Latah Creek Wine Cellars, established in 1982 by Mike and Ellena Conway, is a pioneer in Washington State’s emerging wine scene. Today only a handful of wineries can boast beginnings dating back to the early 1980s, and fewer still can match the consistency and quality produced by Latah Creek for over 30 years. This family owned winery continues to blaze new trails in winemaking, producing new varieties each season along with their acclaimed lineup of established wines.
Latah Creek, heralded by Wine Spectator Magazine as one of the top producers of Merlot in the State of Washington, offers guests the opportunity to visit one of the most picturesque small wineries in the area. Tile walkways lead you through an arched entrance into a large courtyard suitable for picnics or relaxing after a tasting. Inside you will find a gift shop provisioned with gourmet food and unique, memorable gifts and an expansive tasting bar. Latah Creek’s award winning wines can be sampled at your leisure while you tour the adjoining winemaking facilities. We cordially invite you to come in and enjoy.
Mike and Ellena’s focus has been the making of wines with natural balance and complexity; ones that not only provide the perfect compliment to a meal, but also give absolute enjoyment by themselves. This is accomplished through the use of traditional, old-world winemaking principles and the selection of extraordinary fruit. Their award-winning history is a testament to their success. Mike and Ellena believe that exceptional wine should be available for all to enjoy daily, a philosophy that is reflected in their moderate wine pricing.
Bringing a continuity that only a second generation can, Mike and Ellena’s only child, Natalie, joined the team in 2005. Mike learned his winemaking techniques hands-on rather than at school, therefore, he took an apprenticeship approach to train Natalie in the family trade. Confident in her growing winemaking abilities, Mike collaborated with Natalie on Latah Creek’s first dessert red, Natalie’s Nectar. Natalie’s fresh eyes and forward thinking have brought about a few changes at Latah Creek, including the launch of their Monarch Reserve Reds Series, a small-lot, reserve-quality red wine program. Introduced in 2010, this reserve program allows Natalie to intimately know the grape and the reserve wine showcased.
Today, winemakers Mike and Natalie keep production at Latah Creek between 13,000 and 15,000 cases annually. Roughly 15 percent of production consists of red wines, including the Monarch Reserve Series. Sixty percent is comprised of Latah Creek’s most popular wines: Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Spokane’s #1 wine year after year, Huckleberry d’Latah. The remaining 25 percent includes a selection of dry and sweet white wines.
The story of the name Latah Creek and its labels begins with Mike and Ellena in late 1981, just after making the decision to start their own winery. A neighbor had seen a story published in the local paper about their yet unnamed winery adventure. Filled with as much excitement as they were, he came knocking at their door at 6AM the next morning. He had been up all night writing down possible names for the winery. After Mike and Ellena poured over the 3 pages of potential options, the name Latah Creek stuck out. Unbeknownst to them, Latah Creek was the creek they had been living near for the past two years as it was more commonly referred to as Hangman Creek.
With that decision made, they moved down their checklist; a logo and label to go with their new name. They met with Tim Girvin, a Spokane native and up-and-coming graphics designer living in Seattle. Tim gave Mike and Ellena 3 different label and logo designs. Each was unique and beautiful and all met their requirement of an “artist series” label. To help in the decision-making process, they glued the labels on wine bottles, headed to the local grocery store, and placed the bottles on the shelf in various spots. The label that caught their attention immediately was the same label still in use today.
At that same time, a winewriter from Yakima, WA published an article about the new Latah Creek winery and the owners search for a local artist to paint a picture for their first vintage. Floyd A. Broadbent, a master-carver, and painter from the Yakima Valley contacted Mike and Ellena after he finished reading the story. He wanted to not only paint a piece of artwork for Latah Creek’s first label, he wanted to paint a new piece with each vintage. At age 68, Floyd painted his first artwork, “Wood Duck in Flight” which was used for the 1982 and 1983 vintages. Because of failing health, his last piece was painted at age 91, totaling 23 art pieces. He passed in 2012 but he and his artwork will be a part of Latah Creek forever. Mike, Ellena, and Natalie decided that in memory of Floyd they would continue to use his artwork. Instead of choosing just one piece to remain on Latah Creek’s labels, they chose to begin with the original art “Wood Duck in Flight”, and circulate through all previous pieces again.
In 2010, Latah Creek added a new label to their wine line-up – one specifically used for their Reserve Red Program. This label also features a piece of artwork. While serving wine at local art gallery exhibit, Mike was enamored by a beautiful abstract painting filled with bright red and orange colors; to him it looked like a Monarch butterfly. He mentioned to Ellena, “This would look great on a wine label and I would call it Monarch Red.” Mike had no idea the artist, Edward W Gilmore, was standing right behind him. Edward said, “Let’s make it happen.” In 2 quick months, the first Monarch Red was released. The wine and label were received so well, that the year supply Mike and Natalie bottled sold out in less than 5 months. For the next vintage, the label was redesigned to include 6 different variations. One is for Latah Creek’s red wine blend, Monarch Red, and the others for small-lot unique varietals in the Monarch Reserve Red Series.