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Kiona Vineyards Winery

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Founded by engineers John Williams and Jim Holmes, the winery today is run by John's son Scott, the general manager.

The vineyards are located behind the William's home on the slopes of the Red Mountain, and the winery produces Chardonnay, Cabernet sauvignon, Syrah, Riesling, and Merlot.

Their ice wines are internationally famous.


"Kiona Winery---
a 20-year, overnight success"

"Cabernet Sauvignon, ice wines rank on top"

By Christina Kelly
Avalon Editor/Writer

Like an actor who suddenly comes out of nowhere to win an Academy Award after years of obscurity, Kiona Vineyards has become a 20-year, overnight success.

After 22 years of quietly, but consistently producing a variety of red and white wines, Kiona's time in the spotlight has grown, including the inclusion in Wine Spectator's 2002 Top 100 Wines of the year. Kiona ranks in the top 25.

"It does feel like we're an overnight success," said Scott Williams, winemaker and son of Kiona's founder. "We've gotten a lot of attention recently, after making wine for 20 years. We haven't changed much, but word of mouth slowly brought people to us.

"After all these years, I'd like to think that our wines have gotten better and better, and I think it shows."

Founded by Scott's father, John Williams and his partner Jim Holmes in the mid-1970s, Kiona's strength is in the vineyard. Luscious, intense fruit grows on Red Mountain, Washington state's newest appellation where Kiona Vineyards is located. It is also the home of Klipsun Vineyards, Hedges Cellars and Vineyards, Ciel de Cheval and Tapteil Vineyards. These vineyards, including Kiona, sell fruit to some of the most prestigious winemakers in Washington and Oregon.

Kiona's spotlight came when the 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon was rated 92 points from Wine Spectator. However, Scott Williams says in the past 10 years, some of Kiona's wines have scored high, or come highly recommended by wine critics and magazines.

"We've been around and had our share of good scores," Williams said. "But the winery reflects my personality and I'm pretty low key. We let the wine do our talking for us, and we're pretty happy about it right now."

Williams recently released his 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon and said he is very excited about it.

"I think the 2000 Cab is as good as, or even better, then the 1999," Williams said. "It's almost a clone. We will be submitting it for critical review in the next few months, and I think it will do very well."

Recent Avalon tasting confirms Williams' assertion. The wine is big, juicy and has lots of cellar depth.

In addition to the Cabernet, Kiona's ice wines have done very well in recent years. The winery produced only about 150 cases of the '01 Chenin Blanc Ice Wine, so quantities are limited.

Williams said the climate on Red Mountain produces a traditional style of ice wine.

"There aren't that many climates where you can produce ice wines," Williams said. "We have our Chenin Blanc growing in a cold spot at the vineyard, where the grapes freeze on the vine.

"The ice wine is very viscous and concentrated. The flavor and sugar is concentrated. It has a mouth feel like a liquor, with a long, full finish."

The ice wines are so intense that Williams recommends pairing the wine with something simple, like a tart apple, cheese or something light and airy. He warned that rich deserts would not showcase the concentration of the wine.

Kiona produces more than a dozen varieties of wine, including the state's first commercial Lemberger varietal. Williams' father John said he experimented in the early days of the winery to try different grapes with the climate and soil.

"It hasn't been a shot in the dark," said John. "We've studied everything, including water movement under the surface. "John (Holmes) and I were both engineers at the time, and to me, science is science. We hired consultants along the way to assist us."

Although modern viticulture techniques are now employed in the vineyard, Scott, who graduated in agricultural engineering from Washington State University, said he learned from his father the importance of trials and experiments. The wine tasting room offers about 15 varieties of Kiona wines, many which are not available to the general public, such as Sangiovese and Zinfandel. Williams said about eight varieties can be found in wine shops and grocery stores.

Steady growth at Kiona, one of Washington's largest family-owned wineries (about 25,000 cases annually), allows the Williams family to produce smaller lots of wine available only at the winery or in the Northwest. For example, Scott recently produced a red and white blend, and dubbed it, "Vivacious Vicky," as a tribute to his wife Vicky, who also helps out at the winery.

The future includes a small amount of growth, according to Williams' five-year-plan that he adjusts "about every six months." The biggest goal is to see Kiona wines in the world market, said Scott. Currently, his wines are in Hong Kong, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, to name a few.

The Williams family doesn't expect to be a flash in the spotlight pan. Scott says the family and the winery are in it for the long haul.

"We don't plan to change simply because our names are mentioned in the media," Scott said, shrugging off the attention. "Our job is to make better and better wines, and I think that's what we're doing."


Kiona Vineyards quietly but consistently brings home awards for excellence

by Robert Woehler

Kiona Vineyards winery struck gold in 1998 and appears to be mining the same mother lode in 1999.

The Red Mountain winery quietly collects medals because it consistently turns out excellent wines.

At various competitions around the country in 1998, Kiona earned a dozen gold medals and two 90s ratings in national wine magazines, which are considered the same as a gold medal.

The winery did so with seven different wines, including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, lemberger, three rieslings (dry, regular and late harvest) and a late harvest muscat.

Just a month ago, Kiona walked off with a gold and six other medals at the internationally famous Dallas wine competition.

But all the attention and awards haven't gone to the head of winemaker Scott Williams, whose parents, John and Ann Williams, own Kiona. To the unassuming Williams, it's just business as usual trying to craft as good a wine as possible.

Scott makes it look easy, and any one of his 16 wines that range from estate cabernet sauvignon reserve to chenin blanc ice wine is worth having. Furthermore, there isn't a wine for sale that is over $30, and many are in the $10 range.

"I think all this points out our consistency," is about the only bragging you that you will hear from Williams.




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