In a rapidly developing wine region whose main city is still known as the Apple Capital of the World it's surprising that only one winery is making its mark with a wine made from apples.
Cascadia Winery in downtown Peshastin has two very popular products featuring apples. Another, uses cherry juice to sweeten and transform a velvety merlot into a luxurious dessert wine.
The wines are far more than a gimmick to cash in on wine tourists looking for a memento to take home from Eastern Washington apple/wine country, even if it fills that need nicely.
Cascadia owner Alan Yanagimachi is one of the region's most credentialed winemakers, earning his degree at prestigious UC Davis and working for several major California wineries.
It's a little ironic that someone with so much grape knowledge find his calling in wine made from apples. But someone had to do it.
Before starting Cascadia in 2006, he was director of winemaking operations for three years at Monterey Wine Company, a 1.3 million gallon custom crush facility that made wines for other famed California wineries including Bogle, Bonny Doon, Caymus, Hess, Mondavi and Piper Sonoma.
Before that he worked five years as winemaker at Ironstone Vineyards, a Murphys, Calif. winery that produced more than 200,000 cases of award-winning red and white wines. He worked for 18 months in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, one of the oldest wine making regions in the world.
He's also served stints at California's Edna Valley Vineyard and Arbor Crest and Worden wineries in Spokane since earning his degree in fermentation science at U.C. Davis in 1988. That was his second degree. He worked as a high school social studies teacher in Bellevue and managed a couple of restaurants before that.
He was managing the prestigious 13 Coins Restaurant in the early 1980s when a wine distributor set him up with a California wine tour to increase his knowledge of fine wines. One stop on the itinerary included dinner with Robert Mondavi, the Godfather of California's fine wine industry.
"It was then that I decided to go back to school. He made me think there was a future in wine," said Yanagimachi, now a youthful 60.
A Washington native, he was exicited about moving here from Southern California when his then wife was offered a job in the area. The two have since divorced, but Yanagimachi said he loves the region for its beauty and recreational opportunities. He also saw other opportunities.
"When I came here I noticed there were no apple wines," he said. He had made an apple wine that was quite successful while at Ironstone. He also made an apple brandy and an apple grappa there.
He uses locally grown Golden Delicious and Gala apples for his Cascadia Apple Wine. He recently added an Apple Blush wine with the addition of red raspberry juice. He also made a full line of more traditional red and white grape wines for awhile, but has simplified his offerings to what sells best.
"I thought the apple wine would make up about 30 percent of my sales, but it has just zoomed," he said. The apple wine sells much better than the grape wines at his Peshastin tasting room, where his profits are much higher than wholesale profits to stores and restaurants.
He decided to discontinue making Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon that are made by nearly every winery to focus on his more unique products.
He continues to make a top notch merlot made from grapes sourced from the Wahluke Slope's famed Stone Tree Vineyard. A portion of those premium grapes is also blended with cherry juice for his Sakura Dessert Wine.
An Ancient Lakes AVA sourced riesling and roussanne round out his selection. His fruit wines and whites have been multiple medal winners in California and Northwest competitions, including this year's NCW Wine Awards.
Cascadia Apple Wine: 10.5 % alcohol, 2.6 % residual sugar, 0.68 g/100 ml TA
Bright, smooth and refreshing, this semi-sweet is nicely balanced, very much like many light summer white grapes wines, but with a distinctive aroma of fresh apples. Made from Golden Delicious and Gala varieties. Great with chicken, pork, spicy Asian dishes, curry, fondue and smoked cheese. $12
Cascadia Apple Blush: 11.5% alcohol, 1.5% residual sugar, 0.89 g/100ml TA
Beautiful rose color, smooth and refreshing, this popular off-dry wine is drier than its pure apple sibling. Made from Washington state apples and a touch of pure raspberry juice. A nice match for your next tapas party, also curries, Thai food and grilled salmon, shrimp, chicken or pork. $12