New Associated Vintners is a collection of four premium-brand labels of Seattle’s Precept Wine.
BACK IN THE 1950s, a group of amateur winemakers led by University of Washington Professor Lloyd Woodburne began forming an organization called Associated Vintners.
By 1962, the group turned professional. This was the beginning of something big, as Associated Vintners — called “AV” for short — became Washington’s first winery to focus exclusively on using European wine grapes. It soon bought land in the Yakima Valley and planted its first vineyard, and AV’s wines began to gain acclaim up and down the West Coast.
By 1979, AV hired winemaker David Lake. A year later, Seattle businessman Dan Baty came on as an investor and took over managing the winery in 1981. By 1983, the winery changed its name to Columbia Winery, and a few years later, it relocated across the street from Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville, where it remains today.
Three to try
Ross Andrew Winery 2014 Celilo Vineyard pinot gris, Columbia Gorge, $20: Celilo is one of the older vineyards in Washington and flies under the radar because of its remote location. This pretty white wine offers aromas and flavors of lime juice, dried apricot and baking spices.
Cavatappi Winery 2014 sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $13: Longtime Seattle restaurateur and winemaker Peter Dow blended a bit of cabernet sauvignon into this sangiovese to create a superb red packed with aromas and flavors of cherry jam, raspberry and toasted oak.
Waitsburg Cellars 2014 The Aromatics Cheninières old vine chenin blanc, Columbia Valley, $18: This bone-dry white reveals aromas and flavors of lemon chiffon, lime zest, mint and a bite of crisp apple.
The Baty family later formed Corus Brands, which included Columbia, Covey Run and Paul Thomas in Washington, as well as Ste. Chapelle and Sawtooth in Idaho. The company holdings included ample vineyard acreage. In 2001, Corus sold most of its wineries to Constellation, one of the world’s largest wine companies. In 2008, Columbia was sold to Ascentia Wine Estates in California. When Ascentia fell apart in 2012, E&J Gallo bought the winery.
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Meanwhile, the Baty family launched Precept Wine in 2003 in Seattle and since has built it into a company that produces 1.3 million cases per year. Meanwhile, the name Associated Vintners had become an all-but-forgotten artifact of Washington wine history.
Precept Wine owns the name Associated Vintners (it had changed hands, then the trademark lapsed until Precept picked it up). The company, led by CEO Andrew Browne, has created a “new Associated Vintners,” a group of four of its small, premium labels. They are Cavatappi Winery, Ross Andrew Winery, Waitsburg Cellars and Browne Family Vineyards — all owned by, or in a partnership with, Precept.
In downtown Walla Walla at the corner of Main Street and South First Avenue, the old Waterbrook Winery tasting room has been converted into the Associated Vintners tasting room, featuring wines from the new Associated Vintners.