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ABOUT: Novelty Hill welcomes guests to our new, state-of-the-art Woodinville winery and tasting room open daily from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. The winery’s contemporary design and surrounding gardens celebrate wine’s agrarian roots and the artistry of fine winemaking, making it a distinctive venue for business or personal use. Join us to taste wines from distinguished winemaker Mike Januik, who works with leading Columbia Valley vineyards, including our own estate vineyard Stillwater Creek, to craft Novelty Hill’s Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
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VINEYARD: Our estate vineyard, Stillwater Creek on the Royal Slope of the Frenchman Hills in Washington State’s Columbia Valley, is our raison d’être. The Alberg family purchased this beautiful property seated on a steep, south-facing slope more than two decades ago for its excellent growing potential, then collected years of historical site data to ascertain weather patterns before planting began in 2000. Few other vineyards in Washington can boast the wide array of clones used here, each carefully selected with specific vineyard blocks in mind. Our winemaker Mike Januik, who consulted on the vineyard planting with us, thinks clonal selection is the next great frontier in Washington winemaking. As we learn more, we hope to be a leader in this arena and share our discoveries with other Columbia Valley grape growers. The vineyard’s first harvest in the fall of 2002 produced impressive results. Mindful of the vines’ youth, we cropped to keep yields low – about one ton per acre. Careful vineyard management combined with an outstanding growing season produced deeply colored, concentrated wines with rich flavor. Since that time, the vineyard has continued to impress. In addition to supplying grapes for most of Novelty Hill’s wines, the vineyard also grows grapes for top Columbia Valley winemakers. Wine lovers unfamiliar with the Columbia Valley sometimes ask, isn’t Washington State too cold, too north and too wet to grow world-class wine grapes? The answer is NO! Washington’s largest city, Seattle, on the west side of the Cascade Mountains has fittingly earned a reputation for its cloudy, rainy days, but the weather on the east side of the state where Washington’s Columbia Valley vineyards are found is just the opposite. With the Cascades running north to south and dividing the state into east-west quadrants, Columbia Valley wine grapes thrive under the protection of the Cascades’ giant rain shield. As a result, the Columbia Valley is dry and warm. Annual rainfall averages 6 to 8 inches. Summer temperatures hover in the mid-80s. The area enjoys more than 300 cloudless days a year and long summer daylight hours because of its northern latitude. As grapes finish ripening in the fall, evening temperatures can drop by as much as 30 to 40 degrees. These cool nighttime temperatures protect the grapes’ natural acidity making for balanced wines that are not only lively in their youth but also age well. The net effect is a growing region found only in a handful of places around the world, perfect for growing vinifera wine grapes.
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WINEMAKER: Mike Januik is one of Washington’s most acclaimed winemakers, but he’d rather you taste his wine and decide what you think of his winemaking for yourself. He also thinks it’s important you know he will never call a wine “intense.” That’s a descriptor he reserves for camping trips. Mike doesn’t think it is essential you know he was named one of the world’s ten “Masters of Merlot” by Wine Enthusiast magazine. He’d be the last guy to tell you he’s had numerous wines appear on Wine Spectator’s prestigious “Top 100” list, most recently earning a place there with the 2003 Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon – (he also makes wine for Novelty Hill). He doesn’t think you’d be interested to know he was head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle for ten years before starting his own winery in 1999 or that he’s been making wine in the Columbia Valley since 1984. He is more impressed with a good University of Oregon football team than the master’s degree in enology he holds from the University of California, Davis. But he thinks you might be interested to know he plays the guitar; was once a forest ranger; loves to cook; owned a wine shop in Ashland, Oregon; is as well known among family and friends for his fresh fruit smoothies and holiday eggnog as his Cabernet; prefers reading poetry to non-fiction; was once a whitewater river guide and sends text-messages to his two college-age sons about as often as he tastes through wines during harvest. He’s been described as intelligent, creative, compulsive, innovative, compassionate, proud, humble and inspired. He’s part hippy, part establishment and complete bon vivant. “Unlike many of his winemaking brethren with much less to hang their hats on, Januik is not egocentric,” wrote Pierre Rovani for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. He’s found his sweet spot running a small winery that is about creating something that brings pleasure to the table. As Mike would say with a shrug, “I want my wines to speak for themselves.” Enough said.
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