Novelty Hill and Januik wineries in Woodinville make a great team, using mostly grapes from a vineyard in Eastern Washington.
WHEN TOM ALBERG SR. bought 235 acres of sagebrush-covered hills in 1968 in a remote area of Eastern Washington, little did he realize what it would become three decades later.
It took his son, Tom Alberg Jr., and acclaimed winemaker Mike Januik to formulate a vision not only for what became Stillwater Creek Vineyard but also an award-winning Woodinville winery.
In 1999, Januik had just departed Chateau Ste. Michelle, where he’d been head winemaker, to start Januik Winery. He met Alberg Jr. that fall and quickly recognized that the family property in the Frenchman Hills above the Grant County community of Royal City could become a terrific vineyard.
Three from Novelty Hill
Novelty Hill Winery 2014 Stillwater Creek Vineyard roussanne, Columbia Valley, $23: Washington winemakers haven’t really found a consistent style with this white Rhône variety, but this example could well become a standard-bearer, thanks to beautiful aromas and flavors of tropical fruit backed by remarkable acidity.
Novelty Hill Winery 2013 Stillwater Creek Vineyard cabernet sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $30: Here’s a classic example of what can be crafted from Stillwater Creek. This cab is rich with aromas and flavors of ripe, dark fruit and chocolate, yet backed by suave elegance. Enjoy for the next 20 years.
Novelty Hill Winery 2013 Cascadia, Columbia Valley, $50: The inaugural vintage of this red blend is nothing short of stunning. Leading with cabernet sauvignon, it unveils aromas and flavors of ripe, dark berries; cocoa powder; and new leather. Everything is backed by velvety tannins that provide a lengthy finish.
Alberg, an early investor in Amazon and founder of the venture capital firm Madrona Venture, began planting in 2000. Soon after, Januik began suggesting they make a little wine together, and the first Novelty Hill wines — a sauvignon blanc and merlot — were crafted in a Woodinville warehouse. The winery was named after another piece of property Alberg’s father had purchased in the Snoqualmie Valley between Duvall and Carnation.
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By 2007, Alberg had built a winemaking facility, tasting room and event center less than a mile from Chateau Ste. Michelle. It has a sleek, modern allure that is popular for weddings and corporate retreats. An on-site chef handles the cuisine for events, and for the general public on weekends.
Today, Stillwater Creek is planted to 220 acres of wine grapes that provide fruit to 30 wineries. The vineyard’s elevation, slope and location allow the grapes to ripen a little slower than warmer areas of the Columbia Valley, which means Alberg can often let his cabernet sauvignon hang later into October without the fear of overripeness. The result is complex and interesting wines.
Together, Novelty Hill and Januik wineries — which share the Woodinville facility — produce about 32,000 cases of wine annually, two-thirds of which are for Novelty Hill.
The first 16 vintages of Novelty Hill have shown the Alberg-Januik connection to be a great team.