“I didn’t have the skills to be a plumber and the aromatics are much better.” This was the response from Lone Canary wine maker Mike Scott when I asked “Why did you get into wine making?”
Through his charming accent and quick wit, Scott’s passion for Washington wine comes through strong. After moving to Spokane to pursue a woman, in 1980 Mike found himself womanless and listless in need of a direction. Chance led him to interview for a tasting room job with Spokane winemaking pioneer Mike Conway of Worden’s Winery (Conway later went on to found Latah Creek). Scott was quick to pay tribute to the pioneers of Spokane wine who took risks to bring local wine into the mainstream while paving the road for people like himself. “Conway made me who I am…in his own image,” he joked – but mostly serious. Scott also wanted to pay special tribute to an oft unsung hero in the Spokane wine industry, Jack Worden. Worden opened the first Spokane winery in 1980 at a time when Washington wine was but a blip on the international scene.
Wine selling transformed into wine making which gave Mike the first real creative spark that he experienced in life. After learning the wine making craft at Latah Creek through 1990, Scott moved on to work for Steve Livingstone which led to the birth of Caterina Winery in 1993, in which he worked as the head wine maker. In 2002, Steve and Jeanne Schaub approached Mike for a business partnership that gave birth to Lone Canary in 2003.
Choosing a name was not only a difficult task but a potentially costly one. After researching a name that was memorable and conveyed Washington, they came across the state bird, the American Goldfinch also known as the Wild Canary. Perfect! The name was available and they proceeded with logo design, packaging, Federal approval, promotional materials…until…a call from lawyers representing bourbon maker Wild Turkey. Evidently the powerful Kentucky company owns the rights to the name “wild” on an alcoholic beverage – especially when paired with the mighty American Goldfinch (canary). Rather than pursue expensive litigation, the name Lone Canary was born.
With that behind them, Mike, Steve and Jeanne moved forward with the wine making operation. Six years of success – and a few missteps – has brought the operation to 4000+ cases. Crushing is done in Pasco and aging occurs in the Spokane tasting room / warehouse. Brand popularity necessitates growth, prompting the team to look at larger locations in the area. Current wine offerings are the 2007 Barbera, 2007 Syrah (reviewed below), Bird House Red (blend), 2007 Cuvee Rose, 2007 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, 2005 Merlot, 2007 Sangiovese, 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, and a 2008 Pinot Grigio.
My final question, “What’s next for Mike Scott and Lone Canary?” Mike’s eyes lit up as he talked about his newfound passion for the Italian varietals that grow so well in the Yakima region. He’s excited about the Barbera, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, and the future release of Dolcetto and Nebbiolo at some point. I find it interresting that an English man moves to America to make Italian wine! “We were meant to drink wine,” says Mike, “I want people to be impressed with the quality of the wine in the bottle, rather than the price on the bottle.”
From everything I can see, this funny little bird that went toe to toe with a wild turkey (and lost) is one to watch (and taste).
2007 Syrah (100%) $21.95 – only 40 cases left
- The Swirl – Very dark and opaque, low legs – indicating lower alcohol content
- The Sniff – An initial blackberry earthy smell is first. Subtle oak gives this smooth smelling wine enough anticipation heading into the sip.
- The Sip – a soft front with a little lilac floral component, mild acidity, and smooth fruit (definitely not a fruit bomb). Dangerous sipping wine because of its contagious taste.
- The Score – At $22 I score this wine a $$$$ (out of $$$$$) This is a Washington Syrah to put on your list to try. If you’ve grown tired of the $8 Australian Yellow Tail, give this Yellow Finch / Canary a try.
Visit Lone Canary at 109 S. Scott / www.lonecanary.com / Twitter @clooneycanary and Facebook at www.facebook.com/lonecanary. Stop by Thursday – Sunday from Noon – 5PM for your own tasting experience. Enjoy live music every first Friday of the month as a part of Spokane’s First Friday 5-9PM.
Enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY!