This week the Washington wine giant, Ste Michelle Wine Estates announced they will acquire Spring Valley Vineyard in the Walla Walla area. For over 100 years, the Corkrum family has been farming the area known as Spring Valley. Shari Corkrum Derby and husband Dean Derby, along with Dean's brother Gaynor Derby, have been dedicated to producing high quality wines. They credit the quality to the soil and separate microclimates that allow the individual blocks of vines to develop their own distinct characteristics for their estate wines. This 1,000 case winery may be small on production, but they are big on taste.
Spring Valley Vineyard labels are as distinctive as their wines. The labels are portraits of family members who farmed the same land. Label names like Uriah, Frederick, Muleskinner and Nina Lee tell the story of rich family history. My favorite label is the "Nina Lee." Not only is it a beautiful label, but the Nina Lee is a delicious 100% Syrah that has blackberry and licorice notes with a hint of spice showing through. Nina Lee, a tribute to the spirit of women, met Frederick in 1928 while performing Vaudeville at a local theatre. They married and sucessfully faced the great depression together. In 1957 Frederick died and Nina Lee decided not to depend on anyone else but herself, so she continued to operate the ranch on her own. Nina Lee died after 21 years of successful farming. The labels and wines will be added to the Ste. Michelle wine portfolio.
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates from Woodenville, WA will purchase the winery, brand names, and all wine in bottle and barrel. The company will lease the 40-acre vineyard on a long term basis and the vineyard will remain under the ownership of the Corkrum-Derby family.
Have you ever visited the Spring Valley Vineyard tasting room in downtown Walla Walla? If Gaynor Derby is pouring, you are in for a treat. Wearing his cowboy hat with a salty sense of humor, he typifies what good old hospitality is all about. Gaynor's pride in his grapes beams into every glass he pours. My hopes are Ste. Michelle will realize the value of hometown hospitality. Pride and hospitality are just as important to the Walla Walla wines as the grapes that go into them.