The wines of Washington's Milbrandt Vineyards prove that you don't have to bottle a $200 luxury cuvée to make a great debut. Butch and Jerry Milbrandt (with winemaker Josh Maloney) produce a wide range of wines, topping out at the powerful 2007 Milbrandt Vineyards Sentinel ($55), a rosemary-scented Bordeaux-style blend. Yet the wines are superb at every level, which can largely be ascribed to farming: The family owns 2,000 acres of vineyards in Washington's Columbia Valley.
Milbrandt Vineyards' subtly oaky The Estates Evergreen Vineyard Chardonnay ($23). Photo © Kate Mathis.
The Milbrandts only started growing grapes in 1997, but they have farmed row crops (corn, beans, apples) in Washington since 1954. They only use about 10 percent of their grapes in their own wines. "That would be the best 10 percent," Butch notes wryly.
Recently, both Butch and Jerry's children have taken on sales roles at the winery. "Yeah, they're getting lured in," Butch says in his laconic way. "We're gifting them percentages of the holdings, so they're stuck with it. You know, 'Here's that debt; it's all yours now.'"