LIBERTY LAKE, Wash. – A sign behind Liberty Lake Wine Cellars’ tasting bar reads #RedMtnUnfiltered, and what winemaker Mark Lathrop achieved at the Great Northwest Wine Platinum Awards was unprecedented.
Lathrop entered Platinum 2021 with seven of his wines that had won gold in the previous 12 months. All Seven went on to receive Platinum – an unprecedented 7 for 7 performance in the 22-year history of judgment. He credits Red Mountain growers with the fruits that went into six of those seven Platinum winners.
âIt was pretty shocking news,â Lathrop said. âI knew the 18s were good when I sent them, but this is only my third vintage. It was a great email to receive, especially when I was insanely tired at the end of the crush. It said to me, ‘Yeah, I’m on the right track.’ “
And that could make those 2.5-hour trips to Red Mountain even shorter for the self-taught winemaker who lives in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and makes wine in the Spokane area. Part of his exploration of Red Mountain stems from his days as a club member at Liberty Lake Wine Cellars. In January 2016, he and his wife Sarah purchased the winery from Doug and Shelly Smith.
Since then, the CFO of West Star Industries, with an MBA from Eastern Washington University, has devoted his free time to reading and researching winemaking techniques to slowly achieve an annual production of 2,500 cases.
Wisely, Lathrop, 43, trusted some of the best winemakers in the Northwest. They include Damon LaLonde, Marshall Edwards, Scott Williams of Kiona, and wineries such as Red Heaven, Scooteney Flats, Heart of the Hill, Ranch at the End of the Road, and Candy Mountain. Each is a famous site that the Smiths weren’t buying.
âDamon was responsible for setting us up with a mix of Scooteney clones that have served us very well,â says Lathrop. âAnd 18 was the first time we could source our supplies by clones rather than just variety. “
The novice winemaker, Liberty Lake patrons and judges – especially Platinum ones – were in awe of the delicious results.
The Honor Roll reads as follows:
Double Platinum – Liberty Lake Wine Cellars 2018 Scooteney Flats Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, $ 36
Platinum – Liberty Lake Wine Cellars 2018 RÃ©serve Syrah, Red Mountain, $ 44
Platinum – Liberty Lake Wine Cellars 2018 Scooteney Flats Vineyard Malbec, Red Mountain, $ 38
Platinum – Liberty Lake Wine Cellars 2018 Tahija Candy Mountain Vineyard Sangiovese, Candy Mountain, $ 26
Platinum – Liberty Lake Wine Cellars 2018 Heritage Reserve Red Wine, Red Mountain, $ 45
Platinum – Liberty Lake Wine Cellars 2018 Red Heaven Vineyard Tempranillo, Red Mountain, $ 38
Platinum – Liberty Lake Wine Cellars 2018 Heart of the Hill Vineyard CarmÃ©nÃ¨re, Red Mountain, $ 40
In a remarkable piece of history, the best first Platinum wine in 2000 was a Kiona Vineyards 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon made from the Williams family grapes on Red Mountain.
And for the geographic context, Candy Mountain is the next land formation east of Red Mountain, close enough that the Tri-City hiking community dreams of establishing a trail about five miles long that would connect the two. American wine-growing areas.
Lathrop continues to stand next to that “RedMtnUnfiltered” sign. Liberty Lake wines have been sourced from Red Mountain – albeit from different locations – almost since the time the Smiths launched the winery in 2005. And Lathrop doesn’t plan to start filtering their wines either.
At this point, the biggest prizes that Lathrop is working with are 200 cases. Most are smaller, which means the wines will remain handcrafted. As a result, at least a few wines currently in the Liberty Lake cellar look set to go Platinum in a year or two.
“I don’t think what happened is going to change our minds,” he said. “After the 2018 vintage we signed multi-year contracts, only now there is a lot of pressure on me not to spoil this.”