For many, the Holiday Season is inevitably filled with their favorite wines purchased throughout the year, or brought out of the cellar to mark the occasion. There are also those who find themselves searching to find new wines to enjoy over the holiday season. This quest may seek previously unknown wine gems that can be stocked up on for quiet celebrations, or larger parties with friends and family. We all strive to have that perfect wine on our holiday table, you know, the one that gets conversations started with the aromas from the first pour, or a wine with a flavor so intense, it brings back a special memory that becomes the retelling of a contagiously funny story told while the dessert is being served. So, if you are looking to treat yourself to a truly great wine, something to linger over as the year comes to an end, can I suggest a winery here in Washington that is producing some beautiful, complex and unique wines, Muret-Gaston Winery.
Bringing a sense of family history and a love of wine together Muret-Gaston Winery in Benton City, WA is ready to help you toast the holiday season. But, before we talk about the wines let me give you a little background history of Muret-Gaston.
If you are not familiar with the name Muret-Gaston, you may have heard of Purple Star Winery, or perhaps Native Sun Wines. All three of these wine labels have one thing in common, they are wines made by husband and wife team Kyle and Amy Johnson.
With almost 20 years of experience in the wine industry, Kyle began his career after graduating Washington State University, with a position in Viticulture for Chateau Ste. Michelle. In 2006 Kyle left Chateau Ste. Michelle to become the winemaker for Olsen Estates, a position he held until wine production ended in 2009, following the recession and distribution issues. With the closure of Olsen Estates Kyle, with the help of the Olsen Estate facility worked on the debut vintage of Purple Star wine and soon after vintages of Native Sun wines.
Today Kyle and Amy, who continue to build their wine labels Purple Star Wines and Native Sun, will also working on the label that holds a much more personal connection and family history, Muret-Gaston.
When Kyle and Amy got married, they were not aware that fifteen generations ago their two families, the Murets and Gastons, lived in villages next to each other in southern France. The name Muret-Gaston was chosen for their mothers, and the label on the bottles holds the signatures of their grandfathers, Muret and Gaston. These signatures were copied from war time letters sent home to their families.
About a week before Thanksgiving, I had the opportunity to speak with Amy in a phone interview. This is an incredibly busy time of year for winery owners and I was happy that Amy could share a few moments with me and talk about wine.
Before our conversation I already knew from visiting their website and reading other articles written about the Johnson’s that Amy held an integral part in the day to day operations for all of their wines labels, and wore many hats when it came to helping out and running their wineries. When I asked what her typical day looked like, she laughed and said,
“My day is full of pretty much everything…some days I am loading or unloading trucks, I have a hand in the wine making process as well, and then there is the administrative side, the outside sales, social media, the wine tourism board, the list goes on and on.”
The wine making at Muret-Gaston is definitely a family affair, Kyle and Amy’s three children do a lot of work around the winery but Amy will admit that they don’t always like it, and she is not sure yet if any of them will be interested in working in the wine industry. One surprising fact Amy shared was their youngest, who is 14, has an amazing pallet and they often ask his advice when it comes to testing the barrels.
Photo provided by Muret-Gaston Winery
Under the label Muret-Gaston, Kyle and Amy are producing an impressive selection of wines including, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, GSM, a Red Blend, and a Chardonnay. With so many different varietals grown in Washington State, I asked Amy if there was a particular grape they had not worked with, which they would like to use in the future.
“There’s a Picopili that Syncline is making that blows our socks off! We are members there, actually we are members of many other wineries because there is so many good wineries in Washington State. It would be fun to work with Picopili, to make one more white, but we haven’t expanded that far.”
Because it has been on many people’s minds when it comes to growing grapes I brought up the topic of Climate Change with Amy to see if she felt that it was having an impact here in Washington State.
“Climate Change is absolutely having an impact and the whole thing with agriculture is that it is always changing and you have to make adaptations. Mother Nature spares no one, and just like other farmers Viticulturists are making adjustments during all of the seasons. Climate Change is continuing to push the challenges for winemakers, viticulturists, and growers. I think this year that all those people who wanted to grow grapes and make wine, this is the year that they are like–I don’t think that’s a great idea! Maybe I’ll just drink wine.”
Amy went on to share some insight of what she sees regarding change here in Washington State due to Climate Change, and if she thought new grape varietals would be seen in the state more, here’s what she told me:
“We are pretty good friends with a nursery stock person and it is interesting to see what they are doing because they have to think 5, 10, 15 years ahead of us. And, they are looking at root stock, grafting and things like that that can handle extremes, not just super cold but that can also handle super hot weather and massive droughts or heavy rainfalls. So, they are trying to build these really sturdy vines. It will be interesting, there’s some smart people out there who are using all the moving pieces to make sure that they are successful.
I always like to ask how others enjoy the holiday season, about traditions new and old.
“Our holidays are pretty standard, we get together with family and friends but our holidays are not very extravagant. For us the most important thing is to just focus on family.”
When it comes to what wines that they like to drink during the Holidays, Amy enthusiastically said, “100% Champagne, we are big fans of bubbles.” Also enjoyed in the Johnson home this time of year is GSM wines, “We are big fans of GSM as well, they are lighter and more floral which goes good with food without competing.”
I want to thank Amy for sharing her thoughts with me on these topics and for sending me some samples of their Muret-Gaston Gift Boxes that are available during the holiday season.
With Christmas and other holidays just around the corner and now is the perfect time to fill your wine fridge with Washington wines to enhance a home celebration while gathering with family and friends. Why Washington wines for the holidays? Washington is the second-largest wine-producing state in the country, and with over 1,000 wineries and 14 unique wine-growing AVAs, there is a Washington wine for every winelover’s palate.
Muret-Gaston has some lovely wines that you should try for the festive season.
When it comes to Washington Cabernet Sauvignons this vintage from Muret-Gaston is high on my list for the holiday season. With semi sweet notes of Cassis, dark fruits, and subtle spices, this wine carries with it a long finish of delicate tannins. This wine is very approachable now but will certainly age well for future holiday celebrations.
A perfect gift for any wine lover assembled with Muret-Gaston wines and Chukar Cherries Candies. These boxes are ready to be sent to your family and friends who appreciate trying new wines.
If there is one wine that is being produced in Washington that you don’t often see standing on its own, it is the resolute and stout Petit Verdot. Muret-Gaston’s 100% Petit Verdot exhibits notes of blackberry and currants with light flashes of violet and cocoa making it the perfect wine to pair with those hearty holiday meals.
Who won’t love this gift box of one bottle each of 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2018 Chardonnay.
One box each of Washington Chukar Cherries Ultra Dark Vanilla Almonds and Dark Chocolate Cabernet Cherries.
I recently opened this bottle of 2018 Muret-Gaston French Creek Vineyard Chardonnay at our first holiday party and it was a favorite of the white wines tasted. We enjoyed many homemade Mexican dishes, including Enchiladas, Mexican Pizza and Pinto & Polso, all of which paired perfectly with the crisp clean citrus flavors of this beautiful Chardonnay.
I hope that this these recommendations give you some ideas for the winelover on your holiday gift list.
From Now until December 14th, Muret-Gaston is offering penny shipping on our gift boxes to make your holiday gift giving a little easier.
Remember the saying, “It is better to give than to receive” well when it comes to wine ‘It is better to give as well as to receive’. Cheers everyone and Happy Holidays.
“At the heel end of the day, I need my glass of wine. Christmas lights for the brain.” — Bill Callahan
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