The Novelty Hill | Januik Winery is located along with at elast a couple dozen other wineries in the quaint, little town Woodinville, Wa. just outside Seattle. Winemaker Mike Januik, a former back-country ranger, was the head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle for 10 years before leaving to start Januik Winery in 1999. Counted among Washington’s most acclaimed winemakers, he’s been making wine in the Columbia Valley since 1984.
Mike Januik makes wines for both of the winery’s two brands: Novelty Hill and Januik. The fruit for both brands comes from the Columbia Valley AVA in Washington. The estate vineyard is the Stillwater Creek Vineyard, a warm site known for its steep slopes and fractured basalt.
Both Januik and Novelty Hill wines have received praise from some heavy-hitting wine critics, and after tasting some wines in their expansive lineup, both brands showed very well. Here’s some thoughts on what we tasted that’s not so subtly slanted towards Novelty Hill wines (…and no Cabs in this roundup):
The Novelty Hill 2008 Stillwater Chardonnay (1,222 cases) from the Stillwater Creek vineyard, and barrel fermented and aged sur lie for 10 months, made me use the adjective “mouth-popping” for the first time ever. Don’t know where that came from, be it inspiration of the moment or a vestige of some review I had read in the past left behind in my noggin’. But yes, I dare say, there was mouth-popping pear on the palate with this Chard. The color of a pale lemon, with a silky smooth texture, and a creaminess to balance those poppin’ pears, this beauty’s ready to drink now (and the Wine Advocate says it’ll “provide enjoyment over the next 4 years” though you’ll need a few bottles for that kind of longevity).
At only 188 cases, the 2008 Novelty Hill Sangiovese from the Stillwater Creek Vineyard will most certainly be a hard-to-find wine. Aged 20 months in French oak. Ripe, stewed fruits on the nose, reminiscent of hot, southern Italy in my wandering thoughts. Spicy, peppery, with a slightly bitter finish. I wrote in my initial notes that it is intense, though winemaker Mike Januik said “intense” is an adjective best reserved for camping trips, so I’ll try to scratch that. My immediate thought was that this would pair well, if not perfectly, with flank steak fresh of the grill.
2006 Novelty Hill Columbia Valley Syrah – Dark, ripe fruit. An easy finish that lingered like a welcome dinner guest. The fruit for this wine comes 70% from the Stillwater Creek estate vineyard with another 30% from the Lewis Vineyard, both in the Columbia Valley.
The 2008 Januik Lewis Vineyard Syrah (only 415 cases made and now sold out) has received plenty of critical acclaim, with 91 pts from Wine Spectator and 90 from the Wine Advocate among others. Having spent 18 months in French oak and a year in bottle, it was now full of peppery spices and dark berries. The tannins had already mellowed nicely, and there’s a lovely acidity, and an elegant finish. This Syrah comes from 15-year-old vines cropped at two tons per acre in the Lewis Vineyard in the Columbia Valley just outside Prosser.
2008 Novelty Hill Roussanne (90 pts. Wine Advocate) – 296 cases with fruit from the Stillwater Creek Vineyard, and Sur lie aged for 10 months. 100% Roussanne. Pleasant, fruity nose. Citrusy mouthfeel. Clean, balance acidity. Washington State is not at all known for Roussanne, but with this wine, it’s done right.
The 2008 Novelty Hill Spring Run rose (a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre from the Stillwater Sreek Vineyard) Pearly pink in the glass, offered very sweet, candy-like fruit. A pleasant though sugary finish. A fresh alternative for White Zin drinkers. Old time general store candy in a glass.
Architecturally, the Novelty Hill | Januik winery itself is worth the visit. The minimalist concrete and wood structure was a sight to behold, and the clean lines of the tasting room with massive windows opening up onto the sunken barrel and vat room impressively combine enjoyment and industry. I personally also loved the cool moods of the Nancy Farrar Coughlin surfer watercolors on the tasting room walls, and would clamor to get a pair of these on our walls.
For more on Januik and Novelty Hill wines, as well as other Washington State wines, wineries and winemakers, I’d recommend picking up Washington Wines and Wineries: Essential Guide in paperback or for Kindle.