Hamilton Cellars Is Spicing Up Washington's Wine Scene The Hamiltons launched their winery with a focus on the under-appreciated Malbec. BY TOURING & TASTING
Photos courtesy of Hamilton Cellars
The entrance to Hamilton Cellars.
“ Russ’s notable background in the solar energy industry, shines through at the new Hamilton Cellars winery on Red Mountain, poised to be the state’s first Net Zero winery.”
When Russ and Stacie Hamilton first decided to start a winery in 2006, they knew what their signature wine would be. Although Malbec was relatively new to the State of Washington, they were intrigued by its peppery and aromatic black fruit scents and flavors. At the time, this enticing Bordeaux varietal was almost exclusively used in its traditional role: as a blending grape for a red Bordeaux blend. However, Russ and Stacie noted a trend. As they visited tasting rooms around Columbia Valley, they saw that more and more wineries were bottling Malbec as a single varietal.
The popularity of Washington Malbec has skyrocketed since then—due in large part to the wines of Hamilton Cellars. They are crafted with the skillful guidance of Winemaker Charlie Hoppes, whose illustrious career is highlighted by his years spent at Chateau Ste. Michelle, Three Rivers Winery, and his own label, Fidelitas. Charlie’s affinity for Malbec has been demonstrated with each release of a Hamilton Cellars Malbec (currently, there are four), plus the rich Malbec blend, Bona Vita. The 2008 Bona Vita earned 87 points from Wine Enthusiast, and a Gold medal from the New York International Wine Competition. Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, along with a brilliant white blend of Sémillon and Viognier round out the Hamilton Cellars portfolio.
Russ’s notable background in the solar energy industry, shines through at the new Hamilton Cellars winery on Red Mountain, poised to be the state’s first Net Zero winery. Solar energy is used to heat the water, run refrigeration, and irrigate the newly planted Bel Tramanto Vineyard. Two monitors in the tasting room demonstrate all this and more to guests, who are excited to discover more about solar power as they sample the wines. The beautiful facility is also a wonderful place for weddings and intimate events. Besides gracefully landscaped grounds and an inviting event space, Hamilton Cellars has an experienced, dedicated wedding event planner on staff.
AN INTERVIEW WITH OWNERS RUSS AND STACIE HAMILTON
T&T: Can you tell us what it is you personally like so much about Malbec and why you’ve chosen to specialize in it?
RH: We spent quite a bit of time tasting wine before we opened our winery and that’s how we got excited about Malbec. Actually, the very first Malbec we remember tasting was from Fidelitas, the winery owned by Charlie Hoppes, who is now our winemaker. We remember being blown away by its combination of a big red Washington wine and the delicate fruit and subtle spice notes.
SH: We are sure that a lot of our enthusiasm had to do with the skill of the winemaker—Charlie had been experimenting with Malbec earlier than most winemakers in Washington—but enough was due to the varietal itself. From that point on, we sought out Malbec every place we could. Besides the fact that we really developed a taste for the varietal, we were looking for a unique niche in the wine business and we believe we are the only winery in Washington that specializes in Malbec. The first Malbec was planted on Red Mountain just about nine years ago and the grapes are really special. Charlie is looking forward to producing some great wines from our Bel Tramanto Vineyard on Red Mountain.
T&T: When do you anticipate achieving Net Zero?
RH: We are still analyzing our energy use to determine whether we need any more solar panels on an annual basis—and how many panels that will consist of. We are hoping to demonstrate net zero during this year.
SH: Our car charging station is running and we have had a few takers so far. We do not charge anything to use it but we hope people will enjoy spending some time with us and sampling our wines while they are waiting for the charge!
What to Buy '10 Champoux Malbec - $60
Pepper, spice, rich, dark fruit, vanilla notes
'10 Red Mountain Malbec - $40
Black cherry, pepper, chocolate
'08 Bona Vita - $28
Dark fruit, spice, black pepper
Scenic view, weddings and receptions, owners on site, wine club events, private tastings and tours.