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Wineman’s Toast: Victor Palencia lets his dreams soar

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Jones of Washington winemaker Victor Palencia with the winery’s 2012 Platinum Winemakers Circle award at the 2012 North Central Washington Wine Awards.

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Victor Palencia, the talented head winemaker for Jones of Washington and the mega-winery J&S Crushing in Mattawa, is now also crafting his own line of wines. Make that three lines of wines.

Palencia Wine Co. will open a tasting room this month in an incubator building at Walla Walla Regional Airport to show off his limited early releases.

His bottle wines will be available at two tier levels, with Palencia Winery as the upper-tier label. Only premium grapes sourced from Red Mountain, Yakima, Wahluke Slope and Ancient Lakes American Viticultural Areas are used for these premier wines that “flagship the land,” Palencia said.

They’re a tribute to the hard working people of the land,” said Palencia, who got his start in the wine industry as a boy working in vineyards with his father and older brothers.

The line will start with a Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and a Yakima Valley Sauvignon Blanc.The Monarcha label will feature lower priced, easy drinking wines that go well with everyday meals. The Monarcha name is for the Monarch butterfly that starts its migration north each spring from his family’s homeland in Michoacán, Mexico to the Pacific Northwest.

It’s a symbol for letting your dreams soar,” he said.

The line will start with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot-based blends, a Chardonnay and a Rosé of Pinot Noir.He’s also producing a line of Selección labeled keg wines for area restaurants, taverns and wine tasting rooms.

Palencia, 28, has become one of the wine industry’s rising stars as winemaker for the much-awarded Jones of Washington winery. The Quincy-based winery — owned by the Jack Jones family of Wenatchee — was named Washington Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest last year. The winery has won many gold medals in Foothill magazine’s annual North Central Washington Wine Awards as well as in state and nationwide competitions.

Palencia is also head winemaker for J&S Crushing, also known as Rivers Edge Winery, in Mattawa. It’s owned by the Jones and Dick Shaw families. That custom crush plant expects to produce more than three million gallons of wine this year for customers that include Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest wineries.

And now Palencia Winery. Palencia said the opportunity to use equipment at J&S and have access to some of the state’s best vineyards is a huge benefit that has helped him get a start while keeping his overhead low. He has no plans to leave J&S. He expects to bottle about 600 cases of his own wine this year, increasing to about 1,500 cases by next year.

I’m going to be a busy guy. I need to learn how to clone myself,” he said.

Fielding Hill Cab picked No. 1 in state

Mike and Karen Wade have done it again. Their 2010 Fielding Hills Riverbend Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was picked as the state’s top cabernet in Seattle Metropolitan Magazine’s Top 100 Washington Wines. The list was published in the September issue.

The East Wenatachee boutique winery has won many awards and topped several best wine lists since Mike Wade began making wine from his Wahluke Slope vineyard in 2000.

In picking the wine as this year’s top choice among many great Washington cabernet sauvignons, wine reviewer Sean P. Sullivan wrote that Wade continues to craft some of the state’s finest wines. “Wade’s 2010 cabernet exudes baker’s chocolate, vanilla, black cherry, and sweet herbs with concentrated flavors and a cranberry-filled finish.” The wine sells for $42.

Other North Central Washington wines named to the magazine’s Top 100 list included Milbrandt Vineyards’ 2012 Traditions Pinot Gris. It was named as one of the list’s six best “food friendly wines.” Produced at Butch and Jerry Milbrandt’s Wahluke Wine Co. in Mattawa, the wine retails for a very reasonable $13.

Cairdeas Winery’s (Manson) 2012 Nellie Mae White Wine ($22) was named to a list of best Washington wines under $25.

Sullivan said he pared the top 100 from more than 600 wines submitted.

Holmes finds new home in Sleeping Lady kitchen

Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort has hired Joshua Holmes as its new executive chef.

Holmes is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, S.C. He has 15 years of culinary experience at several restaurants across the country where he focused on regional American cooking as well as Italian, French, Argentinean and Spanish cuisine.

Prior to arriving at Sleeping Lady, Holmes served as Chef de Cuisine at The Greenbriar, the famous resort and National Historic landmark in West Virginia, according to a press release by the Leavenworth resort. He also previously worked at two noted New York restaurants, Gramercy Tavern and Tom Colicchio’s Craft.

As executive chef, Holmes will oversee all food preparation at Sleeping Lady, including The Kingfisher Restaurant and Bar, O’Grady’s Pantry cafe, The Grotto bar and Sleeping Lady’s two-acre organic garden and greenhouse, where fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs are grown for the kitchen. He also plans to showcase farm products purchased from local farmers whenever possible.

Holmes replaces Ken MacDonald, who had served as Sleeping Lady’s executive chef since 2008.