By Kori ~ July 27th, 2010.
Caleb Foster is undoubtedly one of the winemaking stars in Washington State. With 21 vintages of experience, he certainly has developed his chops but is young enough and energetic enough to stay on the cutting edge. Caleb is the winemaker for Buty Winery in Walla Walla, Washington, which he owns with his wife Nina. The winery is named for Nina’s maiden name. Caleb’s winemaking past includes stints in New Zealand, South Africa, and several areas in Washington State. Before going out on his own, he spent eight years as the assistant winemaker at Woodward Canyon Winery in Walla Walla.
Founded in 2000, Buty Winery produces six wines, two whites and four reds. In addition, they also produce an alter ego line of wines called the BEAST. While my daughter loves Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, I am personally partial to this Buty and the BEAST. The BEAST line is used to present new varietals, new vineyards, and showcase wines outside of the regular Buty portfolio. Buty produces 3,000 cases per year, and the BEAST contributes another 1,800 cases per year.
Buty focuses on several proprietary blends. Caleb makes an excellent white Bordeaux-style blend called Semillon, Sauvignon & Muscadelle. His flagship red wines are two Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blends, the Columbia Rediviva (usually Cab-heavy) from the Horse Heaven Hills and the Rediviva of the Stones (usually Syrah-heavy) from the Walla Walla Valley. The goal is for both Rediviva wines to source fruit from their estate vineyards, Phinny Hill in the Horse Heaven Hills and Rockgarden Estate in the Walla Walla Valley. In fact, the 2006 Columbia Rediviva, the current vintage, which is exceptional, is the first to come entirely from Phinny Hill fruit. For those of you who are familiar with the top vineyards in the state, Phinny Hill is located close to Champoux Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills and Rockgarden is located in the prized “rocks” region just across the Oregon state line in the Walla Walla Valley.
Chris Dowsett has served as co-winemaker for Buty for a year. In addition to his duties at Buty, Chris also has his own Dowsett Family Winery. Founded in 2007, Dowsett’s production is 300 total cases per year, about 100 cases of Gewurztraminer and 200 cases of a Rhone-style red blend called Devotion. Chris gained valuable winemaking experience at Canoe Ridge, Latitude 46, and at Artifex, a custom crush facility in Walla Walla, before joining Caleb at Buty.
Chris is especially passionate about his dry Gewurztraminer that he sources from Celilo Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge. Celilo Vineyard is the premier white wine grape vineyard in Washington State, and Chris believes it is the perfect site for growing Gewurztraminer. The admiration is mutual as Celilo’s vineyard manager, Rick Ensminger, mentioned Chris often when we visited Celilo in May. Chris has always loved Gewurztraminer and the way it complements so many everyday foods.
We had the pleasure to visit with Caleb Foster and Chris Dowsett when we were in Walla Walla recently for the Wine Bloggers Conference. Both gentlemen are extremely talented winemakers and very nice guys. I highly encourage you to visit Buty the next time you visit Walla Walla and be sure to call ahead and see if you can talk Chris into pouring his Dowsett wines for you as well.
Filed under: American Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewurztraminer, Red Wine, Shiraz/Syrah, Spotlight On, Vineyards, Washington State Wine, White Wine