Keeping a winery up and running with a consistent product year after year is no small feat. The fact that Mike and Ellena Conway of Latah Creek Wine Cellars have been doing just that since 1980 is nothing short of amazing.
When the Conways started their winery in Spokane nearly 35 years ago, there were only 17 others in Washington. Since that time, the state’s winery count has swelled to 850-plus.
What’s their secret? Certainly their commitment to affordably priced wines in a relaxed atmosphere has to be a consideration. The tasting room, located just off Interstate 90 a few miles east of downtown Spokane, is as unpretentious as they come, with an unabashedly kitschy retail inventory that engulfs the tasting bar.
While that might be off-putting to some, people with more of a laid-back, casual approach to tasting wines will probably feel right at home.
That’s likely what the Conways envisioned while nurturing their mainstay Washington winery to its current annual production level of around 15,000 cases. And to ensure that sense of family continues, their daughter, Natalie Barnes, joined the winery in 2004 and now shares winemaking duties.
Here are my tasting notes on some current releases I sampled during a visit to Spokane last month:
Latah Creek Wine Cellars’ tasting room is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Order online at latahcreek.com.