Wit Cellars in Prosser went from zero to 1,300 cases in less than 12 months, but the wines by Flint Nelson, Carolina “Cat” Warwick and Gina Adams-Royer reflect decades of worth of talent.
They all worked together at Kestrel Vintners, and in May, they opened their tasting room in Prosser near Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Hogue Cellars and Mercer Estates. The name of their winery is an acronym for “whatever it takes,” a saying the trio has embraced from the start.
“We’ve been working closely together for almost four years,” Warwick said. “We’re a pretty good team. We do whatever it takes.”
This year, Nelson celebrated his 25th anniversary in the Washington wine industry, a career he started in 1991 after graduating from Washington State University, where he studied food science and horticulture.
He started working for Joy Andersen at Columbia Crest and moved on to Hogue Cellars, spending time with David Forsyth and Rob Griffin. Next was Paul Thomas Wines where he learned from David Lake. His last spot before spending more than a decade at Kestrel was Apex Cellars with Brian Carter. Nelson’s wife, Katie, is a winemaker for Charles Smith Wines.
Warwick entered the wine industry from a hospitality angle at Apex Cellars. When Owen Roe took over the Apex facility in Sunnyside, she stayed on. Warwick soon began night classes at Yakima Valley Community College, became the first graduate of the winemaking program in 2009 and had risen to the rank of associate winemaker at Owen Roe before joining Nelson at Kestrel.
Their connections and friendships within the wine industry helped them get their hands on acclaimed grapes, establish a brand and open a fun tasting room.
“In every aspect — from offering goods and supplies and money and space — it’s been remarkable,” Nelson said.
Along the way, he’s also launched his own brand, Mazzacano Cellars.
“I hope that in a year, my life isn’t so crazy,” Nelson said with a laugh.
Wit Cellars 2015 Chardonnay, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $22: Evergreen Vineyard ranks as one of Washington state’s top sites for white wines, and it is the birthplace of this fruit-forward Chardonnay. Fun aromas of fresh Honeycrisp apple, Asian pear and green banana lead to bright flavors akin to apple and pear, backed by juicy and delicious acidity. Serve with Lemon Chicken. (14 percent alcohol)
Wit Cellars 2013 Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $45: This blend of Bordeaux varieties leads Malbec from Gamache Vineyard, backed by Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon. It offers sweet herbs, black cherry, blueberry and toast in the nose. Inside, it’s a slice of blueberry pie, joined by blackberry, dark toast and Bing cherry skin tannins. Enjoy with Osso Buco. (14.5 percent alcohol)
Wit Cellars 2013 Elephant Mountain Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, $50: One of the Yakima Valley’s premier sites is Joe Hattrup’s Elephant Mountain Vineyard in the Rattlesnake Hills. The nose with this Cab is big, dark and intense with sweet blueberry and dark chocolate aromas leading to roasted coffee and black pepper. Delicious hints of marionberry and blueberry pick up an underlying rub of sweet herbs that’s finished by bittersweet chocolate with black cherry. Suggested pairings include salty pork chops or a cheese plate with pepper salami. (14.8 percent alcohol)
Mazzacano Cellars 2013 Sotto Voce Grenache, Yakima Valley, $45: Grenache is one of the most sought-after grapes in Washington, and Flint Nelson works with it under own brand. Scrumptious aromas of strawberry jam, boysenberry pie and cinnamon bark are matched on the palate with juicy acidity with sandy tannins. Pair it up with grilled salmon. (14.2 percent alcohol)
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company; www.greatnorthwestwine.com