Sitting high atop the Royal Slope in the Frenchman Hills in the desert that is Eastern Washington, lies the majestic Stillwater Creek vineyard. Crowned with a cantilevered covered architectural picnic area, this 235 acre parcel of un-grafted vines looks out from their steep perch over a seemingly endless high desert plain, irrigated for agriculture from the mighty Columbia River.
Stillwater Creek is the estate vineyard and magic ingredient for Novelty Hill Winery. Founded in 2000, winemaker/partner Mike Januik (formerly the head winemaker for Chateau Ste Michelle) has established Novelty Hill as a top independent producer by meticulous vineyard management and a gentle touch in the cellar.
Januik is a pioneer in Washington viticulture, having made wine their for nearly three decades. The high-tech cellar management system that allows him to monitor each individual tank, fresh air flow in the cellar, and nearly every single detail from a computer workstation is of his design — the company that created it adapted the system from another industry with Mike’s specific direction.
Vineyard Director Ed Kelly has implemented a management philosophy focused on soil health, specifically microbial diversity. With over 30 years of grape growing experience under his belt, Ed began studying sustainable agriculture long before it was cool to do so. He combines the best practices of sustainable, organic and biodynamic viticulture to grow the best grapes possible from this unique site. It’s not often one sees a substantial vineyard that is entirely un-grafted, which is a testament to his work developing the soils. In March 2007, Stillwater Creek was the first Columbia Valley vineyard certified “Salmon Safe” by Seattle’s Stewardship Partners for environmental practices that help protect water quality and habitat for fish and wildlife, particularly native Northwest salmon. Washington wine critic recently named Stillwater Creek one of Washington’s top 20 vineyards. In 2007 Novelty Hill opened their new Woodinville winery and tasting room to the public — an architectural beauty that has become a top destination for weekend tastings and private events. They’ve been honored by the American Institute of Architects with the prestigious Honor Award, the equivalent of a Pulitzer in that field.
“Januik has always displayed a gentle touch with his wines, achieving clear flavor delineation with distracting levels of tannins or acidity. He has a knack for putting together blends that sing more sweetly in a chorus than they do individually.”
— Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator
The press has certainly taken notice of the Novelty Hill wines. Mike’s wines consistently garner top praise from critics, and are fantastic values to boot. Most recently, the Wine Spectator gave their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon a 91-point score, which is sure to hike up the demand for this 5000 case wine.
Vinecraft exclusively distributes Novelty Hill wines in Florida.
2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Stillwater Creek Vineyard
80% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon. 816 cases produced. Barrel fermented in new and one-year old French oak, and aged sur lie for seven month. Ripe and juicy, this aromatic, richly textured wine offers a mouthful of tropical fruit flavors and tangy citrus with excellent balance and a delicious, lengthy finish.
2010 Chardonnay, Stillwater Creek Vineyard
100% Chardonnay. 1174 cases produced. Barrel fermented in 50/50 new and used French oak. Aged sur lie for nine months. Rich and expansive, yet it maintains freshness and liveliness with fresh pear and apple flavors with a luscious finish.
2010 Royal Slope White Blend, Stillwater Creek Vineyard
64% Viognier, 16% Roussanne, 13% Semillon, 4% Sauvignon Blanc, 3% Chardonnay. 1138 cases made. 3/4 barrel fermented in used French oak and aged sur lie for six months. 1/4 fermented and aged in stainless steel to add freshness to the blend.
2009 Royal Slope Red Blend, Columbia Valley
50% Merlot, 27% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot, 5% Sangiovese, 2% Mourvèdre, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. 4567 cases made. Sourced primarily (2/3) from Stillwater Creek, then Alder Ridge, Horse Heaven Hills, and Lewis Vineyard. Aged for 22 months in new and one-year-old French and American oak barrels.
2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec. 5161 cases made. Sourced primarily from Stillwater Creek estate vineyard, and other top vineyard sites to add complexity and layers. Aged for 20 months in new and one-year-old French oak barrels for 20 months.
“Smooth in texture and effusive with its plum, dark berry, mint and cream flavors, rolling easily through polished tannins on the long finish. Drink now through 2017. 5,161 cases made.”
— Wine Spectator, 91 points
2010 Syrah, Columbia Valley
100% Syrah. 1456 cases produced. Clonal selection primarily from Stillwater Creek. Aged 21 months in: 54% new French oak; 25% one-year-old French oak; and 21% American oak barrels.
Review for the 2008 vintage: “Polished and spicy, with lots of peppery accents to the blackberry and plum flavors, persisting nicely on the smoothly contoured finish.”
— Wine Spectator, 91 points