Today we introduce a great Walla Walla winemaker that has a longstanding history in the Washington wine industry. Cameron Kontos has been crafting great wines at Kontos Cellars for many years. A second generation winemaker, I have been impressed with Cameron's outstanding releases in the past two years. These wines show a marvelous tension and balance, considering the heat of the vintages. I recently had the chance to sit down with Cameron and talk wine. He talked about the last vintage as well as his background in wine. I think you will really enjoy hearing his story. Here is my interview with Cameron Kontos of Kontos Cellars
WWB: What was it like having a winemaker as a dad (his father Cliff was winemaker for Fort Walla Walla Cellars)? Do you feel that gives you an edge in terms of both winemaking and understanding Walla Walla fruit?
CK: Having my dad as a winemaker helped in many ways. 1. I was 18 trying to find a passion, and knew I didn't want to be a wheat farmer (he and my oldest brother farm about 10,000 acres of wheat). Spending time with him learning how to make wine and build my palette, helped me find it. 2. He tought me the art after barrel blending and the characters of Walla Walla fruit. 3. I would go with my dad to the wine alliance meetings, which thought me the networking side. I was able to create relationships with growers and other winemakers.
WWB: What are some of the most important things you learned in your eight years at Forgeron Cellars? How is your style of winemaking different or similar to that of Forgeron?
CK: Marie Eve at Forgeron thought me several things. 1. I learned the French style of winemaking. 2. Different types of winemaking. Not everything is done the same. 3. How to manage employees. 4. The chemistry side of things, and how to rely on my palette with the numbers to verify. 5. Introduced old world wines to me, which helped expand my education.
WWB: Your 2012 wines were really great. What did you like about that vintage? Are you excited about your 2013 and 2014 wines?
CK: The 2012 vintage was very similar to 2007. The quality and numbers that came out of the grapes that year were ideal for pretty much everything. I always say that the 07 and 12 years almost anyone could make a decent product, but the years between were where the winemakers really showed what they could do. Those years were rough conditions, the growers did what they could do to get them ripe with flavors still there, I happen to enjoy the challenges on the tough years. I give the growers so much credit on all the wines every year, without good grapes I couldn't make good wine. I am really excited about the 2013 wines. They have a lot of similarities to the 2012 in my opinion. The 2014 wines that are the current release, they are right there par with a long stretch of ideal conditions. The 2012 through the 2016 wines are all shaping up very nicely, I just do what I can to not mess them up. So far the 2017 wines have had some challenges but are coming together beautiful. My favorite years are the years that have the biggest challenges.
WWB: What kind of wines of the world do you enjoy and what kind of wines are typically in your cellar?
CK: There are many great wines out there. I like to always try what the other winemakers in the area are doing. I also like to see what other wine regions are doing. We trade wine all the time and sit down and enjoy them.