said.

He has plenty of time. In 10 years, he hopes to devote more time to Novelty Hill. By then, he plans to have a new tasting room in Woodinville that's open to the public or a new winery on the outskirts of Duvall, where his family owns 200 acres. King County is considering a zoning change that would allow Alberg and other winemakers to build wineries on rural and agricultural land.

For now, though, Alberg is focused on making wine, not money. He considers himself Januik's apprentice and consults with him regularly about label design, winemaking and vineyard composition.

"This has been a fun thing to be involved in and be a part of the (wine) industry," Alberg said. "It's completely different than other things I do, and it's been a learning experience."

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