Rising young star rolls back into the Tri-Cities to Pour it Forward with wines that make a difference.
SETH KITZKE IS quick to say that, as a teen, his only interest in the winemaking process was that the crushpad was a good place to skateboard.
Now 29, Kitzke has done a 180. The winemaker for Kitzke Cellars recently moved from Seattle back home to the Tri-Cities, where “grinding” on the crushpad now involves grapes.
The Kitzkes are multigenerational farmers, growing apples and cherries in Benton County near Red Mountain. Kitzke’s folks, Paul and Vicki, moved to Candy Mountain in 2000. Their neighbor was growing grapes and convinced them to give it a try. About 8 acres now surround their home and tasting room, a location that provides stunning views west up the Yakima Valley.
Three to try
Available through Seattle wine shops or directly from the winery.
Upsidedown 2016 Rosé, Columbia Valley, $18: Made from Nebbiolo, this shows off flavors of strawberry and plum and is backed by bright acidity.
Kitzke Cellars 2013 Nebbiolo, Red Mountain, $35: This sturdy Italian grape is rare in Washington but is a specialty for Seth Kitzke, who makes one of the better examples in the state. This perfumy wine reveals aromas of applewood bacon, ripe plum and plump cherry, backed by classic firm tannins.
Kitzke Cellars 2015 Barrel Select, Columbia Valley, $65: An estate vineyard field blend, this Bordeaux-style offering is a big, plush wine that reveals rich flavors of ripe plum, cherry, and a hint of spice and coconut. Available in the tasting room only.
After helping his parents plant these vines on Candy Mountain — a dusty ridge between Red Mountain and Richland that is gaining recognition for grape-growing and could be its own American Viticultural Area one day — the Richland High grad moved to Seattle. There Seth met his wife, Audrey; went to South Seattle College to learn winemaking; and worked alongside such winemaking luminaries as Brian Carter (Brian Carter Cellars in Woodinville), Charlie Hoppes (Fidelitas Wines in Woodinville and on Red Mountain) and Robert Smasne (Smasne Cellars in Prosser).
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Meanwhile, his parents bottled their first vintage in 2005. Working with winemaking consultant Hoppes, the Kitzkes saw an immediate improvement in quality.
Now Kitzke is back in town. Starting with the 2015 vintage, Kitzke Cellars is transitioning to a family affair, and he’s making the wines.
He’s added a second brand, Upsidedown Wine, which he describes as his Pour it Forward campaign. Proceeds from sales support nonprofits close to his and his wife’s hearts. He bottles five wines under that label.
While his vines, family and legacy are in Richland, his friends and his heart reside in Seattle. Expect him to someday figure out how to get back to Seattle, perhaps with a tasting room, or even moving his production back to the west side. In the meantime, keep an eye on Kitzke, one of Washington wine country’s rising young stars.