For the last few years, the wine market has been flagging. Some winemakers backed off production, waiting for the surplus to be snatched up by the $8-a-bottle crowd. Others created second-tier labels to sell off extra wine, including vintners who might otherwise have expanded into more expensive blends. Sadly, a few Washington wineries went under altogether. But that’s not the whole picture. Even as this drama unfolded, exciting new wineries began popping up all around the state. They include second labels from second-generation vintners, and new ventures by transplants to Washington state.
Whatever their origin, these winemakers are focusing on quality, whether sourcing fruit from single vineyards to highlight the particular terroir of an American Viticultural Area (AVA) or creating the perfectly balanced blend of fruit from different vineyards to let the purity of Washington fruit shine through. Here are 10 new wineries (opened within the past five years) that show how the Washington wine scene is shifting and changing—and staying vital—even as it recovers from difficult times.
Conor McCluskey and David Houle, two entrepreneurs from Colorado, planted their winemaking dreams in Walla Walla when they bought an old cherry orchard near Christophe Baron’s Cayuse Vineyards and replaced the trees with Syrah in 2007. Their backgrounds in marketing and wealth management helped them set up shop; they eventually partnered with three investor friends: Kevin Dibble, Billy Adams and David Kunstle.
The “five guys from Colorado” wanted to create earthy, terroir-driven Rhône-style wines without cutting corners, and they have done it, with the help of consulting winemaker Sean Boyd of Walla Walla’s Rotie Cellars. This lovely Syrah from their estate vineyard in The Rocks area, south of Walla Walla, shows a beautiful aromatic combination of smoked meat, lush fruit, orange zest and spice.