By Kori ~ August 27th, 2008.
Gilbert Cellars is a family-owned winery located near Wiley City in the Ahtanum Valley west of Yakima, Washington. Even though Gilbert Cellars is only a four year old winery, the Gilberts are veterans when it comes to producing high-quality fruit. The Gilbert family has been in the tree-fruit business since 1897. In 2001, they planted a two acre experimental vineyard on their property near Wiley City. Now that vineyard boasts ten acres, all planted near their winery facilities. The majority of the grapes used in their wines, however, come from their vineyard in the Wahluke Slope AVA near Mattawa. The Gilberts purchased this vineyard (formerly Stewart Vineyard) in 2002. Their vineyard site has proven to be an excellent place to ripen the great red varieties of Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley of France.
Earlier this year, we met Sean Gilbert, General Manager of Gilbert Cellars, at a tasting at Esquin Wine Merchants in Seattle. Sean is a really nice guy and has been the driving force behind getting the Gilbert family into the wine business. We have been impressed with their wines since this first tasting, especially their 2005 Syrah. Since then, we have had their wines at Taste Washington, in blind tastings at home, and on our recent trip to the Columbia Valley. In addition to their Syrah, we have also really enjoyed their 2005 Malbec which was released in April.
Earlier this month on our trip to the Columbia Valley, we had the pleasure to visit both the brand-new Gilbert Cellars tasting room in downtown Yakima and their winery near Wiley City with Sean. Their tasting room opened in July and is different from many other tasting rooms. In addition to offering tastings, they offer their wines for purchase by the bottle or the glass to enjoy in their beautifully appointed wine bar and lounge atmosphere. They also have plans to offer hors d’oeuvres and live entertainment in the future. Another unique aspect of their tasting room is their extended hours (Monday-Saturday, 12pm-11pm; Sunday, 12pm-5pm). This tasting room is sure to become a popular spot in Yakima, for tourists and locals alike. After our visit to the tasting room, Sean took us out to the family’s winery for a tour of their production facilities and treated us to numerous barrel samples. Based on these samples, look for good things to continue from Gilbert Cellars. I’m looking forward to tasting some of these again when they are released in a year or two.
Gilbert Cellars’ expected production for 2008 is 4,400 cases. Ultimately, their goal is to increase production to about 20,000 cases per year. But as Sean emphasized, they will only increase production as long as they are able to maintain quality. That commitment to excellence is one of the main reasons that I believe Gilbert Cellars is a winery to watch.
If you are in Yakima, be sure to stop by the Gilbert Cellars tasting room to sample their wines or to enjoy a glass with a friend. And regardless of whether you are able to visit or not, be sure to try some Gilbert wines.
Filed under: American Wine, Malbec, Shiraz/Syrah, Spotlight On, Washington State Wine