Among Walla Walla wineries, Saviah Cellars, Rulo Winery (both established in 2000) and Dusted Valley Vintners (established in 2003) could be classified as three of the 50 or so "old-time" wineries in the area. That might sound a bit strange, until you consider that number has almost tripled in just the last nine years.
Rich Funk, Saviah's owner and winemaker, worked as an environmental health specialist before "retiring" in 2006 to take over his winery full-time. Funk always impresses with a wide variety of wines for nearly every budget.
You're probably familiar with his "The Jack" line available at local grocers. All are priced at around $18 and include a riesling, red blend, cabernet sauvignon and syrah.
Other releases include the 2011 Star Meadows White Wine (about $22). This lovely mix of semillon and sauvignon blanc combines a bit of citrus with a bit of nectarine and a splash of creamy lemon chiffon on the finish.
Also notable: the 2007 Laurella (about $35), a blend of sangiovese, cabernet franc and merlot with black plum and espresso flavors, touches of dried herb and a snippet of toasted vanilla.
Kurt and Vicki Schlicker are the sole owners and employees at Rulo Winery, so, as they like to say, if things go wrong they've got no one to blame but themselves. Fortunately, that's never been an issue as they've produced consistently good wines since day one.
Because of the cool vintage year, their Sundance Vineyard 2011 Chardonnay (about $20) is unlike the varietal's past releases. It's crisper and leaner, with more mineral notes suggestive of a sauvignon blanc. It should pair nicely with fresh greens or lobster bisque.
I especially enjoyed their Rulo 2009 Syrah (about $25), with its nuances of coffee bean, chocolate and cherry up front. Brighter, acidic notes from red currant and raspberry come through at the finish to provide excellent structure and complexity. Look for this and other Rulo wines at Compass Wines in Anacortes.
Brothers-in-law Chad Johnson and Corey Braunel moved from Wisconsin to establish Dusted Valley Vintners. They always amaze me with their tireless self-promotion, which includes opening a second tasting room in Woodinville three years ago.
They work hard at making wines, too, as evidenced by their sold-out 2009 Petite Sirah, which took best-in-show honors at this year's Northwest Wine Summit.
My current favorites include the 2010 Stained Tooth Syrah (about $32), with layers of dark, inky fruits and a plush finish, and the 2010 Wallyworld (about $42), a huge, four-varietal red wine blend.
DAN RADIL is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.