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Buty Winery: A Relationship in a Bottle

Buty Winery: A Relationship in a Bottle

Buty Winery has been on the forefront of a lot of the growth happening in the wine industry as Walla Walla has gained a tremendous amount of notoriety throughout the wine world.

Winemaker Chris Dowsett and Founder Nina Buty

After more than two years of planning, which included a trip to New Zealand to learn more about Sauvignon Blanc, Nina Buty would make her winery became a reality in 2000 when she launched her initial vintage of five wines. Buty Winery was founded on the belief in the artistry of the blend. Nina was attracted to making intentional blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, while twenty years ago in Washington state winemakers were not doing at the time. “It seemed such blends could be a summation of power, grace and nuance,” said Nina, “I felt compelled to take the leap with my former partner to actualize that vision.”

Buty Winery has been on the forefront of a lot of the growth happening in the wine industry as Walla Walla has gained a tremendous amount of notoriety throughout the wine world. For Nina it is more than that- it is where she watched her children grow up.  “My children are now older and more obliged to school, but they still visit the vineyards and winery. They participate in some of the rituals and activities for both, and eat their weight in grapes,” said Nina.

Over the years, the winery has become a more finely-tuned operation. Buty Winery has found its rhythm as it continues to work with the many of the same growers they have utilized since the beginning. Nina describes it as, “The more various dances with Mother Nature, the more trajectories one sees and the more lessons one has. The wines’ voices has become more clear over the years.”

Chris Dowsett in the vineyard

One key to Buty Winery’s success was bringing in Zelma Long, an American pioneer in the winemaking industry, as the consulting winemaker.  Her gained knowledge from working with global companies and small wineries alike has greatly assisted the winery in establishing a good set of processes that has given the winery a more global perspective. “She is immensely qualitative and quantitative. Zelma taught us so much about berry sampling for data analysis, not just cluster sampling. She is a sounding board, and offers balanced and insightful feedback,” said Nina.  Zelma works along side Chris Dowsett, who is ultimately in charge of winemaking at Buty Winery. Chris has been with the winery for ten years. Texture and aromatics are just as important to Chris as flavors in the wine. “I believe one can get a solid impression of winemakers from how they make their white wines,” said Nina. “His are insightful, honed, aromatic, fresh and layered.”

Buty Winery’s approach to marketing has been about sharing stories and sharing wines. “We have always enjoyed a wonderful synergy between finding great restaurants with cuisines that have a lovely conversation with our wines,” said Nina. Nina looks for partnerships with organizations that she believes and people she has had fun working with, which includes the Seattle Theater Company that included hosting a pre-show event for a Bob Dylan concert.

The winery has focused on some more unusual blends in Washington state. They make a white blend of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle in conjunction with a red blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. “Being a Washington winery, and more specifically a Walla Walla winery that focuses on white wines as much as reds is a defining characteristic and it differentiates us from the crowd,” said Nina. Each of the wines is as personal as a “relationship in a bottle” as Nina describes it. The wines in their own way capture a relationship to the land, the people who tend the vines, the people who make the wine, and ultimately the people who enjoy the wine.

Nina in the vineyard

“My vision is to make wines of place, that are layered and nuanced, that have a voice and a story- to make wines of intention,” noted Nina.

Wine Recommendations

Rediviva of the Stones, Rockgarden Estate 2016

Beautiful aromatics this wine has that lovely dark plum jam intertwined with a little bit of a floral touch on the nose with a classic Syrah black pepper and cherry finish. Sourced from the Rocks District of Milton-Freewater appellation in Walla Walla, this blend is 81% Syrah; 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Mourvèdre.  At 13.9% ABV, this balanced structure gives the wine a nice silky texture.

The grapes all come from Buty Winery’s Rockgarden Estate, which is renown for the famed basalt cobblestones that make up the alluvial section in Walla Walla Valley.

Columbia Rediviva Phinny Hill Vineyard 2016

This lush and earthy dark red beauty has aromas of dark plums and black cherry on the front with a little touch of French toast and vanilla. Sourced from the east face of Phinny Hill in the Columbia Valley this blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon and 21% Syrah gives this wine added weight and depth at 15.1% ABV.

Cook up a Ribeye and let this wine do the rest.


Conner Lee Vineyard Chardonnay 2018

This wine has a nice compliment of apples and pears on the nose. While showing nice levels of acidity this balance of fruit flavors including a little bit of cinnamon on the back.  Sourced from Conner Lee Vineyard located approximately 1,100 feet on the plateau of Radar Hill south of Othello, Washington– a cool site in a warm sunny arid region of Eastern Washington.

At 14.1% ABV, this medium bodied wine would pair nicely with a Pacific Salmon.

2017 Semillon; Sauvignon Blanc & Muscadelle

Aromas of lemon and orange blossom touch down on this classically structured white Bordeaux blend. A nice creamy texture permeates this wine from start to finish while maintaining a nice balance of acidity and minerality.

The grapes are sourced from three vineyards in the Columbia Valley. At 13.4 ABV,  the core of Semillon in this blend makes it a great partner with goat cheese or possibly a pasta primavera depending on what you feel like.

2016 Merlot & Cabernet Franc

On the nose a display of red berries with a little bit of spice and cocoa while on the palate you get that classic jammy red fruit with some touches of red pepper.

This blend contains the highest percentage of Cabernet Franc in over a decade given the amazing fruit 2016 yielded. Sourced from the Conner Lee Vineyard and coming in at 14.2% ABV, this is a great Spring time outdoor grilling wine.