It was time to move on. That’s how Nina Buty describes her decision to close Buty Winery in Washington’s Walla Walla Valley. She locked the door on her custom crush space on Jan. 19 and didn’t look back. “22 years is a long time, and yet it isn’t,” Buty, 46, says. “But, basically, my entire adult life has been parenting Buty.”
Buty has reason to be proud for what she created in 2000 with her former husband, Caleb Foster. They were among the first of a new wave of Walla Walla vintners, including Cayuse’s Christophe Baron, that helped establish the Rocks District AVA.
The couple bought a 10-acre apple orchard in Milton-Freewater in late 2006 and planted Rockgarden Estate vineyard in 2008; it was a great success. At its peak, the winery produced 3,500 cases annually, the majority of it Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah blends that regularly earned outstanding scores.
The closing has been a long time coming. Foster left the winery in 2012, leaving Buty as the sole owner. The winery stopped making wine in 2018 and sold off much of its wine library. In early 2020, Buty sold Rockgarden vineyard to Mike Martin of The Walls. Most of the winemaking team left just before harvest 2021 and longtime winemaker Chris Dowsett is now production winemaker at Dusted Valley.
The COVID pandemic did not play a role in her decision, Buty says, explaining that plans for shutting down the brand have been in place for a few years. “It was a very well-considered choice. I feel very clear-headed and open-eyed,” says Buty, who was a 24-year old graduate of Walla Walla’s Whitman College when she and Foster started the winery.
“Wine is always going to be part of the story. I’m so grateful of the relationships that Buty brought me over the years. I feel blessed,” she says. “But I sense there are other things on the horizon that I couldn’t follow until I was done with this.”