Chinook Wines: Quintessential Yakima Valley

Today’s post is an excerpt of an article posted on Washington Tasting Room website. Read the full article here.

“WE REALLY don’t have that in mind,” says Kay Simon, co-owner of Chinook Wines, dismissing the notion of retirement.  Her husband, Clay Mackey, the other co-owner of this winemaking venture, chimes in, “No, not in the cards.”  One might assume, with 31 years of successful winemaking under their belts, that the couple would be seriously contemplating the “R” word. But they have other ideas.

Husband and wife team Clay Mackey and Kay Simon of Chinook Wines (Richard Duval photo)

Husband and wife team Clay Mackey and Kay Simon of Chinook Wines (Richard Duval photo)

“We’re at 3,000 cases and have been for quite some time,” Clay says.  “There’s really just the two of us, and that is a comfortable level.  Any more, and we’d be looking to hire some people.”
Kay laughs, pointing out, “Whereas most wineries start out small and hope to grow, we started big and went small for quality reasons.”  She was referring to the fact that in California, where they began their winemaking careers, both worked for wineries that delivered varietals by the trainload.

Perfect Pairing
After each completed degrees at UC Davis’ renowned enology and viticulture program (which they attended at different times, and had yet to make each other’s acquaintance), they independently gravitated north to Washington and its burgeoning wine industry.  Their paths converged in the 1970’s when both began working for Chateau Ste. Michelle, and love ripened among the vines.

At Chateau Ste. Michelle, Clay exercised his degree in viticulture by tending to their grape growing needs, while Kay called upon her background in fermentation science to direct Chateau Ste. Michelle’s red wine production.  It was only natural that they combine their professional talents, so in 1983 they launched Chinook Wines.

Opulent Yakima Valley Wines 
This couple has a predilection for making single varietal wines, such as Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  For loyal fans of Chinook Wines, however, their Cabernet Franc is front and center, produced every year from a blend of many different vineyards in the Yakima Valley.  From the beginning, this winery has supported local growers, including such renowned vineyards as Dutchman Vineyard, Lonesome Spring Ranch, Boushey Vineyard, Oasis Farms and Upland Vineyards.


Chinook 2012 Yakima Valley Chardonnay, $19
Made from old vine Chardonnay grapes grown by multi-generational Yakima Valley vineyard families, this medium-bodied wine is deftly structured, showing balanced acidity. Nose: Aromas of tropical citrus, green fig, blanched almonds and crème fraîche. Taste: Refined and refreshing, layered with green apple, citrus and spice.

Chinook 2010 Yakima Valley Cabernet Franc, $23
For over 15 years, Chinook has produced a Cab Franc sourced from their Prosser vineyard and other Yakima Valley sites. Nose: Compelling and earthy aromas of Rainier cherries, marionberries, tea leaf and herbal spice. Taste: Richly satisfying and pure fruit flavors of blueberry liqueur, black tea, with top notes of pie cherries and complex savory herbs on a lengthy finish.

Chinook 2012 Yakima Valley Sauvignon blanc, $18
The juice was fermented at a cool temperature to retain its floral and fruity aromas. A versatile food wine, try with Camembert or herbed chevre on rosemary bread. Nose: Intricate aromas of green melon, citrus and savory herb. Taste:Crisp and vibrant, there’s a cut of slate minerality to the lemon-lime citrus and grapefruit, and a hint of lychee.

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