Lost Mountain winery to close; owners plan to travel
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Steve and Sue Conca, owners of Lost Mountain Winery, are retiring this summer; after 12 years of working and living together 24-seven, they still like each other and are looking forward to hiking in the Olympic Mountains and perhaps traveling to Steve's ancestral homeland of Italy. -- Photo by Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

LOST MOUNTAIN WINERY will have its last new-release party on June 27.

It will stay open as long as the wine lasts, say owners Steve and Sue Conca, who are retiring and closing the winery.

Lost Mountain Winery, 3174 Lost Mountain Road, is 6 miles south of U.S. Highway 101, just west of Sequim.

The tasting room is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

For information, phone 360-683-5229 or visit www.LostMountain.com.
SEQUIM -- Sue and Steve Conca stepped out onto their deck Tuesday afternoon, without wine glasses.

It was, after all, fairly early in the day.

Still, the lack of stemware was noticeable, given that the Concas have poured countless glasses here at the Lost Mountain Winery tasting room, which later this year will close for good.

Yet all they carried was a bottle of Arrivederci, their new blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, merlot and syrah.

When Steve set it on the table, he seemed not to know what to do with his hands.

So Sue reached for one, held it and made an extraordinary statement.

"We've lived and worked together 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 12 years, and we still like each other."

So, how does this happen?

A visitor to Lost Mountain would speculate that their harmony has something to do with their wine.

Sue said it's a matter of shared goals and division of labor according to strengths.

"We sort of figured out how to cooperate. We flowed into what each of us is good at," she said. "We were so focused on making it work.

"We set aside our petty grievances . . . and we complement each other."

This summer, the Concas will flow into another era of their life together as they retire Lost Mountain Winery.

They want to start planning some trips across the United States and, they fervently hope, to northern Italy where Steve's great-grandparents once operated a restaurant.

Lost Mountain Winery will have its last new-release party on June 27; it will feature the Arrivederci -- Italian for "farewell" -- vintage; the Wildfire Red Cabernet-merlot blend and the Cellar Rat Red No. 9, which Sue calls "the workers' wine."

When Lost Mountain closes for good depends on how long the wine lasts.

Ever since announcing their retirement earlier this month, the Concas have been, in Sue's word, "inundated" with orders.

Their 90 cases of Arrivederci, whose label shows a sun setting behind the mountain, is half gone already, she said.

Children won't take over

Sue, 61, and Steve, 59, have grown children in Western Washington, but they are not interested in taking over Lost Mountain Winery.

"They all have other interests," Sue said. Besides, "they didn't want to take the pay cut."

Running this family business has been strenuous and not terrifically lucrative, Sue said.

To produce their 1,500 cases per year, the Concas unload by hand 40,000 pounds of grapes trucked west from Sagemore Farms near the Tri-Cities.

Then they crush, barrel and bottle the wines without heavy equipment.

"We figured out that we handle every ton of grapes nine times, from unloading them to carrying [bottles] out the door to people's cars," Sue said.

Lost Mountain's wines contain no added sulfites, the preservatives used by the vast majority of wineries.

The Concas produce small batches that don't need the chemicals, Steve said, and 90 percent of Lost Mountain wines are sold at the tasting room.

The other 10 percent are poured in restaurants or sold at the QFC supermarket in Sequim.

Steve learned to make wine from his father, Romeo (pronounced Ro-MAY-o), who founded Lost Mountain in 1981.

At that time, Washington had just 18 wineries.

Today the Evergreen State is home to more than 600.

Steve and Sue worked with Romeo during the 1990s, and when he died in 1997, they took over operation of Lost Mountain.

Together they've striven to keep Romeo's spirit in their work and in their wines.

"He had Old World manners," Sue said of her Italian-American father-in-law, "and he was a lot of fun to be around."

Sue and Steve have had some fun while working, too. They don't take things too seriously: Lost Mountain wines have names such as Distinguished Dago Red and Cellar Rat, which they call an "unpretentious red table wine made to be consumed early and often."

Sweet moments

The most satisfying part of the wine-making life, Sue said, is knowing you're part of your customers' sweeter moments.

"I think of all the tables our wines have sat on, all these years, after new babies were born, at Christmas . . . we get to come out for these historical times in people's lives."

Steve added that even after the winery closes, he'll handcraft a little for family and friends.

He and Sue will also have a chance, for the first time in a couple of decades, to take a fall vacation and go for some late-summer hikes in the Olympic Mountains.

"We're still healthy. We said, 'Let's quit while we're ahead,'" Sue said. "And we know we can travel together."

________

Sequim-Dungeness Valley reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 01. 2009 8:42AM
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