Redmond's . It has been of Olympic proportions, making a major move every four years.
The Otises initially invested in Woodinville-based in 2004. In 2008 they bought out founder Matthew Loso. Now, in 2012, they bought out business partners Jim and Dawn Rubstello, who initially invested in Matthews Estate in 2001, to become the sole owners of the winery. The deal was finalized March 30.
The next stage of Matthews Estate and its ultra-premium winery, , involves the entire Otis family, including Cliff's and Diane’s sons Bryan, Jeff and Scott, and Scott's wife, Katie.
"We didn't envision ourselves owning the winery full time at first," Cliff said. “The evolution of the Otis family with Matthews Estate just progressed. It involves our kids now, Jeff, Bryan, Scott and Katie. Their perspective, their experience, their background are important to where the winery goes.”
As for Rubstello, brother of Woodinville City Councilman Les Rubstello, he was ready to leave after 11 years involved in the Woodinville winery.
“The opportunity was made to get out, and financially it wasn’t in our cards to continue our financial commitment,” Jim Rubstello said.
Founded in 1993, Matthews Estate was one of fewer than 10 wineries in Woodinville at the time. Now there are close to 100 tasting rooms in town.
The Otises and Rubstellos spun off Tenor with the 2007 vintage and moved the winemaking operation for both wineries to Walla Walla in June 2011 to be closer to vineyard sources and meet growing production demands.
Aryn Morell, hired in 2007 by Loso, presides over winemaking operations for both Matthews and Tenor in Walla Walla. Operations, tasting rooms and a special events center and bed and breakfast remain in Woodinville.
Morell does not expect more major changes with the consolidated ownership.
“It will probably be much of the same,” Morell said. “I don’t know that volume will increase that much. I don’t know that any new wines will be created.”
Total annual production between both wineries has grown to under 6,000 cases, including about 1,500 for the Tenor label.
“The decision was made to move the wine making operation to Walla Walla as we increased production,” Diane said. “We ran out of space in Woodinville. We had to take some space in Walla Walla.”
The Otises are committed to their Woodinville roots, however. Cliff and Diane still live minutes away from the winery where they raised their three sons.
“We are excited to be part of the Woodinville wine community,” Cliff said. “It's a very compelling market. We have a very nice little part of that. We want to be part of that.”
All in the family
Cliff's and Diane's sons also live close to the winery and will grow increasingly closer to its operation. In the Olympics of winery ownership each of the Otis sons has found his specialty skills.
Bryan, a former sommelier at Bellevue’s , created the Tenor concept and continues to promote the brand locally and nationally. During the day he’s the CEO of Tandem, a calendar software company based in Bellevue and owned by the Otis family.
Jeff’s specialty has been social media and special events promotion. Matthews Estate's second annual White Party was attended by more than 1,200 guests, mainly marketed by Jeff through social media channels. He works for Evergreen Capital in Bellevue during the day.
Scott, the youngest Otis, is the technology mastermind at Matthews Estate and Tenor. He’s also the chief technology officer at Tandem.
Katie was the tasting room and guest services manager for more than a year before focusing on a yoga instructor career.
Hitting the Tenor pitch
Originally, Bryan thought of the Three Tenors as a winery brand while traveling with his friends Joseph King and Jake Foster throughout Europe in the summer of 2002 after graduating from Whitworth College.
“Joe is a baritone and I can't sing so we whittled it down to Tenor,” Bryan explained.
It wasn’t until the 2007 vintage that the brand became reality. Some of the best barrels that Morell blended were different than the previous Matthews Estate vintages.
“The wine that Aryn was able to make in 2007 was so exceptional that it demanded that we take a look at another winery,” Bryan said. “This is something that set it apart from Matthews.
“He just needed a name. He needed a brand. He needed a soul.”
Thus, Tenor was born. Morell made three barrels of Merlot, two barrels of Malbec and six barrels of the 1:1 blend in the 2007 vintage.
Looking ahead by giving back
Moving ahead, Otis family members look to increase their involvement in charity work. In the past, they have supported the Auction of Washington Wines, the University of Washington, the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, the (the Otis children’s alma mater), charity: water, the Ginger and Barry Ackerley Foundation supporting education, and many other nonprofits.
“(Charity) will be a bigger and bigger theme,” Cliff said.
They also want to raise Tenor sales along the West Coast and the northeast corner of the country, host more events at the Woodinville winery and rent out their event space and bed and breakfast. They are also launching their first wine club.
“We want to take it to the next level,” Diane said. “We want to make the most incredible Washington wine so Washington is on the map. We want to raise the bar for everybody.”
Wine Pick of the Week: 2009 Pondera Malbec Stillwater Creek Artist Series, Columbia Valley
Malbec originated in France’s Bordeaux region, where it is mainly used as a blending grape. It is also vinified as a single varietal in France’s Cahors region. In Argentina, it is the predominant varietal. It is both ubiquitous and exclusive in some of the ultra premium bottlings costing in the hundreds of dollars.
The is a wine all its own expressing varietal and soil specificity. It has the fruit of Argentinean Malbec and the muscle of California Cabernet Sauvignon. The hot 2009 vintage and long growing season inherent to Stillwater Creek Vineyards translate to layers of raspberries and blueberries on the bouquet and palate. White pepper and rocky minerality play complementary roles. The firm structure and tannins promise graceful aging.
The featured art on the label is by Craig Kosak, represented by Howard/Mandville Gallery in Kirkland, owned by Dan and Pat Howard. Their son Shane is the Pondera winemaker.
Pair this wine with the Argentinean grilled skirt steak salad served with Argentinean chimichurri at at The Westin Bellevue.
The wine is available for $34 at the Pondera tasting room in Woodinville. Buy it now, as only 170 cases were produced.