Kiona Vineyards Winery
Kiona is one of Avalon's favorite wineries, for good value, good flavors, consistency, and a remarkable range of wines: from a deeply concentrated Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon to a spicy Lemberger to a delightful ice wine. Over the ten years or so we've sold their wines, Kiona has consistently provided excellent value, usually priced a few dollars below wines of similar quality from the Pacific Northwest.
More About Kiona Vineyards Winery
Kiona Vineyards was founded by John and
Ann Williams with former partners in 1972 with the purchase of 86 acres
of raw land in the arid climate of Southeastern Washington. The site
was an unsettled portion of the east end of the famous Yakima Valley,
in an area previously used only for open rangelands, with no fences,
structures, or roads.
Before the dream could begin, 550 feet deep irrigation wells were drilled, electricity was brought in from three miles away, and new roads were platted. The first acreage was planted in 1975 and expanded in later years to 65 acres. The initial Kiona crush in 1980 was 1200 gallons and in 2002 wine production was 25,000 cases. With the talented team of Scott Williams (right) and Glen Fukuyama, recent growth has been concentrated on producing world class wines. The result of this effort is now available in the market.
Kiona's success has been remarkable.
National and international recognition has focused attention on their
vineyard. The Red Mountain area, pioneered by Kiona Vineyards, is considered
one of the prime growing regions in Washington State. There are currently
several wineries nearby. Numerous vineyards with excellent reputations
for quality have been developed in the Red Mountain area.
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."
Ice Wine Grapes, picked frozen, just before crushing
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. Then in December it was named one of the Top 100 Wines of the Year by Wine Spectator Magazine. 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.
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.