"I'm looking forward to being in a situation where I can do small fermentations of small lots and keep my hands on everything," he said. Januik expects to concentrate on red wines, primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, although he plans to make Syrah as well. He does not intend to continue to make white wine, although his reserve Chardonnays have ranked among Washington's best.
With Januik at the helm, Chateau Ste. Michelle's wines have consistently placed at or near the top in Wine Spectator's ratings of Washington wines. Many of its best offerings have been small lots of reserve bottlings or single-vineyard wines.
"At Chateau Ste. Michelle, my whole style of winemaking was to make as many separate lots as possible," said Januik. "That's one good way to get more complex wines. I want to extend that idea. For each wine I'll get grapes from a minimum of four vineyards."
Januik's first few vintages will be made in rented space at various Walla Walla wineries; he will use grapes from growers whose fruit has gone into wines he has admired over the years. In Walla Walla, he joins a growing roster of marquee wineries, including Woodward Canyon, Waterbrook and L'Ecole No. 41, but the obvious comparison is to Leonetti, also a red-wine-only winery.
"You couldn't pick a better model up here," Januik said. "I would love to have the success Leonetti has had."
Januik's last day at Chateau Ste. Michelle will be Aug. 31. He expects to consult with the big Woodinville, Wash., winery after that, primarily on Col Solare, its new joint venture with Antinori, the Italian wine company.
Januik has been with Chateau Ste. Michelle since 1990; he was winemaker at Snoqualmie Winery when Stimson Lane, Chateau Ste. Michelle's parent company, acquired it and quickly put the talented vintner in charge of its flagship winery.
For recent ratings of Chateau Ste. Michelle wines, check the Wine Search.
To learn more about the Walla Walla wine region:
To learn more about Chateau Ste. Michelle and Washington wines:
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions