Originally from Texas, Co Dinn, current owner and winemaker for Co Dinn Cellars moved to California in 1989 to begin working toward his master’s degree at UC Davis.
“In 1996, I came to Washington and tried the wines, they knocked my socks off,” says Dinn. “I realized there was tremendous potential here and I wanted to be part of it.”
After more than 20 vintages in Washington, Co decided to go from making 600,000 cases per year to less than 1,000 cases.
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, and 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 really 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 with here in the Yakima Valley,” according to Dinn.
“What I am looking for in most cases 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. 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,” claims Dinn.
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. Hillsides vineyards produce wines with more concentration and intensity,” adds Dinn.
“I want variety, I want to explore vineyards that may or may not be the ones that 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.
The 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.
“That’s what I am looking for in a site. Then, I make sure the right grape is on the site and the grower knows how to optimize his farming.”