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Originally published Friday, July 20, 2012 at 11:00 AM

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Try Hyatt for affordable high-quality wines

Hyatt's 180 acres of vines are among the oldest in the Yakima Valley, says Wine Adviser Paul Gregutt. They are farmed within three miles of the winery, situated in the recently founded Rattlesnake Hills sub-appellation.

Special to the Seattle Times

Pick of the week

Hyatt 2009 Merlot; $10

SMOOTH-DRINKING with instant appeal, this estate-grown merlot has a broad, chocolaty palate, loaded with cherry fruit flavors. Peppery herbal highlights dot the pretty, polished tannins. (Distributed by Young's Market)

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HYATT VINEYARDS was founded in 1983 and released its first commercial wines in 1987. Owners Leland and Lynda Hyatt quickly embarked on a path of growth, realizing that owning the grapes was a huge advantage.

Two decades ago I wrote that "Rapid growth has been the strategy for these grape growers turned winery owners, as production has mushroomed from 750 cases in 1987 to more than 10,000 last year (1992). Wade Wolfe and Stan Clarke were the first winemakers, and sourced some outstanding cabernet and merlot grapes, which brought Hyatt some favorable attention early on. "

Fast forward to 2012. Hyatt's 180 acres of vines are among the oldest in the Yakima Valley. They are farmed within three miles of the winery, situated in the recently founded Rattlesnake Hills sub-appellation. Production is up to 30,000 cases annually, and the grapes in the ground could quadruple that if demand were there.

I predict demand is going to be there. Why? Because, despite an up-and-down ride on the quality roller coaster, Hyatt has rediscovered its strengths and is in a position to join a handful of value-oriented, family-owned wineries in this state that consistently deliver estate-grown, affordably priced, high-quality wines.

Among Hyatt's natural resources are wholly-owned (no debt) vineyards, which allows them to pick and choose the grapes for their own wines without having to pay premium prices.

David Adair, who is Hyatt's national sales manager, freely admits that the wines took a dip in quality some years ago. But when reviewing Hyatt's 2006 releases, a significant improvement across the portfolio was clearly taking place. Adair credits what he terms "consensus winemaking" — a monthly group meeting including Leland Hyatt, winemaker Steve Hovanes, consultant Wade Wolfe, retail manager Carrie Curtin and Adair himself. "We all participate in the 'elevage' and assembling of the Roza Ridge (reserve) wines to achieve our goal of producing limited-quantity reds that taste like they should cost $25 and sell for $15," Adair explains.

Hyatt's production is now 85 percent red. Riesling and pinot gris are the principal white wines; chardonnay, sadly, has been disco'ed. Those bearing the Hyatt label sell for $10; while the Roza Ridge wines cost $2 more. A few limited reserves, such as the excellent malbec and petit verdot, cost a bit more. All these new releases are highly recommended.

Hyatt Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon; $10;

Roza Ridge 2009 Merlot; $12;

Roza Ridge 2009 Syrah; $14;

Roza Ridge 2009 Malbec; $20;

Roza Ridge 2009 Petit Verdot; $20.

Paul Gregutt's blog is www.paulgregutt.com. Email: paulgwine@me.com.

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About Wine Adviser

My column is all about sharing the joy of exploring all the world of wine. I want to guide people to make inspired choices, and encourage them to try as many different styles of wine as they can. I will always seek out the best wines at the best prices. Wine Adviser runs on Sunday in Pacific Northwest Magazine.
paulgwine@me.com

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