First Washington State Food & Wine Magazine Winemaker of the Year
K Vintners’ Charles Smith Brings Fresh New Face, Bold Ideas to Wine Scene
WALLA WALLA, Wash.--(GrapeVineTrail)--For the first time in its eleven-year history, the prestigious Food & Wine magazine American Wine Awards has named a Washington State winemaker, Charles Smith, as its Winemaker of the Year. Joining the likes of Helen Turley, Robert Foley, Mia Klein and other, mostly-Napa luminaries, Smith was recognized for his track record of knockout wines, excellent values, and an outsized, rocker personality to match.
Smith grew up with a family tradition of home winemaking, and then spent a decade managing rock bands in Europe. Mainly on impulse, he moved to Washington, tasted some impressive Walla Walla wines, and set up shop in 2001 as K Vintners, specializing in intensely flavored, small-lot Syrah. With no formal winemaking training and no corporate fanfare, Smith rapidly developed a following among critics and consumers alike, and the volume was only amplified as he launched two new, larger brands, The Magnificent Wine Company and Charles Smith Wines: The Modernist Project, both focused on value-priced wines. And more recently, the Charles & Charles project with Charles Bieler of Three Thieves. The awards have kept rolling in.
Smith’s ex-rocker persona—complete with an unforgettable head of hair—has made its mark in local and national wine circles. But more important, his personality infuses all the wines—as a winemaking philosophy that emphasizes that wine should, above all, taste good, that people should like to drink it, and that wine should be flat-out fun. All the grape varieties Smith works with—now ranging from Cabernet and Syrah to Chardonnay and Riesling, and many more—come through with big fruit flavors and mouth-filling intensity. The same spirit goes onto the labels: edgy design, bold colors, huge letters, catchy names, all screaming, “You’re gonna like this wine!”
Food & Wine magazine clearly liked the Charles Smith range of wines, giving a boisterous upstart the same recognition bestowed on veteran wine industry all-stars. The American Wine Awards will be formally announced in the October issue, due on newsstands this week, and the awards themselves will be presented in Napa on October 6. It’s not just a sign that Smith knows how to make good wine; it’s a sign that the wine industry is catching up with the times.
Located at the base of the Blue Mountains in Walla Walla, Washington, K Vintners opened its doors to the public in December 2001 on property homesteaded in 1853 with the adjacent farmhouse built in 1872. Owner and winemaker Charles Smith arrived in the Walla Walla Valley after 11 years in Scandinavia, owning and operating night clubs and managing rock bands. Originally from northern California, he has been involved with wine personally and professionally his entire life. K Vintners produces single vineyard wines from two distinctive viticulture areas: the Wahluke Slope and Walla Walla Valley. www.kvintners.com
Charles Smith Wines: The Modernist Project is a response to how people generally consume wine today, that is immediately…as in immediately after being purchased to be drunk straight away. ‘The Modernist Project’ wines with typicity in regards to variety—that is merlot that tastes like merlot—and to the vineyard—wine that tastes like where it was grown. www.charlessmithwines.com
K Vintners & Charles Smith Wines
Lynne Anderson, 509-526-5230