Co Dinn focuses on single-vineyard wines from the Yakima Valley

It was pizza night in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Coman Dinn, a young professional from Texas working in the oil industry, was passing through when he ordered pizza and red wine for dinner. The layers of flavors surprised him. He became curious and hooked at the same time.

“After that experience, I realized there was a lot more to know about wine,” said Dinn, now the owner and winemaker of Co Dinn Cellars. “I starting digging deeper, reading books and trying new wines until I eventually decided this was a path I wanted to take.”

Once the decision was made, Dinn went back to school to supplement his business degree with science, math and chemistry classes.

Dinn moved to California in 1989. He worked in the industry while earning his master’s degree at the University of California, Davis, which at the time was the epicenter of wine education in America.

The 1980s was a breakout decade in Washington. Wineries were making a big splash, unexpectedly winning wine competitions. By the 1990s, new wineries were opening and existing wineries were expanding, creating growth and opportunity.

“In 1996, I came to Washington and tried the wines, they knocked my socks off”, Dinn said. “I realized there was tremendous potential here and I wanted to be part of it.”

After more than 20 vintages in Washington, Dinn decided to create his own brand. In 2013, he started Co Din Cellars, focusing on single-vineyard wines from the Yakima Valley. His wines have scored well among wine critics and consumers since their inaugural release.

Dinn focuses exclusively on single vineyard wines from the Yakima Valley. “I make wines that I feel are best suited to small production – red wines and barrel aged chardonnay. I use exclusively Yakima Valley fruit for my wines. I am familiar with all the sites, climate, soils, slopes and the growers. I know where the great grapes are, the Yakima Valley has such a variety of growing climates that you really can find whatever you want here,” says Dinn.

The Yakima Valley is a microcosm of the state as a whole when it comes to growing wine grapes. “I could stay busy for the rest of my life right here exploring what we have to work in the Yakima Valley,” according to Dinn.

“What I am looking for are hillside vineyards. I believe the hillsides are where the best grapes are. Hillside growing is the classic growing model throughout the world.  Because of our colder temperatures, the hillsides are a real advantage in protecting the fruit during the winter months,” says Dinn. The soils tend to be course and shallow allowing for good drainage, and the grapes get more heat if they are on a south or west slope.

Vines located on a northern or eastern slope get less heat. This allows winemakers to fine-tune the grape variety by knowing where it grows best. Hillside vineyards produce wines with more concentration and intensity.

“I want variety, I want to explore vineyards that may or may not be the ones everyone is using. There are not just seven vineyards in the state, there are hundreds, and each of them has its own special attributes,” says Dinn. “I have chosen some vineyards that are very unique and that I feel are outstanding in terms of giving me lots of character in the wines.”

Co Dinn wines represent the western end of the Yakima Valley with a south-facing slopes, the eastern end with a southeast slope, and Snipes Mtn (Central Yakima Valley) with both a south and north slope. “These vineyards span the gamut of the wines we do very well here in the Yakima Valley,” adds Dinn.

Co Dinn winery is located in the old city of Sunnyside water department. Remodeled in an industrial deco design with beautiful brick, the building still houses the city’s original wells, located beneath the floor. The building was built in 1930 and still houses the crane once used for daily operation.  The history and character of the tasting room alone are worth the trip to the tasting room located at 501 Grant Avenue in Sunnyside.  While you are there, be sure to sample these beautifully made wines.

■ 2015 Red Blend, Elephant Mountain Vineyard, Yakima Valley, $65: At an elevation of 1,466 feet, the south-facing slope is among the highest vineyards in the Yakima Valley. This wine — 58 percent cabernet sauvignon, 16 percent petit verdot, 15 percent merlot, 11 percent malbec — has shown great promise from inception and is already drinking nicely.

■ 2014 GSM Lonesome Spring Ranch Vineyard, Yakima Valley, $45: Grower Colin Morrell is renowned for his southern-Rhone varietal wine grapes. This classic blend of 36 percent grenache, 35 percent syrah and 29 percent mourvèdre gives a spicy pepper quality.

■ 2014 Syrah, Roskamp Vineyard, Yakima Valley, $50: Block Two Syrah is located on a gravelly promontory facing southwest atop Snipes Mountain. Battered by the elements, the vines produce a limited crop of intense, distinctive fruit.

■ 2013 Chardonnay, Roskamp Vineyard, Snipes Mountain, $45: Rich and balanced, the Roskamp Vineyard chardonnay has a characteristic delicacy. Traditional barrel fermentation and aging on the lees for 17 months gives the wine a complexity that can only be achieved through time and fastidious winemaking.

photo credit: James Dinn Photography

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