Every year for the last eleven years Food and Wine Magazine has selected a Winemaker of the Year. This is an extremely prestigious award, and it marks the winemaker in question as creating some of the very best wines North America offers. This year, for the first time ever, Food and Wine Magazine has selected a Washington winemaker their Winemaker of the Year. Charles Smith is a relative newcomer to the Washington wine scene, but he's already made his mark in terms of Washington wine that's unabashedly characteristic of the state.
Smith abandoned a career of managing European rock bands to create K Vintners in 2001. Although his family history includes home winemaking, this was a deliberate career change for Smith who wanted something challenging and engrossing. K Vintners is in Walla Walla, Washington, at the foot of the Blue Mountains. K Vintners wines are sourced from the Wahluke Slope and Walla Walla Valley.
K Vintners began by specializing in small carefully crafted batches of wine; his first effort was a limited release Syrah. As the winery's expertise and reputation increased, Charles Smith added two new lines to his K Vintners limited releases. Smith subsequently added two new lines meant more for consumers than collectors. The Magnificent Wine Company and Charles Smith Wines: The Modernist Project are focused on mid-ranged wines. Smith is known for bold marketing, label design, and full, robust flavored wines. The Modernist Project wines, in particular, are wines designed for the table, for immediate consumption, but that are carefully crafted to by typical of that particular varietal and appellation. The Charles Smith wines have names like "Holy Cow,""Kung Fu Girl Riesling," and "Old Bones." The marketing style is deliberately brash and "rock star" in approach. Every year a few of the releases sell out almost immediately.