Production: (1995) 11,500 cases/year
Vineyards: none; grapes purchased from Yakima Valley, Columbia Valley
Distribution: WA, OR, ID, NY, NJ, MA, MT, B. C. (Canada)
Mike and Ellena Conway met in 1966 while still high school students in Southern California. Mike started college with aspirations of being a doctor. Due to the Viet Nam conflict, he did a four year stint in the Air Force starting in 1968, marrying Ellena shortly after graduating from boot camp. Mike was stationed to Ankara, Turkey, where Ellena joined him and they lived in near poverty conditions for two years. They refer to these times as good training for what life would be like running a winery!
In 1971, they returned to California, where Mike continued his school work. At the same time (1972), he started working for the Gallo winery as a quality control technician in their microbiology department. Two years later, with his new college degree, he moved to Franzia winery, and within a year, became their head microbiologist.
In the summer of 1977, Mike accepted the position of assistant winemaker at Parducci winery in northern California. There he received three years of the best, on-the-job winemaking training available, from two of the most talented and knowledgeable winemakers in the world - Hungarian winemaker Joe Monostori, and John Parducci.
In November of 1979, Mike accepted an offer to open and operate a small winery in a relatively new wine producing region, Washington state. On May 17, 1980 they began their move north. The supposedly uneventful trip from Ukiah to Spokane was interrupted by the eruption of Mount St. Helens. The couple's first week in beautiful Washington was spent under a blanket of ash in Pasco. After finally arriving in Spokane and with the next two months full of furious activity, the new facilities were ready for Mike's first grape harvest as a winemaker in Washington State.
Approximately 70 tons of grapes were brought into Worden's Winery the Fall of 1980. (There were only 18 operating wineries in the state at that time!) The resultant 7,000 gallons of wine took the state by surprise. The Parducci style of winemaking (light, fresh and fruity with a slight amount of spritz) had never been tried before using Washington grapes. The wines -- 2 variations of Riesling and a Maywine -- were quite successful and the stage was set for a dramatic change in the state's wine industry.
The harvest of 1982 brought together Mike and grape grower Mike Hogue as partners in two new wineries -- Latah Creek and The Hogue Cellars. For the next two years, Mike Conway made wine for both wineries by commuting back and forth between Latah Creek in Spokane and the Hogue winery in Prosser. During this time, both wineries received high accolades for every wine produced. The start of the 1984 harvest saw the two operations becoming separate entities -- the Conways took over full ownership of Latah Creek, while a new winemaker was brought into Hogue. The Hogue Cellars developed into the second largest winery in the state today, while Latah Creek stayed exactly as Mike and Ellena had intended -- a small, single family winery producing world class wines.
February 1983 was the ground breaking for the building Latah Creek occupies today. (Latah Creek is one of the only small wineries in this state to be housed in a facility that was built to be a winery.) That first 1982 harvest of 7,000 gallons was completed in temporary quarters. The winery was moved into its newly constructed building, complete with tasting room, in July 1983. The next harvest increased to 15,000 gallons and seven different varieties. By the winery's fourth harvest, they were at the production capacity still maintained today -- about 27,000 gallons.
Mike and Ellena envisioned having an artist series label for Latah Creek that would change with every vintage. Floyd A. Broadbent, and internationally acclaimed artist from the Yakima Valley, stepped in and volunteered his services, recommending a theme of local wildlife. Since that first year, Floyd has developed an exclusive piece of art for each of the thirteen labels to date -- everything from a wood duck to trout to the American Bald Eagle.
The Wines: (Spring 1996)
Mike Conway 1982 - present
Of special note:
At Latah Creek their stylistic aim is simply to create wines that taste like the grapes from which they came. This is accomplished by using traditional winemaking principles and by the selection of exceptional fruit. Subjecting the wines to the least amount of processing and handling possible, enables these natural varietal flavors to remain intact from grape to bottle. Their major goal is to produce wines with natural balance and complexity, providing a perfect complement to food and absolute enjoyment by themselves.
The Wine Spectator: Multiple Best Buy ratings and 3 Spectator Top 100 Selections; "#1 producer of Merlot in the state"; "stands out from the crowd of Merlots"; "immensely appealing for quality and price"
The Wine & Food Companion: Latah Creek's Cabernet - "simply the best wine on the table"
Washington Wine Writers: Latah Creek Merlot - "this wine shows the age-ability of Merlot and its potential in the hands of a skilled winemaker"
3rd weekend in May: Spring Barrel tasting (6 Spokane wineries) Mid-July: Latah Creek's anniversary weekend 1st weekend in October: Oktoberfest at Latah Creek
Thanksgiving weekend, November: Spokane's 6 wineries host a weekend of food and wine
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