If wine has a “ground zero” of start-ups and viticulture entrepreneurial spirit, the small to mid-size businesses that make of the Woodinville (Washington) Warehouse District might just be the place. Here you will find wine makers of all types, backgrounds, and interests – all focused on the AVAs of Washington State – within an eat and stroll outdoor mall type of setting.
It was here in September, 2013 that I first visited and where I met Charlie Auclair, winemaker and president of Auclair Winery. It was later in the day and we had already sampled quite a few wines. After introductions I recall asking Charlie what his wine was known for and his response was, “superb Red Mountain wine.” And he was right.
Charlie wasn’t always a wine entrepreneur, though that title is dwarfed by the fact that the 2016 Auclair Winery vintage may eclipse 1000 cases. Back in the early days of his wine enthusiast era, Charlie was making small batches for friends and colleagues with the Boeing Wine Club which purchased lots of wine juice from a number of sources in Red Mountain and elsewhere. “I enjoyed the fruit that came from Red Mountain and initially I wanted to make Sauvignon Blanc from another vineyard that didn’t have enough fruit for my vintage. So I contacted Artz Vineyard. That was the largest purchase of juice by the Boeing Wine Club to that date. So I thought I would give the grower a call and introduce myself and arrange a visit.”
That was 2008 and the grower was Fred Artz. Charlie and Fred would continue to work together and learn the unique nature of Red Mountain and Artz Vineyard until Fred’s passing in early 2015. Fred was one of the early architects of the creation of the Red Mountain AVA (which he called “dumb luck” in a 2002 Wines Northwest article) and was active in a number of wine management and growing activities through the early 2000s. Charlie recalls Fred like a close family uncle, “a kind and gracious farmer.”
Not only would Charlie expand his offerings from Artz Vineyard to include Bordeaux blends (white as well as both right bank and left bank red styles – earning high praise from a number of wine review publications including Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator) but also leverage a number of sourced vineyards (such as Heart of the Hill owned by Red Mountain pioneer Kiona Vineyards) to create the 96 Cedars label. While one might consider the 96 Cedars label more of an everyday wine compared to the Auclair labeled wines, my response is that the wine offers more differentiation according to blend as well as the ability to single and multi-source vineyards for the bottling to create a very smooth yet highly structured wine at a more moderate price point.
With the 2016 harvest just months away, Charlie Auclair is excited for the vintage. “This will be some of the best fruit we have seen from Red Mountain,” he declared. As well as the traditional offerings, Auclair Winery will also make available to the general public its Cabernet Franc bottling under the Auclair label in addition to a select bottling of Petit Verdot for club members.
The Auclair Winery club membership is easy and flexible – a minimum of one case of wine in a calendar year. For more information contact Charlie Auclair and Auclair Winery via its website.