It would not be an exaggeration to say that Andrew Januik has winemaking in his blood. Januik is the son of Washington winemaker Mike Januik (Januik Winery and Novelty Hill), who has been making wine in Washington for thirty years.
Andrew Januik first became involved in Januik and Novelty Hill in 2000 at age 13, helping out on weekends and during the summer. Come 2004, he worked his first harvest.
“It was fun to actually experience it,” Januik said. “I’d seen my dad go through so many harvests. You don’t really understand how much work you fully put in until you do it. I had a night where I was there until three or four in the morning pressing Chardonnay and then woke up the next day at seven to go back. But it’s fun. Even at that point there is a very tangible, satisfying feeling to it.”
After graduating from the University of Washington in 2009 with a degree in Spanish and Portuguese studies, Januik traveled abroad before starting work at Januik/Novelty Hill full time. At the winery, he does laboratory work and is also involved in blending and other stylistic decisions. “We’re still at a size where you can wear all hats,” Januik said.
Earlier this year, Andrew Januik launched his own eponymous winery. “It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. Januik’s first release is a 2011 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Mountain. He said that the decision to focus on Cabernet Sauvignon starting out was easy.
“I wanted to do something that I thought I could do well,” Januik said. “We produce more Cab than anything else, so my strongest baseline knowledge at this point is Cabernet.” He added with a smile, “I also just really like Cab.”
On choosing Red Mountain fruit Januik said, “For me with Red Mountain, you’re going to get big wines easily but with a place like Shaw and Obelisco, especially if you control the astringency of the tannins during maceration, you can get such elegance.”
Januik said he chose these two vineyards for his inaugural wine because of the way they compliment each other. “For Obelisco, there’s a lot of sweetness on the front of the palate, a lot of brightness,” he said. “Shaw you get a little bit more structure and a little bit more length. When you blend them together for the most part you get a very complete, very well balanced wine.”
Januik named the wine the ‘Stone Cairn Cabernet’ after the stone markings people make in the backcountry to mark a trail. “I backpack and hike a lot,” Januik explained. “I wanted something that had some meaning but also had a Red Mountain connection.” A picture of a cairn adorns the label.
While Januik said that his style has certainly been influenced by his father, he also said he has his own preferences. “We are on the same page but not always on the same sentence if you will,” he said. In particular, Januik said that he preferred wines that were a bit lower in alcohol and that also had a particular feel. “I like a wine with a lot of suppleness,” he said.
Januik made 200 cases of his inaugural 2011 vintage wine. He upped production to 500 cases in the 2012 vintage, which will be released in September. The response to the first wine was immediate with it quickly selling out at the Januik/Novelty Hill tasting room, though some also went into distribution. “It’s pretty community based,” Januik said of the Januik/Novelty Hill followers. “Most of the people who bought my wine were people I know. It’s a very loyal community.”
While he’s only made one wine for the first two vintages, Januik said he plans to expand the number of offerings over time. “It’s not exactly the best family trait we have,” he said with a laugh, noting that Januik/Novelty Hill makes 30 different wines. “It’s not the most practical thing, but it’s fun to try new things.”
Though he intends to grow the winery, Januik noted that his winery will remain a side project for the time being. “My main focus is still the Januik/Novelty Hill brands,” he said.
Andrew Januik Stone Cairn Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2011 $40
(Excellent/Exceptional) A moderately aromatic wine with an appealing profile of dark cherry, cocoa, vanilla, and spice. The palate has a very supple, seamless feel with a pleasing sense of tension between the acid, fruit, and tannins, bringing along a good sense of Red Mountain’s structure. 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc. Aged in approximately 50% new French oak. 14.2% alcohol. 200 cases produced.