Nicky’s Blog: Leonetti
One dream of mine since I have gotten into the wine industry is to go behind the grand curtain of Leonetti Cellars. Why was this so important? Besides the unparalleled quality of the wine; which I will get into later. Leonetti Cellars is not open to the public and can prove difficult to get a tour. They are by appointment only and only for special club members and contracts for resellers. Even becoming a club member can require a great deal of patience; most must wait on the allocation list before a spot becomes available. This is because Leonetti has an esteemed reputation and a high demand; they ship wine all over the country. The name Leonetti has become synonymous with exceptional wine. My General Manager built a wonderful relationship with Gary and Nancy Figgins 25 years ago by partnering with fabulous wine educational events at the Lodge. It was because of this relationship he was able to book a private tour for me and my little Sun Mountain group with Amy Figgins herself.
A little history of Leonetti Cellars: Leonetti was Walla Walla’s first commercial winery. The winery was founded in 1977 by Gary and Nancy Figgins. Gary’s grandparents came to the United States in 1901 from Calabria, Italy. Gary’s mother, Virginia Leonetti, married Berle Figgins in Walla Walla in 1943. At that time his family had a homestead on the south facing parcel and in 1974 Gary planted grapes at that location with his two uncles, Bill and George Leonetti. Gary went on to become an outstanding wine maker and in 1981 was awarded the best Cabernet in the nation at a blind tasting by Wine and Spirits Magazine. In 1996 Chris Figgins, Gary and Nancy’s son, graduated from WSU with a degree in horticulture and joined the family business. In 2001 Chris took the role as head wine maker. In 2007 Amy Figgins, Gary and Nancy’s daughter, joined the business after a long stint in Corporate America.
We met Amy at Leonetti Estate. Having such a high respect for Amy and her family, I was a bit nervous. But Amy met me with such a welcoming nature I quickly relaxed and saw her as a kindred spirit. She showed us the facility with more hospitality than one could ask for. My assessment was that Amy Figgins is a beautiful person, not just on the outside but on the inside as well.
After Amy spoke of the family history we went on an awe-inspiring tour. She showed us the production facility that had three gorgeous barrel caves. I got my first look at an amphora: a large clay pot used to age wine and is the oldest wine aging technique. Clay is porous and allows oxygen into the wine, but unlike oak is neutral and will not impart any flavors to the wine. We then moved into the library, where we were met by beautiful dusty bottles, and surrounded by memorable vintages that are still drinking wonderfully. Leonetti wines age for an outstanding 20 to 30 years!
We finished our grand tour in the tasting room, where Amy poured the 2016 Figgins Blend, 2017 Leonetti Merlot and the 2017 Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon. Each wine was pure perfection, but my personal favorite was the Figgins red blend. This Cabernet dominant red is beautifully aromatic with notes of blue fruit and herbs. The wines palate is complex with dense red fruit and lush tannins. I am honored to have 3 bottles left of the 2013 Figgins blend in my cellar.
Leonetti held up to all the hype. This tour transcended all others for me and I will remember the experience for the rest of my life.
Please contact me to ask about my vintages and varietals of Leonetti and Figgins.
“My love for food and wine is due to the social aspect of sharing the experience with my family and friends.”