Walla Walla winery changes owners

WALLA WALLA -- Trio Vintners is starting the new year with a single owner. The Walla Walla winery that opened in 2006 and became known for its Italian varietals has changed hands.

Founders and co-winemakers Denise Slattery and Steve Michener have sold the business to Karen La Bonte, a Walla Walla resident and former co-owner of Patit Creek Cellars. The purchase price was not disclosed.

"We have found in Karen a person who is as deeply passionate as we are about every aspect of the winemaking business, from continuing our personal style of winemaking and customer relations to growing the brand beyond the Pacific Northwest," Slattery said in a prepared statement.

Trio Vintners' downtown tasting room at 102 S. Second Ave. will re-open Feb. 17 after a brief winter break, according to the announcement. New hours of operation which will be from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, or by appointment.

The winery was the first graduate of the Port of Walla Walla's winery incubator program. The new tasting room opened in the Drumheller Building last summer. Slattery said she and Michener had not been contemplating an ownership change until they were approached by La Bonte.

"Life does kind of take funny turns," Slattery said. "It seemed like in these times an offer was something to take a look at."

She and Michener had started the venture with a third partner, Tim Boushey, after making a move to Walla Walla from San Francisco. They became sole owners a couple of years ago.

La Bonte joined Walla Walla's wine industry as co-owner of Patit Creek Cellars in 2008. She had retired from a 30-year corporate career where she worked as director of network engineering for Verizon Communications.