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2005 Leonetti Reserve  $189.99
2005 Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon  $119.99
2006 Leonetti Merlot  $109.99

Leonetti Cellars, the story

Gary Figgins’ first exposure to the world of wine came as a child when his maternal grandparents—immigrants from Italy who settled in the Walla Walla Valley—served him small portions of diluted wine produced by hand in their dirt floored cellar. Frank and Rose Leonetti never conceived that years after their deaths these first tastes of wine would inspire the birth of a winery that would place their name on bottles of world-class wines: Leonetti Cellar.

Completely self-educated in the art of making wine, Gary discovered a further passion for wines when as a young father and army reservist he made frequent trips to Northern California. Side trips to California’s wine country inspired Gary to begin making wines at home. In the beginning, he fermented numerous fruits and berries from the bountiful Walla Walla Valley—with varying degrees of success.

Soon, Gary’s entrance into wine production would come full circle, when with the help of his uncles, an acre of cabernet sauvignon and a bit of white riesling would be planted on a hillside above the original Leonetti homestead in 1974. After several years honing his skills as an amateur winemaker, Gary would bond Leonetti Cellar in 1977 and produce its first wines in 1978.

What his early wines lacked in quantity—produced in a tiny cellar beneath his home—they made up for in quality. Pouring his wines for anyone who was willing to taste them, Gary and his wife Nancy soon realized they were on to something when demand for the limited bottlings gradually began to outgrow production.

Disregarding the skeptics’ advice otherwise, Gary expanded the winery until it was beyond the scale of an evening-and weekend-project. He then quit his job as a machinist at a local can manufacturing plant to pursue his winemaking passion full-time.

Over the years, Gary’s dream of an architecturally inspiring building to produce Leonetti wines in has been realized. After years of collecting native basalt stones with members of his family, he built a beautiful structure complete with underground barrel cellar. A further addition with subterranean caves was completed in 2000.

Gary’s philosophy of winemaking is to maintain total control over the winemaking process from start to finish. To that end, Leonetti Cellar has recently expanded its vineyard holdings in the Walla Walla Valley to complement its fruit purchased from elsewhere in the Columbia Valley.

Always an innovator in the wine industry, Gary utilizes an aggressive regimen of oak barrels to complement his intensely flavored wines. He has even gone so far as to hand-pick oak logs from throughout the nation, which have been air-dried for years at the winery and then sent away for cooperage.

All of this attention to detail has brought enormous demand for the consistent quality of Gary’s wines, and made Leonetti Cellar wines among the most sought-after in the world. Gary remains humble about his winery’s successes, choosing to resist the temptations for increased production and remain a truly hands-on winemaker.

The Walla Walla Valley is a viticultural area of superlatives, not just in the sense of the wines it produces, but in terms of the geologic events in which it and its soils were formed. Our climate could not be better suited to world-class red wine production, as our growing season is long, warm, and virtually devoid of rainfall thanks to the rainshadow effect of the Cascade mountain range, which divides Eastern Washington from its soggy Western half. This allows us to carefully control the growth of the vines through judicious irrigation of our deep, well drained soils. These soils were formed rather recently - geologically speaking - around thirteen thousand years ago. During this time, as glaciers retreated toward the poles at the end of the last ice age, a series of enormous floods, known as the 'Bretz' or 'Spokane' floods inundated the Walla Walla Valley to an elevation of 1200 feet as water draining from the ice-dammed Lake Missoula down the Columbia River, backed up at the Columbia gorge and into the Walla Walla Valley. The silt deposits left behind were picked up by the prevailing winds and blown into what are now beautiful rolling hills of 'Loess' (pronounced 'luss") which surround the Walla Walla Valley on all sides. At the same time, Mt Mazama in Oregon was repeatedly erupting, and the fallout from these explosions gives our soils a high percentage (10-15%) of volcanic glass, which contributes to fertility and excellent water drainage. We are so blessed to be working in the soils and climate of the Walla Walla Valley, and believe that it is growing, and will continue to grow, some of the finest wine grapes on earth.

Wineries and vineyards are popping up like mushrooms! We never would have believed that when we started Leonetti Cellar in 1977 as the Walla Walla Valley’s only winery, it would be one of only 6 as late as 1995, but is now one of over 30 and counting! The acreage under vine here in the valley has grown to over 1,000 acres as the reputation and demand for our world-class grapes and wine has grown tremendously. We are proud and humbled to see the growth of the wine industry here in our sleepy little town, and only hope the next decade brings great prosperity to all.

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