Stimson Lane Vineyards and Estates in Washington state is building a new home for its high-end Northstar Merlot in the Walla Walla appellation. Currently, Northstar is made in Stimson Lane winemaking facilities in Columbia Valley; the move is being made in order to get Northstar closer to some of Washington's best Merlot vineyards.
"Walla Walla has distinguished itself as a mecca for boutique wines in general and Merlot in particular," said Ted Baseler, president of Stimson Lane, "and its prominence on the world stage is very much in keeping with our goal for Northstar."
Stimson Lane, which also owns Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest wines in Washington and Villa Mt. Eden in California's Napa Valley, recently purchased 30 acres of land in Walla Walla, about 4 miles from Leonetti Cellars and Pepper Bridge Winery, for Northstar.
In the coming months, the company will plant new vines on the property and begin construction of the new winery. Head winemaker Gordy Hill will continue at Northstar, with the help of consultant Jed Steele.
Northstar recently released 1,100 cases of its 1998 Merlot bottling, which retails for close to $50. The 1999 will be produced at the Columbia Valley winery, while the 2000 Northstar will be the first vintage bottled at the new facility.
However, the new Northstar facility's first bottling, made from grapes grown on the new vines and produced in the new winery, will be available on the market in four to five years. For the years between 2000 and the first all-estate vintage, Northstar will purchase Walla Walla grapes from the nearby Leonetti and Pepper Bridge vineyards.
Northstar will continue to produce around 1,000 cases of Merlot annually. Its previous winery in the town of Grandview will remain in operation; Columbia Crest uses that facility to produce some of its wines.
The Walla Walla appellation, an area in eastern Washington and Oregon particularly noted for its red wines, covers 340,000 acres in the counties of Walla Walla in Washington and Umatilla in Oregon. Of that land, more than 1,000 acres are currently planted with grapes, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.
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