More than 100 years ago, Joseph Locati came to the New World from Italy and settled in Washington’s Walla Walla Valley. Here, he met a Frenchman named Peter Pieri, who had brought with him from Corsica some sweet onion seeds. Together, Pieri and Locati planted the first sweet onion field in the valley — which now is world famous for those onions.
A century ago, Walla Walla was well known as a destination for Old World emigrants, and a large Italian community formed. In 1909, Locati bought land and began to farm it. And like many of his fellow Italians, Locati made a bit of wine for the enjoyment of his family and friends. He passed the tradition on to his son, Ambrose, who in turn taught his son Michael.
In 2005 — 100 years after Joseph’s arrival, grandson Michael and his wife, Penne, launched Locati Cellars, a Walla Walla winery that not only honors his Italian ancestors, but also focuses on such Italian varieties as Barbera, Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio.
The Locatis use grapes from vineyards throughout Washington wine country, including the Wahluke Slope, the Columbia Valley and, of course, the Walla Walla Valley, including fruit from their estate vines.
Locati Cellars now has a tasting room at the historic Marcus Whitman Hotel. It’s a great opportunity for the young winery because it’s in the heart of downtown Walla Walla, not far from a dozen other tasting rooms. Additionally, many hotel guests take advantage to stop by and try Locati’s delicious wines and buy cigars from the winery, as well.
We have tasted Locati’s latest releases in recent months. Ask for them from your favorite wine merchant or order directly from the winery.
Locati Cellars 2008 Barbera, Columbia Valley, $25: The Locatis chose Lonesome Spring Ranch Vineyard in the Yakima Valley as the source for their barbera, and the wine is well done all the way through. Syrupy aromas of purplish marionberry, blueberry and blackberry include hints of tea and mint. The drink is akin to a bag of ripe berries as fine-grained sandy tannins make for a pleasing mouth feel.Enjoy with lasagna or osso buco.
Locati Cellars 2007 Innovation, Columbia Valley, $20: Michael Locati’s Super Tuscan-style blend has a heritage of barbera (54 percent) from Lonesome Spring Vineyard, cabernet sauvignon (33 percent) from Goose Ridge and sangiovese off Candy Mountain. A bit of aeration allows for a nose that opens to strawberry, ripe watermelon, black currant, crushed walnut and Red Vines licorice. The Italian varieties bring more of the high-toned red fruit of red currant, pie cherry, pomegranate and a tartness of rhubarb as acidity more than balances out the tannin.
Locati Cellars 2010 Estate Rosé, Walla Walla Valley, $16: The Locati family’s Mission Hills Vineyard, near the Whitman Mission, results in a pink wine using sangiovese that whispers of strawberry taffy, cranberry, apricot and tutti frutti. Its approach is easy to get into, yet bone dry, with tastes of more strawberry, apricot and tangerine.
Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman are the editors of Wine Press Northwest magazine. For more information, go to winepressnw.com.