Hello friends. I first met Andrew Latta about five years ago now, out in Walla Walla. He was the assistant winemaker at K Vintners at the time, and we had one of the best visits I can remember in the valley, tasting through barrel after barrel of high-octane, delicious juice, and spending hours geeking out, mostly about vineyard sites and which varieties made sense in which places in Washington.
It was clear to me then that Andrew was a thoughtful, talented, creative winemaker. And so pretty much every time I saw him in subsequent years, I asked him: when are you going to start your own label?
Well, the timing of the Latta label turned out to be… complicated. Complicated because, as of a few months ago, Andrew is no longer employed by K Vintners. The details of the breakup are shrouded by a sturdy Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak woven by a small fleet of attorneys. I suspect the real story will never come completely to light. Any of us who have been through breakups of any kind can likely attest to the fact that there is blame enough to go around on all parties.
Regardless, the past is past, and when I saw Andrew in Walla Walla in April, he was in an ebullient, slightly dazed state of mind. He had just secured the purchase of his own Latta Wines, and he was much more interested in talking about the future than the past. So that’s what we did, over tacos at Dora’s Worm Ranch (pro tip: this bait and tackle shop is the best place to grab a quick between-wineries lunch in the valley).
As it always has when I’ve talked to Andrew over the years, the talk quickly turned to wine. And to dirt.
I’ll let Andrew introduce each of the vineyards today, because I think he’s an even bigger vineyard geek than I am: Upland Vineyard is a rolling extremely sloped site located in the Snipes Mountain AVA. Snipes Mountain was named for Ben Snipes, an early Yakima County pioneer who built a house at the base of a mountain in the 1850s. The area was first planted in 1917 by Washington State wine pioneer William B. Bridgman. The vineyard on Snipes Mountain was one of the first to plant Vitis vinifera in Washington. Snipes Mountain is a seven mile long anticline ridge created by fault activity. The “peak” is 1,290 feet high, rising from the floor of the Yakima Valley with unique, rocky soils, known as aridisols. Soil deposits below the area are composed of gravels and sediments left by ancient river beds, deposits range in size from a fist to a football. The rocky composition of this warm site provides the backbone of our Grenache block from Upland.
Andrew was ruthless with yields in 2011, dropping enough fruit that the final yield was a mere 2.2 tons/acre. He used 50% whole clusters (stems and all), and this spent about two years in barrel (neutral 500L puncheons) before bottling. Grenache is light on skin pigments, and in a cool year like 2011, the result is a wine with a delicate pale ruby color. Don’t be fooled. That color belies this wine’s heft (14.7% listed alc) and power. But let’s begin with the aromatics: beautiful, fresh, and lively, with raspberry fruit, and bramble, blossom and pastille all taking a turn. In the mouth, this is a joyful bottle of Grenache, hitting the trinity of berry/rocks/garrigue on a frame that easily melds richness to freshness. This is a lovely, lovely expression of Grenache, with inner mouth perfume and generosity to spare, and a sneaky sense of wildness.
Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 93pts.” [Sullivan context note: In all of Sean’s reviews for Wine Enthusiast, exactly one Grenache has a stronger review, a 94-pointer for Maison Bleue’s 2011 La Montagnette.]
When this Jeb Dunnuck review came out a year ago, it turned a lot of heads: Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 95pts.”
Here is Andrew’s introduction to Northridge Vineyard, which has to be among the most compelling sites on the Wahluke Slope: Northridge Vineyard was planted in 2003 in the Wahluke Slope AVA of Washington State. This exceptional site is a warm plateau composed of ancient soil and gravel is located in the foothills of the Saddle Mountain range at the upper reaches of the AVA boundary. The vineyard resides on a gentle south facing slope with a north/south vine row orientation. The topsoil here is less than a foot deep giving way to a gravelly mix of basalt and caliche. The elevation, ~1200 ft., and slope of the site allows this warm high desert plateau to cool off dramatically in the evening, producing swings of 40- 50 degrees in the summer, allowing the Malbec to ripen perfectly without losing its balanced acidity.
Northridge sits above the Missoula flood plains, so under that foot of topsoil are ancient soils of fractured basalt and calcium carbonate, rare indeed for Washington. Yields from this site came in at 2.1 tons/acre, and the fruit spent about two years in 40% new French oak. It clocks in at 14.2% listed alc, and you would not believe the color on this. It is an inky black-purple, so opaque that even the bubbles on pouring pop up purple. Malbec is ridiculous when it comes to color extraction. The wine marries fresh fruity notes of blueberry and boysenberry to wonderful cooling mineral tones. It’s a total palate-stainer, coating the mouth with Malbec goodness and lingering long after the last swallow.
Please limit order requests to 12 bottles of each wine, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive around August 1, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.