Leonetti owners launch new winery, cattle company

April 15, 2010 

WALLA WALLA - One of Washington's oldest and most successful wine producers hopes to catch lightning in a bottle again with the launch of a new winery and high-end cattle company.

Today the owners of Leonetti Cellar in Walla Walla, Wash., are announcing the launch of Figgins Family Wine Estates and Lostine Cattle Co.

"It's not a second label to Leonetti," said Chris Figgins, CEO and winemaker for Leonetti Cellar. "It's not even a sister winery. It's a stand-alone project."

As he stood above a 32-acre vineyard planted six years ago in the northeastern Walla Walla Valley, he said the goal is to produce wine that reflects the quality of a unique location. The grapes planted here - Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot - will be blended into a single wine under the name "Figgins." The first, from the 2008 vintage, will be released in fall 2011.

Figgins said the exact price has not been set, but he expects it to cost between $80 and $85, about the same as a bottle of Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon. About 900 cases of the first vintage will be produced.

Leonetti Cellar was started in 1978 by Chris Figgins' parents, Gary and Nancy Figgins. The first release, a cabernet sauvignon, was hailed by a national magazine as one of the finest red wines in the U.S. and became highly prized. The wines eventually were sold primarily through a mailing list. Today, it takes five to eight years on a waiting list to get to purchase Leonetti wines.

Figgins said the intent is not to be exclusive. Initially the new wine will be available on a first-come, first-served basis through the winery Web site, www.figginswine.com.

The wines are being made at a separate facility because Figgins doesn't have room at Leonetti to make the new wines, plus he wants to make sure they have a separate identity. Eventually, a winemaking facility will be built at the vineyard. There are no plans for a public tasting room.

Also being announced today is the Lostine Cattle Co.

"Raising cattle has been a lifelong dream of mine," Figgins said.

Four years ago, Figgins and his father purchased a ranch in the Wallowa Valley and decided to raise Scottish Highland cattle. They have distinctively long hair that keeps them warm in winter. They also tend to be naturally leaner than other breeds. They are grass fed on certified organic pastures with no hormones and humanely harvested.

"The whole idea is contrary to modern beef production," Figgins said. "We're taking the estate winery model and applying it to beef."

Figgins even plans to feed the cattle pomace, which is the skin, pulp and other solid remains left after wine grapes are crushed.

Just like the wine, the Lostine beef will be sold directly to consumers through a mailing list. The first offerings will be available this fall. The Web site is www.lostinecattlecompany.com.

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