Vintner shifts focus to Corvus

Stephen Lessard's other venture, Whitman Cellars, defaulted on three loans and owes more than $2.6 million.

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WALLA WALLA -- The winemaker and co-owner of the shuttered Whitman Cellars said he will plant his attention on his other winery, Corvus Cellars.

Stephen Lessard will now focus his winemaking exclusively at Corvus, the winery he co-founded and later opened to the public last November at the Port of Walla Walla's incubator complex on Piper Avenue. Starting in the middle of this month, Corvus will be open every weekend, Friday through Sunday.

The news was announced days after the seizure of his other venture, Whitman Cellars. Acting on a court order last Friday, the Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office seized the winery and property at 1015 W. Pine St. as part of a lawsuit by Community Bank.

The bank claims the winery defaulted on three loans and owes more than $2.6 million. The bank is in the process of obtaining a court-appointed receiver to sell the assets, according to last week's announcement.

Owners of Corvus Cellars said in the follow-up announcement Monday that the wine industry is among numerous sectors shaken by the economy. Nevertheless, Corvus co-owners Lessard and Randall Hopkins "remain optimistic that consumers will continue to support Washington wines for their world-class quality and value.

"For those that can weather the storm, we know that the Washington wine industry will emerge even stronger in the future."

Established in 2004, Corvus Cellars produces about 1,200 cases of wine annually. The winery moved into the Port's incubator complex at the Walla Walla Regional Airport late last year after the departure of Trio Vintners created an opening.

Corvus uses fruit from the Walla Walla, Red Mountain and Columbia Valley appellations. It also grows its own estate wine grapes on Red Mountain. Its current releases include a Red Mountain cabernet sauvignon, Red Mountain syrah- petite sirah, Columbia Valley cuvee red blend and a soon-to-be-released Walla Walla viognier.

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