Exit Trio Vintners. Enter Corvus Cellars

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Out with one Trio. In with another.

The departure of Trio Vintners at the Walla Walla winery incubator complex has left a vacancy that will be filled by three owners of another winery: Corvus Cellars LLC.

The Benton City-based winery will be the fifth and newest tenant at the incubator village, located on Piper Avenue at the Walla Walla Regional Airport industrial park. The operation is owned by Randall and Jennifer Hopkins and Stephen Lessard.

Port of Walla Walla Executive Director Jim Kuntz said the winery is expected to be moved in and operating at the end August or early September.

The winery will join CAVU Cellars, Kontos Cellars, Adamant Cellars and Lodmell Cellars.

Wineries at the village, designed as a startup for new wineries establishing themselves before they build their own or move into other private sector facilities, operate on a six-year nonrenewable lease. Trio Vintners was the first to leave the facility when owners Denise Slattery and Steve Michener moved to the Drumheller Building in downtown Walla Walla in July.

Corvus Cellars was founded in 2005, according to its application sheet to the Port. But it has not had its own production facility or tasting room until now. Several releases of wines -- made with grapes grown on Corvus' 6-acre vineyard property in the Red Mountain AVA -- have been produced through a relationship with Walla Walla's Whitman Cellars.

The wines -- including Corvus Cuvee, Corvus SPS and Corvus Cabernet Sauvignon -- are made by Stephen Lessard, winemaker and partner at Whitman Cellars, with grapes grown by Randall Hopkins.

Corvus' first release was in 2007, four barrels of a 2005 cabernet sauvignon that sold out quickly.

Its 2006 vintage was 225 cases released in 2008, according to the information included in the application for tenancy.

The winery currently produces about 850 cases from grapes not only sourced at the Corvus Vineyard but through contracts with other growers. Production is expected to be limited the first five to seven years to less than 2,000 cases.

"We already have customers from across the U.S. that have asked us about coming to visit our winery," Hopkins wrote in the application to the Port.

"We are confident that having our own facility will encourage more travel to Walla Walla and thus have an economic impact."

Strictly Business is a local business column. Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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