When Anelare launched six years ago in the heart of Washington wine country, owners Kahryn and Forrest Alexander and Jim and Cindy Campbell envisioned a winery that would sell all of its releases directly to wine club members.
Today, that model remains -- with minor adjustments.
"Wine clubs are not for everyone," said Kahryn Alexander, managing partner for the winery she owns with her husband and parents.
So Anelare came out with a higher-production red blend (still only 250 cases) called Nonna Viola that is available to the general public.
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"It sells like crazy," she said. "It's nice to have a wine to pour in the tasting room."
Alexander, who grew up in Pasco and graduated from the University of Idaho, worked in pharmaceutical sales prior to launching Anelare. Her husband, Forrest, graduated from Washington State University Tri-Cities in Richland and works at Copiers Northwest. Her father, Jim, is an internal medicine physician in Pasco.
"The boys still have their day jobs," she said with a laugh.
Anelare takes its name from the Italian word that means, "to desire or yearn for." The owners worked with students in the University of Washington's French and Italian studies departments to come up with the name.
Their next good move came when they hired Victor Cruz, owner of Cañon de Sol Winery in the Badger Canyon area of the Tri-Cities. Cruz, an award-winning winemaker, launched his winery in 1999.
Anelare opened a tasting room in January 2009 in the affluent Southridge area of Kennewick as a place where its 200 wine club members could gather and where nonmembers could learn more about the winery. It relocated last spring to Cañon de Sol's tasting room and is open by appointment. Its wines also are represented at Nectar Tasting Room in Spokane.
While Anelare focuses on red wines, it came out with its first white wine last year. The Chenin Blanc sold out the first weekend it was available. In early March, Anelare will release a Roussanne made by Charlie Hoppes of Fidelitas on Red Mountain.
"We've been blessed to have good people around us," Alexander said.
While she leaves winemaking to the professionals, Alexander has a passion to make wine one day, perhaps when her children are older.
Here are three Anelare wines we've tasted recently. The two Syrahs are available only to club members, while the Nonna Viola can be purchased at either tasting room and from a handful of wine merchants around Washington.
For more information, go to www.anelare.com.
Anelare 2010 Nonna Viola, Columbia Valley, $29: This blend of Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is named in honor of winery owners' Grandma Vi, and we think she would be proud. It opens with aromas of hickory smoke, boysenberry, sandalwood and black tea, followed by delicious flavors of black cherry, sarsaparilla, cranberry and pomegranate. It is backed with firm tannins with beveled edges and would pair nicely with barbecued pork ribs.
Anelare 2010 Syrah, Columbia Valley, $39: This opens with aromas of spice, jerky, plum jam, boysenberry and a hint of oak. On the palate, it opens with a rich entry of blackberry and pomegranate, backed with mild tannins and acidity. Enjoy with lamb, pork loin or ravioli.
Anelare 2010 Ciel du Cheval Syrah, Red Mountain, $59: Here is a delicious Syrah from one of Washington's finest and oldest vineyards. In fact, grape grower Jim Holmes was one of the pioneers to first clear sagebrush on Red Mountain to make room for wine grapes back in 1975. This is a classic, with aromas of mint, plum, tar and vanilla ice cream, followed by plum, juicy flavors of boysenberry, pomegranate, spice and coffee. Ample tannins and bright acidity should allow this to age for a decade or more.
*Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information website. Go to www.greatnorthwestwine.com.