Made in the Northwest: Liberty Lake Wine Cellars

LIBERTY LAKE, Wash. — The first vintage for Liberty Lake Wine Cellars was in 2005. Mark and Sarah Lathrop were actually wine club members before buying it from the previous owners in 2015.

“We’d been looking at some businesses to start and we took that as an opportunity and a sign,” said Mark Lathrop, the winemaker and co-owner. “We wrote an email and three months later, we owned the winery.”

Mark and Sarah just finished their fifth vintage and are currently making about 2,500 cases a year.

“This is kind of where we want to be for now,” said Lathrop. “We focus on making a lot of varietals and small lots of each, so that we’re rotating them through the tasting room, so there’s always something new for people to try when they come in.”

Like a zinfadel, tempranillo and carmenere. All rare varietals for local wineries.

“We can grow them here. They make fantastic wines and they’re really fun to do,” said Lathrop.

Liberty Lake Wine Cellars gets the vast majority of its grapes from the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area, near Benton City.

“It’s the biggest, baddest grapes you buy in the state. And then we put them in a lot of new oak and you end up with a big, bold red wine.”

In fact, it calls itself Red Mountain unfiltered, because it doesn’t filter its red wines.

“It’s a little trickier. You have to be a little cleaner,” said Lathrop. “And you keep a little bit of that character of the wine that you lose when you do a filtering.”

It also has a line of white wines under the label Tajiha, which is a family name from Sarah’s side.

Because it’s a smaller winery and doesn’t use a distributor, Liberty Lake can price its wines much lower than some of the big boys.

“So even though we’re pulling grapes from maybe the same row next to one of those bigger wineries, we can be a better value than going to one of those places, because you’re going to get the same wine,” said Lathrop.

But don’t lower prices for lower quality. Liberty Lake has won several awards for its wines. Lathrop says its most recent vintage has several wines rated 90 points of higher by Wine Enthusiast.

“It’s pretty thrilling and it’s, what’s the word? Validating of the hard work.”

And now that Washington is in Phase Wwo of its COVID recovery plan, the winery can finally have customers in its tasting room and on its patio and lawn.

“It’s some light at the end of the tunnel. We’re looking forward to it.”

They’re also looking forward to making Liberty Lake Wine Cellars the best winery in Spokane.

“I think we can focus on quality and be something that our area can be proud of.”