Trio Vintners reopens this month

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WALLA WALLA -- Trio Vintners is slated to re-open this month under new ownership.

The Walla Walla winery that opened in 2006 and became known for its Italian varietals changed hands at the start of January and has been closed for a winter break through the ownership transition.

Trio founders and co-winemakers Denise Slattery and Steve Michener sold the business to Karen La Bont, a Walla Walla resident and former co-owner of Patit Creek Cellars. The purchase price was not disclosed.

"We have found in Karen a person who is as deeply passionate as we are about every aspect of the winemaking business, from continuing our personal style of winemaking and customer relations to growing the brand beyond the Pacific Northwest," Slattery said in a prepared statement.

The downtown tasting room at 102 S. Second Ave. will re-open Feb. 17. New hours of operation ¬?-- 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, or by appointment -- will begin then.

The winery was the first graduate of the Port of Walla Walla's winery incubator program. The new tasting room opened in the Drumheller Building last summer. Slattery said she and Michener had not been contemplating an ownership change until they were approached by La Bont?©.

"Life does kind of take funny turns," Slattery said. "It seemed like in these times an offer was something to take a look at."

Trio's annual production has grown to about 1,500 cases of Sangiovese, Mourvedre, Tempranillo and more from Walla Walla and Eastern Washington vineyards. The winery has retail and on-premise distribution in Seattle, Portland and Spokane markets, as well as locally.

La Bont joined Walla Walla's wine industry as co-owner of Patit Creek Cellars with Ed Dudley in 2008. She had retired from a 30-year corporate career where she worked as director of network engineering for Verizon Communications. With a long-range goal of owning a winery, she devoted weekends to learning about enology and viticulture and worked at various wineries among numerous appellations.

Slattery and Michener plan to continue to have a presence in the Walla Walla wine industry in a yet-to-be-determined role. Michener will continue as a registered nurse at Providence St. Mary Medical Center. Slattery may use her extensive background in marketing in a future role.

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