Located in the core of Washington’s Woodinville Wine Country are two of the state’s juggernaut producers – Columbia Winery (now owned by Gallo, and even bigger Juggernaut based out of California) and Chateau Ste Michelle. If you journey around the corner from these two behemoths and you’ll stumble upon a beautiful, earth-meets-industrial looking facility with a sign that simply states “Novelty Hill | Januik“.
This is a winery you don’t want to miss. If not for the wine (and let’s not kid ourselves, we want the wine), for the amazing architecture and beautiful ambiance of the facility. But seriously, you should be going here for the wines. Novelty Hill and Januik are two separate wineries, both under the direction of Mike Januik, a winemaker known around the world for his skills, knowledge and awesome personality.
Mike Januik began his Washington wine making career in 1984. How’d he end up here? A chance meeting on the campus of UC Davis. Mike was finishing up his Master’s degree in enology and viticulture when a chat with George Stewart led to the offer of a job at his Washington State winery, Stewart Vineyards. His next move brought him to Langguth Winery (a german family that decided to take part in the awesome Washington wine world – I mean who can resist the terroir of this region?). What Mike did at Langguth got the attention of some big names in the wine world including Allen Shoup, then CEO of a little winery we mentioned earlier named Chateau Ste Michelle.
Mike eventually made the move Chateau Ste. Michelle and took on the role of head winemaker, overseeing production of both their red and white wines. Let’s take a second and think about the transitions Mike went through up to this point. He went from never having worked in a winery and just finishing up a Masters degree to working with a few hundred tons of fruit (Stewart Vineyard), to a few thousand tons (Langguth) to managing production at Washington State’s largest (by far, and I mean BY FAR) winery.
During his time at Chateau Ste Michelle, Mike implemented some new ideas that would forever change the wine program. For example, first vineyard designated wine ever produced by the winery? Yep. That was Mike. Just because you are juggernaut producer does not mean you can’t produce small(well…smaller relatively speaking) production, premium, vineyard designated wines. The ideas Mike brought, and their successful implementation would forever change Chateau Ste Michelle.
Many winemakers dream of producing hundreds of thousands of cases of wine, only to find out when that dream becomes a reality that it isn’t as awesome of a situation as they had imagined. At that scale of production, winemaking often becomes less art, and more science. I would guess that this is part of what led Mike Januik to depart Chateau Ste Michelle in 2000 to start his own winery.
Let’s hop back to the first paragraph of this post. The part where I mentioned that the facility just around the corner is called Novelty Hill | Januik. It is in fact two different wineries operating out of the same space. Mike Januik makes the wine for both wineries. Novelty Hill is a partner project with Tom Alberg and Judi Beck. Mike was hired by Tom and Judi as a consultant for the planting of their estate vineyard, Stillwater Creek. Mike later convinced them to also make wine with the fruit from this estate vineyard. I mean, who wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with Mike? It was a no-brainer.
The other winery, Januik Winery, is pretty self-explanatory. This is Mike’s personal winery where he has full control over the production and style. The number of cases that Januik produces is in what I refer to as the sweet spot. It is more than 4,000 cases, but less than 20,000 cases. Wineries that produce wine in this range possess the ability to keep prices down (due to economies of scale), without having to sacrifice the art of winemaking. They can still produce terroir-driven, boutique wine. This is the stuff I like.
So what different wines is Mike Januik making these days? At the time of writing (November 2014), Januik has 13 different wines available. Want to know my favorite thing about the current offerings? 8 of the 13 are vineyard designated wines. Um, yeah, this freakin’ rocks! Because as a wine consumer I get to enjoy the taste of a place. This is how you start to learn which terroir calls to you. A few of the wines that are not vineyard designated include the Spring Run Rose, Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Andrew Januik’s Stone Cairn.
Wait. What? Who is Andrew Januik? An imposter? No. Andrew is Mike’s son. I met Andrew when picking up some barrels from Januik a couple of years ago. He is one down-to-earth awesome guy, and I was stoked to see that his wine is now available. I can’t wait to pick up a bottle on my next trek to Woodinville.
So with 13 different wines available from Januik Winery, where should you start? If budget is not an issue, I would encourage you to try a few of the different vineyard designated wines. Snag a bottle of the Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon as well as the Weinbau Vineyard Cab and do some discovery. Or as I prefer to refer to it, reconnaissance. Then it is work, right? You are so industrious.
The one challenge with the suggestion to snag the two Cabernet Sauvignon’s mentioned above is that they both come in over $40/bottle. So you’re approaching a $100 tab after taxes to perform this taste test. If you are just undergoing your introduction to Januik Winery, you might be better off snagging one of wines suggested below.
So next time you find yourself in Woodinville, swing by Novelty Hill | Januik. The ambiance of the facility is unparalled, the flatbread pizzas are perfect for lunch and the wines are delicious. It is a trifecta of satisfaction. Oh, and did I mention they have a Bocce Ball court? Pure bliss. So grab a glass of vino, grab a pizza and throw some balls. Need a fourth for your bocce game? Let me know, I’m never opposed to heading over to Januik Winery. You shouldn’t be either.
WHERE TO FIND THEM – TASTING ROOM LOCATION(S)
Address: 14710 Woodinville-Redmond Road, Woodinville, WA 98072
Hours: 11am – 5pm, daily
Wines Worth Checking Out
Columbia Valley Red Wine ($20)
“This wine is made from a short list of vineyards we consider to be among the best in the state. The fruit for the 2012 Columbia Valley Red Wine is sourced from Ciel du Cheval, Champoux, Alder Ridge, and Weinbau vineyards.
The nose is brimming with blackberries, currants, and rich dark chocolate. Medium full on the palate with an elegant, lively mouth-feel and a long finish packed with fresh berry and cherry flavors.” – 2012 Vintage, Winery Description
Bacchus Vineyard Riesling ($20)
Bacchus Vineyard is located outside Pasco, WA on a southwest facing slope which overlooks the Columbia River which makes it ideal for Riesling. This wine is made from two of the finest German Riesling clones: Geishenheim 198 and Nuestadt 90.
Crisp and refreshing, the Bacchus Vineyard Riesling is packed with apricot, peach, floral and grapefruit flavors and aromas. Punctuated with mineral notes, the finish is bright, balanced and lingering. – 2013 Vintage, Winery Description