Our Winemaking Philosophy
Nearly every winery has a principle goal of making “excellent” wines and words like “craft”, “small production”, and “boutique” are frequently found on labels and websites.
What makes Camaraderie Cellars different? Yes, the wines are “crafted” and at just 3,000 cases, Camaraderie is a “boutique” winery by any measure. But according to Don Corson, winemaker and owner for over 25 years, “Our wines are more meant to go with food than just opening the mail”.
Our Winemaking Style
Our winemaking style is very traditional. Excellent sourcing of grapes from Eastern Washington grapes, cool fermentations, and judicious use of a wide range of oak barrels is crucial. As Don says it, “I want to use oak to frame the picture and not be an opportunity for an oak carving.”
Food wines are increasingly difficult to find. Most are made and meant for early enjoyment and may not have the “structure” to complement that steak, marinara sauce, or grilled chicken or fish.
Our wines are fruit driven but not “fruit bombs.” A common culinary saying is “if it grows together it goes together.” Washington State is the largest producer of apples and cherries in the US and our state’s wines have very distinctive stone fruit notes that are complementary to full-flavored fare.
Camaraderie wines are made to honor the grape variety and the vineyard the grapes came from.
We have been around long enough to watch the Washington State wine industry grow from a place known principally for Riesling to a region where a wide range of grape varieties not only grow but excel. Don Corson’s comment when asked what wine is his favorite? “I don’t make any wine I’m not passionate about.” Over the years we have expanded from Cabernet Sauvignon to all five classic Bordeaux varieties (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot) to Italian varieties (Sangiovese and Dolcetto), to Spanish Tempranillo and even a small amount of Syrah and Mouvedre.
Why so many? “It’s fun” Don says, “and we want our customers and wine club members to have a variety to choose from.”
But there is more to the story than making wines from many varieties. Don is a Geographer by academic background and “sense of place” is important to him and his winemaking. When possible, he proudly includes the name of the vineyard where the grapes are from. The French use the term ‘terroir’ for what makes a vineyard distinctive and Don is keen on preserving the essence of the grape variety from that place.
One of the benefits of being a “senior” winery in the state is that we know where the good vineyards are. A few that we work with:
Dionysus Vineyard located north of Pasco overlooking the east bank of the Columbia River is one of the oldest and most famous vineyards in the state. It is our source for the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
Crawford Vineyard located on the northern slopes of the Yakima Valley near Prosser and is our vineyard-designated source of Tempranillo and Dolcetto.
Chandler Reach located on the south slope of the lower Yakima Valley near Benton City is where we source much of our Merlot, Cabernet Franc and our vineyard designated Sangiovese.
Meek Family Vineyard located just north of Chandler Reach is a major source of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.
Upland Vineyards located on Snipes Mountain near Sunnyside is a key provider of Cabernet Sauvignon.
We continue to explore new vineyards to make reserve quality limited availability wines.