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Co Dinn Cellars

Balanced wines that show their roots

With a long history working for and making wine in Washington for Hogue Cellars (17 years), Co knew when it was his time to strike out on his own. He started Co Dinn Cellars in 2013 and moved into a permanent home in Sunnyside in 2017.

Co Dinn, photo by James Dinn

"Cote Bonneville in Sunnyside hosted my first vintage. Then I moved into a Yakima Valley College incubator in Grandview. Once there, I began my search for a permanent winery. My attorney was also the attorney for the Port of Sunnyside and suggested I talk to them. The City of Sunnyside owned the boarded-up water department building built in 1930. The Port took it over from the City, remodeled, and I lease it from them. When you start a winery, you have to get it right from the beginning. It takes a year to get a winery up and running, including making the wine, marketing, selling. It's one of the things I like about the industry that matches my personality. I'm a generalist. I can do specialized things, but I love having the variety. I wouldn't have gone out on my own if I didn't have the knowledge, experience, expertise to do it. Another thing I love about making wine is that it's a continual learning experience. I love it when artisan craftsmen in their 70s say they're still perfecting their product. Wine is like that, there's always more to learn and ways to perfect it.

"My goal is to make something special. I live where the grapes are grown. I know where the snow piles up on the vines and where it first melts; the cooler areas where Chardonnay does well; where the low and high pH soils are. I've been here 25 years and still learn new stuff each year. I work with growers and am there when it matters because you don't get a second chance." Co likes people to visit so he can share his knowledge of the area's history and wine industry, especially around harvest. "There are things that growers and winemakers see, smell, and taste that consumers don't. I love to see people experience those things."

In terms of his vineyard choices, we live in a region with abundant choices. "There are wonderful vineyards throughout the state, but I love Yakima Valley because it's really the epicenter and the oldest grape-growing region here. Many wineries use grapes from here. It's diverse temperature-wise and is 90 miles from end-to-end and 30 miles wide. It's moderate but not extreme. I focus on hillside vineyards and know from past work which sites I want to use. You can grow grapes in many places, but why not grow where it's naturally best?

"Trends change in this business like any other. I don't chase the trends, I stick with the traditional and the craft of winemaking. Rosé is popular now and I'd love to make it, but it doesn't fit in the context of what I've chosen to do." He focuses on Syrah, GSM (Southern Rhône), Bordeaux blends, Cabernet Sauvignon. Some Cabs are blended with 4-5 other grapes; one is 85% Cab Sav, another 60%. His Chardonnay and Syrah are 100% single vineyards/varietals. "I focus on balance and showing off the character of the vineyard. Oak is used more as a framing. I use 100% French oak, using newer barrels for Bordeaux blends and no new oak for Rhône blends. My Chardonnay is put in ¼ new barrels and has extended lees contact in a very traditional style. It's really the hardest wine to make. The varieties I've chosen are classic, traditional oness. Until I have a larger audience, making obscure wines is not a sustainable business. If you're into unique sites, I'm your winemaker!" He currently makes about 700 cases of wines a year and ultimately would like to make no more than 2000. "More isn't necessarily better, and I want to stay hands-on."

Photo by James Dinn

Co grew up in Texas and followed his dad into the gas/oil business. "It did not flip my switch. I met my life partner in Tulsa, and we had pizza and wine dates. I became more interested in wine and we tried different wines. We moved back to Texas and I thought about what I wanted to do, working construction jobs while I thought. I was 27 and decided 'why don't I just do wine, and what would it take?' I arrived in 1989 in Napa, got a job at a winery, and earned my Masters of Food Science, specializing in enology at UC Davis." He interned and was hired at Trefethen, north of Napa. In 1996, he moved to Hogue Cellars where he was the white wine maker for 11 years and promoted to head winemaker, staying six more years. 2018 was his 30 th harvest.

"I want people to understand that Yakima Valley is a world-class wine-producing region. Often the grapes are used in wines and not called out as Yakima Valley. The hills, soils, climate, everything is so good. We want to bring more attention to this. The region is comparable to Burgundy and Bordeaux in terms of intrinsic quality and potential for great wines. We're where Napa was 40 years ago in that we have quality and potential and are achieving recognition. We Washingtonians should take note and be proud of how special a place this is. Take a look at this Google Earth Yakima Valley AVA and you can see how we compare to France and how the vineyards are all in this one amazing area.

"When I look back, I want to be happy with the wine I've made, the body of work I've done, and my contribution to the industry. I'll want to know that my wines pleased people and made them happy."

Co Dinn Cellars
501 Grant Ave
Sunnyside, WA 98944
509-840-2314

codinncellars.com

Tasting is $10 and goes toward the purchase of any two bottles

Wine Club
Silver: 6 bottles twice a year
12% discount on purchases
Complimentary tastings for 4
Invites to events/specials

Gold: 12 bottles twice a year
15% discount on purchases
Complimentary tastings for 4
Invites to events/specials

Connie Adams/May 2019


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