The Kontos Cellars Story

The dragonfly, a symbol of change and a representation of life's journey, chose us to tell it's story.

From the wheat fields of Eastern Washington, inspiration for the dragonfly was handed to us by our own beautiful Walla Walla Valley. The dragonfly is a meaningful symbol to our families.  Representing change, our dragonfly has launched us into a life of crafting wonderful experiences and memories.  

From the moment we began contemplating the dragonfly as our winery's predominant image, we were inundated with dragonflies.  They would find us in the barrel room while topping off wine. They would find us in the middle of wheat harvest, 10 miles away from any reliable water source.  They seemed to come out of nowhere, wherever it was that we were and would inevitably find thier way onto our label.  

"A great winemaker will always remember a particular year by what was given to him, and what he did with it....In wine, and in life."

Our Philosophy

Specializing in ultra premium wines that are born from the heart of the Walla Walla Valley

Kontos Cellars is a 1500 case winery that primarily focuses on ultra premium Bordeaux varieties grown in the Walla Walla Valley.  We create one flagship blend (Alatus) each year, and then focus on letting the varietals speak for themselves.  We believe that blending the same variety between vineyards and using a very extensive French/American oak program creates wonderful complexity, while allowing each grape to showcase it’s own inherent character. Working closely with vineyards such as Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills, Les Collines, Boushey and Stone Tree has continually given us beautiful fruit that is truly a cut above.

 

Chris & Kelli Kontos - Partners

Getting better with time!

Chris has grown up farming wheat in the Walla Walla Valley with his family, and spent the last several years farming for himself.  Kelli joined the farm partnership in 2007.  

Chris and Kelli were married in 1999 and have 2 daughters, Taylor and Caimbry.

Kelli is a stay-at-home mom, and the moral compass for us all.

Chris manages the business, and is a jungle-gym for his girls in the evening. 

Cameron Kontos - Winemaker

Growing up in a winemakers household within the Walla Walla Valley, Cameron had a great deal of exposure into the world of wine and winemaking.

Growing up in a winemakers household within the Walla Walla Valley, Cameron had a great deal of exposure into the world of wine and winemaking.  Our father, Cliff Kontos of Fort Walla Walla Cellars, is a remarkable mentor and is always excited to share his knowledge of life and of wine.  Cliff is easily the most important influence on Cameron's life; as a winemaker, husband, father, and a man.  It didn't take long before he realized that this was his calling and his lifelong connection to his father.  

In 2002 he joined Forgeron Cellars, and quickly became a part of their family. After a short time, Cameron was promoted to assistant winemaker.  During his eight years there, Marie-Eve Gilla helped further his knowledge of crafting wines in a traditional French style.  He and Marie still compare notes and enjoy a treasured friendship to this day.

Cameron's own style of winemaking has evolved and matured with time.  The blending of the Alatus is of primary importance.  He then focuses on blending wines within the same varietial but from various vineyards throughout the Walla Walla Valley.  A very extensive oak program gives him the finishing finesse that make Kontos Cellars wines stand proud.

Cameron and his wife Becca have two daughters, Brynnan and Becket.

 

 

Walla Walla As We Know It

As 6th generation residents in Walla Walla, we have been part of it all

Walla Walla is many different things to many different people and has undergone some drastic changes over the last 10 years.  A college town rich with art, wine and culture, always eager for more.  And a town that is proud of our history, deeply rooted in agriculture and sense of community, trying to hold onto what sets us apart.

No one in the valley is more aware of these separate trends than us.  No one is more proud of the way our valley has worked together to grow and yet remain the same.

As 6th generation residents in Walla Walla, we have been part of it all.  The first bank in the North West Territories, the first railroad in the area, 3rd generation wheat farmers, and now 2nd generation winemakers. 

Welcome to our Walla Walla!    

The Alatus

"With Wings"

Alatus - "with wings" Named after our grandpa Tom "Doc" Campbell's sailboat based in Port Ludlow.  Our family has great memories of sailing the San Juan Islands doing what you do on a 63' sailboat. 

Every year, we put a signature blend together that will be given the name "Alatus". The focus of the Alatus Blend will be balance.  It will be blended in a fruit forward style, with just the right amount of oak.

Has Walla Walla Changed?

As 6th generation residents in Walla Walla, we have been part of it all

"Walla Walla has changed..."  This is something we hear from time to time by people who are put off by the wine industry and all that comes along with it.

Honestly, it is still full of the same friendly people, but only when you are willing to get involved, participate and put yourself out there. We have known a handful of people who move here and have a hard time making a true connection with the town, but far more have instantly become a part of the community and will always feel this is home.  When residents move away for one reason or another, most can't wait to get back or will always feel a kinship with Walla Walla.  People visiting from outside the area are amazed by the friendliness and openness of our community. We have traveled extensively and the warmth and acceptance we see in this town is nearly unrivaled.  In the summer of 2015, the Gentlemen Of The Road was a huge platform for the town to showcase its charm, and people were blown away!

Granted, when things go wrong, you can't hide and you better expect people to still know everything. But for better or worse, you can't escape the hugs and sympathy. Sometimes you just want to go to the grocery without someone expressing sorrow for your loss. 

Our family came here in 1858, and Kelli's arrived in town around a decade before. Both families have grown and fought to stay in town through the decades. We have succeeded and failed. Some have left, but seem to always return and create new opportunities.  There are three of us brothers (all married Walla Walla girls), six aunts and uncles and a ton of cousins and extended family who all live here.

If you really dive into the demographics of the wine industry, it is truly an organic Walla Walla thing.  It started with a number of local residents who had a passion for wine and were looking to diversify. Followed by dozens of other local families who were looking to branch out and find opportunities where there were few. Almost every other winery in town has management teams, winemakers or investors who have been part of Walla Walla for decades or generations. A solid number of winery owners and winemakers are retired or daylight at the Corps of Engineers. The wine industry has helped attract world renowned MD's to the hospitals and highly accredited professors to the colleges. WWCC is now ranked 1st amongst Community Colleges, country wide. 

The town has a couple of the obligatory fast food chains and one Applebee's. Everything else is locally owned!  Through the 1970's-80's downtown was drying up.  The new Mall didn't thrive and is currently in ruins.  The Eastgate Mall was barely holding on.  Once the wineries started to take hold, a terrific group of citizens formed the Downtown Foundation.  This organization set forth with some great plans to revitalize downtown and make it a functioning and thriving playground for visitors and locals alike.

People needed a reason to stay in town. It takes a minimum of 4,000 acres for one family to really make a living off of dry land wheat. Fewer if you can snag a pea contract, but that was boom or bust depending on the year. There are barely over 3,000 acres of grapes in the entire Walla Walla Valley. The canneries were going away long before the grapes came in and a number of supporting businesses were following them. Alfalfa seed farmers were getting their tails handed to them year in and year out. Apples were losing to Japan. Cherries would make big money every five years... Asparagus is highly labor intensive, as are the onions, and both fell victim to global pressure and the year round availability of quality produce. 

The great thing is, we still have all these industries and commodities, but they are at a more sustainable scale.  Wine grapes have gone in here and there, just like any other agricultural product. Small scale and with an eye on diversity and quality. There is a reason why Walla Walla is becoming recognized world wide, and it's not because it is an angry, yuppie town with commercialized restaurants and nationwide chains. When we were young, It used to be cool to go to the big city. Now people in the city get excited about visiting Walla Walla. 

Walla Walla continues to reinvent itself. Honestly, it is regaining some of the glamour that it had back in the day.