What we’re drinking: Novelty Hill

Brynn writes:

I think it’s safe to say I’ve made it pretty clear that my favorite wine is a good oaky, buttery Chardonnay. But in my defense, I’ve also come to enjoy the complexity of red wines, especially those that have the sweet oak flavors I love so much.

I recently had a red wine at my good friend Kelly’s house. She’s quite the red wine fan — specifically Cabs, but when push comes to shove, she loves all things red.

She’s taken to liking the wines produced by Novelty Hill, a Washington winery based out of Woodinville. Acclaimed winemaker Mike Januik makes the wine for Novelty Hill and his own winery, Januik Winery, which he started in 1999.

(A little background on Januik: He broke into the Washingotn winemaking scene in 1983, making him a veteran winemaker in our state that has seen its wine industry grow exponentially over the last decade. Januik also served as the head winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle for 10 years.)

While Novelty Hill is not a second label wine in the truest sense of the word, it falls into a gray area. Januik serves as the winemaker for both wineries, which while independent, share a tasting room and production facility in Woodinville.

Price-wise, the wine is slightly more affordable than wines coming from the Januik Winery label. Quality-wise both are superb.

Back to the wine. Kelly poured me a glass of Novelty Hill’s 2007 Royal Slope Red. My first reaction? What great balance.

The wine had hints of spice, but with the sweetness of oak that came from its 18 months spent in new and 1-year-old French oak barrels.

I didn’t realize the diversity of grapes that went into producing the supple flavors of this wine until I looked it up online. Januik practically threw everything in the barrels but the kitchen sink.

Here’s the breakdown from Januik:

Tasting Notes
Generous and round offering delicious, red ripe plum, blueberry and currant aromas and flavors, with a lip-smacking, spicy finish.

An unusual spring heat wave just before bloom resulted in smaller-than-average berry size in 2007 adding concentration and flavor to the finished grapes. Good set after bloom, ideal summer growing conditions, and warm fall days and cool nights that ripened grapes slowly and evenly gave winemakers a near-perfect vintage that produced wines with excellent natural acidity and deep, fresh flavor.


  • Gentle pumpovers during fermentation helped extract generous color and flavor while producing supple tannins
  • Gravity racked every three months to soften and clarify the wine
  • Aged 18 months in predominately French oak barrels, both new and one-year-old

Blend: 35% Syrah; 26% Merlot; 11% Cabernet Franc; 9% Cabernet Sauvignon; 6% Sangiovese; 6% Mourvèdre; 5% Petit Verdot; 2% Malbec

Alcohol: 14.4%

While I highly recommend red wine drinkers give this one a try, I do have one recommendation: Give the wine time to breathe before serving. I loved the glass Kelly poured me at her house — the wine had been opened and partially drank the night before. She left it corked on the counter until I tasted it.

When I bought a bottle of my own, the first few sips of wine were a little tight. But later, after the wine sat in my glass for a bit, the flavors opened up, giving me a similar glimpse of the wine I had at Kelly’s.

This wine does run a little steeper in price than what we normally recommend — it’s listed online at $18 a bottle. However, I just spotted it at the Fred Meyer in Port Orchard for $14 – a steal if you ask me (I bought two bottles on the spot).

A big thank you to Kelly for pouring me the glass the other night and introducing me to Novelty Hill — I hope you all will give it a try (and let me know what you think).