Spotlight On: Otis Kenyon

By Kori ~ November 23rd, 2009.

2007 Otis Kenyon Matchless Red WineOtis Kenyon is a small, family-owned and operated winery in Walla Walla, Washington. Founded in 2004 by Stephen Otis Kenyon and his wife Deborah Dunbar, Otis Kenyon currently produces 2,500 cases per year.

We were first introduced to Otis Kenyon wines at a tasting at Pete’s Wine Shop in Bellevue last year. Since discovering that Dave Stephenson is their winemaker, we have been paying close attention to them. Regular readers know that we have been very impressed with Dave’s work at his own Stephenson Cellars.

Otis Kenyon sources the majority of their fruit from their own Stellar Vineyard, a 10-acre mature vineyard planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah in the Walla Walla Valley AVA near Milton-Freewater, Oregon. They also own another 29-acre site in the same area which will soon be planted to Bordeaux and Rhone varietals.

Otis Kenyon has one of the most intriguing stories in the Washington wine industry. It’s about family, fire, estrangement, and redemption. Back in the early 1900’s, James Otis Kenyon was a struggling dentist in Milton-Freewater, Oregon. When a new dentist moved the town, James decided to take matters into his own hands and burned his competitor’s office to the ground. His wife divorced him and took their two sons, who presumed their father had died, and moved to Walla Walla. About 50 years later, Stephen Otis Kenyon discovered his grandfather living on the Oregon Coast. James was reunited with his family and lived to the age of 101. As a tribute to four generations of Otis Kenyons and the family’s strong ties to the Walla Walla Valley, owners Stephen and Deborah decided to return to the area to make wine. In honor of James Otis Kenyon, the singed label on Otis Kenyon wines depicts his silhouette and the copy from the newspaper article announcing the scandal from nearly 100 years ago.

The Otis Kenyon tasting room in downtown Walla Walla opened in May 2008. If you are in the area, I encourage you to stop by to taste their wines and be sure to ask them about James Otis Kenyon.

We recently had the opportunity to taste their recently released 2007 Matchless Red Wine. It’s a wine that goes well with your mid-week dinner but also gives you a great story to tell when you take it to a party.

2007 Otis Kenyon Matchless Red Wine (Walla Walla Valley, Washington): 70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep garnet and very aromatic. Blackberry, black cherry, and vanilla come through on the nose; more black fruits and spice on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity and medium tannins. Well-balanced and smooth with a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample; Winery, $23

Filed under: American Wine, Red Wine, Spotlight On, Washington State Wine, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. @nectarwine | November 23rd, 2009 at 8:08 am

    I liked the story behind the wine on this one. Gives a good personal touch. Did you like it, was it average?

  2. Kori | November 27th, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Glad you liked the story. We did like the wine. In our rating system, 3.5 stars falls between “good” and “excellent”. For a further explanation of our ratings, please visit our Wine Ratings page: Cheers!