We originally tasted wines from Liberty Lake Wine Cellars a year ago, and appreciated them. The trend continues, after receiving three samples of current releases from winemaker and co-owner Mark Lathrop: Reserve Syrah, Petit Verdot and Merlot (in time for Merlot Month). Liberty Lake is a boutique Washington state winery near Spokane, focusing on bold reds from Red Mountain. Read on for details about these tasty wines and the Liberty Lake story.
Liberty Lake Story
Mark and Sarah Lathrop met in 2005 in the MBA program at Eastern Washington University. Subsequently, their relationship evolved through their journey of learning about wine. Most importantly, they discovered Liberty Lake Wine Cellars in 2009, and it quickly became one of their favorites in the Spokane area.
First, they became wine club members in 2011. Next, in 2015, discussions began about purchasing the winery. Finally, in 2016, Mark and Sarah took over the Liberty Lake operation from original owners Doug and Shelly Smith, whose initial vintage was in 2005.
Consequently, they moved to a larger tasting room and production facility, and focused on bold wines sourced from Red Mountain grapes. (Regular readers know that we’ve never met a grape from Red Mountain that we didn’t like.) They also created a second label, TAHIJA, for non-Red Mountain reds and whites.
Mark and Sarah say the winery is the dream that they have been striving for since they met.
Liberty Lake Wines
Above all, Mark’s winemaking style, in his words, 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.”
In addition to the three wines we tasted, Mark’s portfolio includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Malbec, Carménère, The Gold Ticket Reserve Bordeaux-style blend, Zinfandel, Gewurztraminer, and TAHIJA Chardonnay, Dry Riesling, Cabernet Franc Rosé and Sangiovese.
His humor shows through on Liberty Lake’s Twitter feed, where he says he “struggles to write tasting notes without the word ‘cherry’ in them.” Meanwhile, the labels of two of the three bottles we received note: “Bottled during 2020 quarantine.” We don’t think we’ve seen those words on a label before.
Here are the three wines that we tasted.
2018 Red Mountain Reserve Syrah ($44)
First, this 100% Syrah is from Kiona’s acclaimed Ranch at the End of the Road vineyard on Red Mountain, with its signature power and tannic structure. Next, on the palate, the full-bodied wine is rich, spicy, elegant and polished, with flavors of dark fruit, vanilla, bacon fat, mocha and coffee. We really like this wine, with peppery notes that complemented our turkey dinner. Mark says it also pairs well with chocolate cheesecake. Yum! Moreover, SavorNW Wine Awards gave it a 2021 gold medal.
2018 Red Mountain Merlot ($30)
October is Merlot Month, so it’s a perfect time to uncork this hearty wine from Scooteney Flats Vineyard. Aromatics of cedar, vanilla and smoke lead into flavors of dark chocolate, cherries and caramel. We enjoyed it. However, the oak from 19 months in 100% new American-French hybrid barrels is noticeable. 2020 Washington State Wine Competition awarded a silver medal to this Merlot. Mark suggests pairing it with flourless chocolate cake.
2018 Red Mountain Petit Verdot ($30)
Whoa! After tasting this powerhouse, we understand why Mark calls it “literally the biggest, boldest wine we’ve ever made!” But note: for those who aren’t fans of high-alcohol wine, he cautions, “At 15.95% ABV, this wine is hot enough to have stopped the Cold War.” On the nose, we found aromas of plums and violets, while on the palate, black fruit, black licorice, cherries, dark chocolate and caramel. And yes, it’s very hot.
Summary: Liberty Lake Wine Cellars
In conclusion, if you’re a fan of Red Mountain red wine, like we are, it’s time to experience Liberty Lake Wine Cellars lineup. 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. In addition, you can now purchase light bites of smoked salmon, antipasto or cheese to pair with the wines in their tasting room. We’ll be stopping by next time we take a road trip to Spokane.
Thank you, Mark, for the samples.
Margot and Dave