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Tuesday, Mar. 17, 2009

Longtime Washington winery closing its doors

After 28 years, one Washington winery is closing its doors - not for economic reasons but because the owners decided it's time to move on and do something else.

Tucked in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains near the town of Sequim, Lost Mountain Winery has been crafting superb red wines since Romeo Conca launched the operation in the early '80s. It was the 18th winery in the state when it started. Today, there are more than 500 wineries in Washington.

Upon Romeo's death in 1997, son Steve Conca and his wife, Sue, ran the operation by themselves. In recent years, the two decided it was time to retire. The last full vintage was 2005, and Steve made a bit of the winery's trademark "Distinguished Dago Red" from the 2006 vintage, as well as a 2007 Pinot Grigio.

"It had nothing to do with the market," Steve said. "We decided three years ago to slowly wind it down."

In September, the winery sold all of its major winemaking equipment. The couple had discussed selling the winery, but they also wanted to turn the facility back into their home, and they didn't necessarily want the winery leaving the family. A daughter, who lives in the Seattle area, had no interest in taking over the operation, Steve said.

The closure has come as a shock to longtime fans and customers, Steve said, especially those who appreciated the winery's dedication to low-sulifite wines.

Last weekend, they released their final three wines, including a special wine called Arrivederci, a blend of Cab, Merlot and Syrah. The Concas said they will stay open until the last 600 cases of wine are sold, which they think will last them through summer. After that, they plan to do some traveling and even take time to hike in the Olympics - something the winery has kept them from doing through the years. And there are a lot of projects the couple want to get to.

"Sue has a long list of things for me to do," Steve said with a chuckle.