On August 14th the small town of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island had the privilege of having the iconic wine maker Michael Januik visit to be the guest at the “Intimate Tasting With The Wine Maker” event held at the Mullis Community Center. Of course, I organize this event, and it took me a good two years to get Michael to come up to the island. I believe that after the event was over, he realized what he had been missing.

Nearly 130 folks packed the house to listen to Michael and his son Andrew talk about their views on wine, wine making and other related topics. They also came to taste his wines both under the Januik label and Novelty Hill. We tasted through twelve of his wines, and I have to say there was not a mediocre on in the line-up, they were all stellar. Mike and Andrew did a fantastic job answering questions from the audience and explaining very detailed elements of the wine making process.

Mike Januik is really an icon in the Washington wine industry, whether he likes to think of himself that way or not. A graduate of U.C. Davis having received his masters in enology and viticulture, Mike was offered a job at Stewart Vineyards in Yakima, Washington. Stewart Vineyards no longer exists, but it was there that Mike got a hands on lesson in wine making. From Stewart, he went to work for Languth where he caught the attention of Allen Shoup, CEO at Chateau Ste. Michelle. Allan hired Mike to oversee the production of both red and white wines. Mike stayed on at Chateau Ste. Michelle for nearly ten years before he set out on his own.

His wines both at Januik and Novelty Hill have fostered many awards and accolades over the years. The group got evidence of why his wines gain so much attention as they tasted through the line-up. Starting with the Januik Sagemoor Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc and finishing with the Novelty Hill Syrah, there were people coming up to me throughout the event, praising each of the wines.

Here are some of the favorites based on what people ordered. 2012 Januik Cold Creek Vineyards Chardonnay. This Chard had excellent balance, striking a harmonious note between fruit and oak. It has a buttery edge with some butterscotch notes sneaking in, balanced by notes of pears and apples. The acidity is just right giving it a mouth-watering edge, lending it well with food.

The 2012 Novelty Hill Roussanne was also a favorite with its tropical fruit notes and subtle acidity. I found out that Mike is known as the King of Merlot, and that was evidenced in the 2011 Januik Klipsun Vineyard Merlot. However,the wine that stole the show (which completely surprised me), was the 2011 Januik Weinbau Vineyard Cabernet Franc. It didn’t surprise me that it was as good as it was, but how many times does a Cabernet Franc outsell a Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay or even a Sauvignon Blanc? The Cab Franc again struck a perfect balance between oak and fruit. Silky tannins backed notes of black olive, tobacco, vanilla, cherries and black currants. It stays away from the vegetal side of this grape, but never goes to the fruit forward side. Like I said, it is well-integrated, smooth and structured. It certainly caught the attention of the crowd.

I could write a book about this event, but I will spare you the words and just reiterate that all of the wines were stellar. Mike and his son Andrew (who now produces his own Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Mountain fruit), impressed the crowd with their knowledge and humility. I certainly was happy that Mike decided to make the trip to the San Juans, and very glad that he got to meet my group of folks who were a wonderful and appreciative audience.

Both Januik and Novelty Hill wines are widely available. If you are in Washington State and would like your local wine shop to carry some of their wines (they most likely already do, if they know what they’re doing), tell them they can get them through Noble Wines Distributing.

Stan The Wine Man

About Stan The Wine Man

I am a blue collar wine guy who has been in the biz for over twenty years. I work at a store in a tourist destination stop. I work hard at finding the best wine for the money. I love the challenge of learning my customer's palate so I can find the best wine for them, whether it is Petrus or white zinfandel. Cheers!
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