Located near Spokane, Liberty Lake Wine Cellars is a boutique Washington state winery focusing on bold reds from Red Mountain. Our kind of wines, right? Right! As background, original owners Doug and Shelly Smith released the first 2005 vintage in 2007. Fast-forward to 2016. Mark and Sarah Lathrop took over the Liberty Lake operation, moving to a larger tasting room and production facility. They also created a second label, TAHIJA, for non-Red Mountain reds and whites.
Mark recently sent us samples of four bottles of Liberty Lake wine. First, we tasted 2018 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, which won’t be released until next year. Second, we tried three releases coming out later this month: 2017 Cabernet Franc, 2018 Zinfandel and 2018 TAHIJA Sangiovese. Read on for details.
To begin with, I recently “met” Mark on Twitter. He does an excellent job of promoting his Liberty Lake Wine Cellars brand there, while Sarah does the same on Facebook and Instagram. I became intrigued with their wines. Next, in an email exchange, Mark noted this about his wine process. “The house style of all our reds is unfiltered … we ferment the wine with no additions or subtractions as it comes from the vineyard after it is crushed. No additions of water to lower brix, no additions of citric acid to lower pH.” We like his style!
2018 Red Mountain Scooteney Flats Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($38)
This beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon won’t be released until next year, but it’s already won double gold at the 2020 Washington State Wine Competition in September. We understand why. Firstly, we’ve never met a grape from Red Mountain that we don’t like. Secondly, this Cab Sauv is balanced, powerful and elegant, with enticing aromas of mocha and coffee, followed by intense red fruit flavors. We paired it with flank steak, but it would complement any meal with grilled meats or any dishes with rich flavors. Because of its age, be sure to decant it first.
2017 Red Mountain Scooteney Flats Vineyard Cabernet Franc ($38)
Aged in new French oak, this Cabernet Franc opens with aromas of green tea, sweet tobacco and cigar boxes, leading into flavors of black cherry and chocolate. No wonder why it’s Sarah’s favorite. According to Mark, this Cab Franc is “perfect for a rich holiday meal, although Sarah would tell you it pairs perfectly with any day ending in Y.” We agree! This wine won gold at the 2020 Savor NW Wine Awards and silver at the 2020 Cascadia International competition.
2018 Red Mountain Zinfandel Red Heaven Vineyard ($45)
Zinfandel on Red Mountain is not an abundant commodity. As a result, Liberty Wines claims one of only three acres. Notably, Mark describes this wine as “truly one of a kind, a rare offering and a tasting room favorite.’ This vintage won a silver medal at the 2020 Washington State Wine Competition, but we think it’s gold. Aromas of bell pepper and sweet barbecue sauce lead into hearty fruit flavors, butterscotch and exotic spice notes. Pair it with BBQ ribs, grilled chicken, burgers or simply with sharp cheddar or smoked gouda.
2018 TAHIJA Sangiovese Candy Mountain Vineyard ($26)
As mentioned earlier, TAHIJA is the winery’s second label, mainly for non-Red Mountain red wines and whites. This Sangiovese also just won a gold medal at the 2020 Washington State Wine Competition — the winery’s first gold medal for TAHIJA. Moreover, Mark says, “This wine will take you straight back to warmer days with a raspberry and fig nose and tastes of cola, cranberry, and a ripe strawberry picked on a cool summer morning, rounding out with a happy finish. This wine is sure to bring a smile to your face.” Pair it with a rich roast, cured sausages or hard cheeses. Of note, Candy Mountain AVA is now a designated AVA; consequently, future releases will be stamped accordingly on the label.
In conclusion, we are excited to find out about another Washington state winery that we can recommend to others. We really enjoyed these four bottles, and look forward to tasting more wine from Liberty Lake Wine Cellars.
Notably, you can purchase wine at their website, or if you are in the Spokane area, they are open on Fridays from noon – 8 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 5 pm. Reservations are recommended.
Thank you, Mark, for the samples.
Margot and Dave