By Leslie Kelly – Guest Blogger
Andrew Januik was born to make wine. The 30-year-old son of legendary vintner Mike Januik –– the man who helped put Chateau Ste. Michelle on the map in the 1980s before launching Novelty Hill-Januik — Andrew said he’s not exactly sure when he knew that was going to be his life’s work, but it was early on.
“I think that a big part of me always knew how special the wine industry was and how lucky I was to have the opportunity to grow up around it and that I most likely would end up pursuing a life in winemaking,” he said. “But I started to work in wine cellars when I was 12 or 13, helping out on weekends and summers. By the time I entered high school I already had the winemaking bug and was working consistently and ended up making the first wine of my own while still in high school (a rose of syrah).”
“I have tried to use my label as a sort of creative outlet and a chance to evolve as a winemaker and try lots of different and exciting winemaking techniques,” Andrew explained. “I believe it’s important in winemaking, especially as a young winemaker, to experiment with your wines and the techniques you use in order to find and develop a style that is unique to yourself. More than anything these wines have allowed me to do that!”
Naturally, those duties keep him very busy, yet he has still found time for a side project, a labor of love that takes him far from home.
“I have been going down to the Southern Hemisphere for a number of years now (South America and South Africa). Initially, I was going it as an opportunity to learn new techniques and work with new types of wine,” Andrew said. “And, of course, to work with varieties that we have but are vastly different in other countries. It’s been invaluable to my growth as a winemaker, so much of what I incorporate into my wines are from ideas, techniques, and philosophies that I have learned from other great winemakers around the world.”
“I love Argentinian Malbec, especially from the Uco Valley, which is very high elevation and produces Malbec that is very elegant and complex. Because of this I decided to make some wine from the Uco Valley (primarily Malbec with some Cabernet Sauvignon blended in),” he said. “The idea of making a wine from the best grapes (in my opinion) of Mendoza with a style that is part Argentinian and part American was very exciting and I couldn’t resist the opportunity. Luckily, I have a great community of friends in the industry down there that have helped to make it all possible.”
The wines will be available in the U.S. within the next couple of years.
In the meantime, he continues to grow his skill set in Woodinville, recently appearing in a video interview about Novelty Hill-Januik’s role at the Auction of Washington Wines. It will once again be the stunningly beautiful setting for a lavish private barrel auction lunch that’s part of the action-packed week of events.
Taking over the reins as the official spokesman for the winery is something his father, Mike, was happy to pass along to his son. “Andrew’s just so good at it,” he said. (Plus, that gives Mike more time to plan and plant his raised beds full of tomatoes and veggies on the property.)
Andrew is happy to shine the light back on his dad, and on the others influential industry leaders who’ve played a huge role in his development as a winemaker:
“There is so much to learn about the process and at times, it is very technical, so we have just had constant conversations about winemaking for almost two decades. But there is always more to learn and his knowledge is incredibly vast,” Andrew said. “Luckily, I’ve also been able to learn from many other great Washington winemakers, including Scott Moeller, who has been part of the Novelty Hill-Januik family since nearly the beginning. Also, it was great growing up and learning from John Bigelow of JM Cellars and Charlie Hoppes of Fidelitas.”
Talk about an impressive sense of community! Let’s hear it for Woodinville!!
Leslie Kelly has been writing about Washington wine since the 1980s. Follow her latest adventures at OurGrandTour.net.