Summer 2002

Losing Track of Time…

OK, so we are a little late with the newsletter. In fact, we will begin harvesting grapes this week, which means that fall is not far off. By the calendar, though, there are still a few days of summer remaining, so technically we are right on schedule with this "late summer" newsletter!

And What a Summer…

It has been a spectacular summer for Claar Cellars, if we do say so, beginning with our 2000 Chardonnay taking a Gold Medal at the Washington State Wine Competition in June. This is particularly satisfying because many, if not most, of the judges are winemakers themselves. Seven of our wines won medals at tastings around the country, culminating with Amenti del Vino (The Wine Society) awarding our new 1998 Merlot a Double Gold Medal at their annual tasting in Mystic, Connecticut. A complete list of our summer award winners is available on our recently upgraded website (

Speaking of Harvest…

Owner Bob Whitelatch reports that this year's harvest appears to be getting off to an early start. We will pick Sauvignon Blanc around the 18th or 19th of Sept, about a week earlier than last year. It appears that Merlot and Chardonnay will be close behind, weather depending, and also a little bit early.

It has been an unusual growing season in eastern Washington, which probably makes it a normal year. We started the year cool, or on some days down right cold, then had a string of 100+ degree-days. The grapes went into a bit of shock, resulting in a crop of very small berries. This may mean a lower than desired yield, but because of the small berries, it is a crop of extraordinary flavors. Because most of the flavors and all of the color reside in the skin of the grape, a higher than normal ratio of skin to grape will make this a very good year for red wines in particular.

The weather patterns appear to be moving into a normal fall series of storms and cooler weather. This will be perfect for Claar Cellars--with our White Bluffs site, we should have at least a 40-degree difference between daytime highs and the nighttime lows. The key is that any storms dump all of their rains in Western Washington. Sorry, westsiders, but we normally don't have and certainly don't want any rain during harvest season.

We welcome Friends of Claar to help with the harvest. If you are in the area stop by. Bring boots if you have them; if not we'll find you a pair.


New Winemaker

We are pleased to announce that Bruno Corneaux joined the Claar Cellars team in July as winemaker. Bruno hails from the heart of Burgundy, where his parents owned a small vineyard, and has a degree from the world famous University of Enology in Dijon, France. His craft has taken him around the world, beginning with internships at Chateau de Peligry Montrachet in Burgundy and in Oregon, where Domain Drouhin has a vineyard and winery. He has been an assistant winemaker in South Africa and at Newton Vineyards in Napa Valley. Most recently, he was deeply involved in an ambitious French project to grow and make wine in Polynesia. We think Bruno's skills and extensive experience, coupled with our top-quality, estate-grown grapes, will result in some of the best wines Washington has to offer. Welcome to Bruno, his wife Isabelle and son Louis.

NOTE: For those who may be unaware, our previous winemaker, Bela Varga, returned to his native Hungary to care for his ailing mother. We congratulate Bela for his role in helping build our reputation as a producer of premium wines and wish him the best.

Grape Stomp

We will hold our 6th annual Grape Stomp at the winery in Pasco on Saturday, September 28, 3:00 PM until we are too tired to stomp further. If you have never crushed grapes with your feet in the traditional manner, this is your opportunity. Teams of two will compete for "CORPORATE DIVISION CHAMPION" or "GENERAL PUBLIC CHAMPION." We will present ribbons to all participants and a Traveling Grape Stomp Trophy will go to the winning business. This fun event is held in conjunction with the Columbia Valley Winery Association's "Catch the Crush" September 28 and 29. Contact the winery (509-266-4634, FAX 509-547-4333, send email) for registration and additional information.

Wine News

We have sold out of our 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2001 Nouveau Syrah. For now, our Double Gold 1998 Merlot is only available at the Tasting Room in Zillah. We also have very limited distribution on our Gold Medal 2000 Chardonnay. For those who have not tasted our 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon recently, it has mellowed beautifully over the past year and is just about perfect for drinking now. Call Mike at the Tasting Room (509-829-6810) or go to our website for complete pricing and ordering information. The cost of shipping a case of wine to the Seattle-Tacoma area via UPS is about eighteen dollars.