There's no mystery about Kestrel Vintners

A winery that should not be overlooked in the Yakima Valley wine capital of Prosser is Kestrel Vintners.

Kestrel, near Hogue Cellars, Mercer Estates and Snoqualmie Vineyards, was started in 1999 by John and Helen Walker, who also purchased a 1972 vineyard – now called Kestrel View and 160 acres in size – that contains some of Washington’s oldest vines.

Ray Sandidge’s superb wines jump-started Kestrel a decade ago, and when he left to start his own winery in Lake Chelan, Flint Nelson took the winemaking reins and has led Kestrel to new heights.

Kestrel’s most famous wine is called Lady in Red and is distinctive for the drawing of a voluptuous model who mildly resembles Marilyn Monroe. As the story goes, Kestrel was looking to market an affordable red that could be easily identified on grocery store shelves. A marketing class at Columbia Basin College in Pasco designed the bottle, and Lady in Red is now Kestrel’s best-selling wine.

Thanks to the success, Kestrel created Pure Platinum, a similarly packaged white blend in a blue bottle.

Kestrel got a bit more publicity last year when “For the Sake of the Vine,” a murder mystery, was set at the fictitious Lapis Vintners. It was next to Kestrel and features Nelson in the plot.

Here are a few Kestrel wines we’ve tasted recently:

Kestrel Vintners 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $22: One of Prosser’s largest wineries goes beyond estate fruit (29 percent) and into McKinley Springs (32 percent), Elephant Mountain (21 percent) and Olsen Estate for this Cab, resulting in a theme of black cherry, blackberry, plums, coffee and a slice of bell pepper. Enjoy with prime rib or a T-bone.

Kestrel Vintners 2007 Winemaker Select Two Ton Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, $40: A block in which Cabernet Sauvignon vines are cropped to two tons per acre leads to notes of cassis, blackberry, pencil shavings, chocolate, alfalfa and saddle leather.

Kestrel Vintners 2006 Kestrel View Estate Vineyard Syrah, Yakima Valley, $22: There’s a heady assortment of telltale Syrah aromas with blackberries, blueberries, black pepper, mincemeat and gun metal, backed by pleasing vanilla via oak and some crushed leaf. Pleasing richness comes with easy- drinking flavors of juicy boysenberry and plums. The structure shows more acidity than many of its kind, and oak influence returns with the chocolate finish.

Kestrel Vintners 2007 Winemaker’s Select Mourvedre, Yakima Valley, $40: The nose on this succulent red wine is sweet, spicy, savory and smoky with black cherry, plums, blueberry, cola nut, a Cinnabon roll, chili powder, coffee cigar leaf, hibiscus, saddle leather and sun-dried tomato. A tilt of the glass brings in mouth-filling black cherry, blackberry and meaty flavors. The oak, acidity and tannin strike an accord as the drink is finished with coffee and chocolate.

Kestrel Vintners 2008 Falcon Series Estate Old Vine Chardonnay, Yakima Valley, $20: Abundant oak and orchard fruit plays out in delicious form with sensations of mom’s baked apple pie, only there’s surprising lemony crispness in the finish.

Kestrel Vintners 2009 Falcon Series Old Vine Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, $20: A theme of stone fruit, jasmine, starfruit and minerality takes a very steely approach. A squeeze of lime in the midpalate provides ample acidity.

Kestrel Vintners 2009 Falcon Series Rosé, Yakima Valley, $12: A wide-ranging blend of Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Mourvedre, Grenache, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo looks lovely and comes off a bit shy in the nose. When it comes to the drink, it’s easy to like with a fuller expression of plums, Hermiston watermelon, huckleberry and dried strawberry. And at less than 1 percent residual sugar, it’s not too clingy.

Kestrel Vintners NV Fifth Edition Pure Platinum, Yakima Valley, $12: This is a fragrant and delicious blend of Gewurztraminer (52 percent). Aromas are huge with grapefruit, lychee, orange Creamsicle and orchard fruit. The drink is a complex and mouth-filling entry of fruit cocktail that continues to deliver Creamsicle and grapefruit. Spritzy acidity allows for dry and trailing finish, despite the residual sugar (1.3 percent).

Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman are the editors of Wine Press Northwest. For more info, go to