Cart 0 items: $0.00

The Thief

Our blog was created to help make the world of wine and beer easier to understand and fun to navigate.  There are a million things to know in this industry, we just want to help you understand the latest news and trends from around the globe.  So sit back with your favorite sip and let's go on an adventure.


Allan Crum & Emily Riley
April 6, 2020 | Allan Crum & Emily Riley


Who doesn’t love a buddy story? Woody and Buzz, Butch and Sundance, Syrah and Viognier! Prospice is, at its heart, a buddy story. Its co-owners/winemakers, Jay Krutulis and Matt Reilly, studied together at the Walla Walla Community College Enology and Viticulture program before founding their winery. They opened to the public in 2019, and we were immediately impressed by the elegance and definition of their wines. Matt and Jay craft beautifully balanced wines that are stylistically timeless while remaining firmly rooted in place. I can attest, having poured wine for both of them on multiple occasions, that they’re also super nice guys to boot.

Matt and Jay both worked as Cellarmasters for two of the best wineries in the valley (Gramercy Cellars and Tranche Estates, respectively) before striking out on their own. Their 2017 Les Collines Syrah puts this pedigree on full display. Partial whole cluster fermentation gives a wild, sappy edge to the classic blue plum of Les Collines Syrah. In fact, it was recently awarded 92 points and an Editor’s Choice from Sean Sullivan at the Wine Enthusiast. “Even in these difficult times, the dream is still alive for small producers in Walla Walla. There are very few regions where you can bootstrap a winery and produce 92+ point wines right off the bat,” says Sabrina Lueck, Instructor of Enology at the WWCC. We recently had a chance to taste their new Gamache Vineyard Viognier, and frankly, it was delicious. We expect big things in the future for Matt and Jay.

An Interview with Matt and Jay:

How did the two of you decide to make wine together? Tell us a brief history of the evolution of Prospice, in your own words.

We met in the WWCC Enology & Viticulture program, where we worked on a number of vineyard and winemaking projects together. One thing that was clear right away was that our palates were creepily similar — when tasting wines together, we will write the same tasting notes with alarming regularity. We also had similar visions for the wines we wanted to produce and the kind of winery we wanted to run, so it was a natural fit.

Compare and contrast your Les Collines Syrah with your Resurgent Syrah. They seem to be very different styles of wine, even though the vineyards themselves are fairly close.

Winemakers love Syrah for its expressiveness and diversity: It can exhibit fruit, spice, herb, and savory components in widely varying degrees of intensity, and it showcases terroir arguably better than any other variety. Our two Syrahs come from vineyards that are less than 8 miles apart, are the same Phelps clone vines, and are vinified very similarly, but they end up representing very different stylistic points on the Syrah spectrum. This difference is almost entirely attributable to the difference in the vineyard sites, and we love being able to pour these two wines together to illustrate the versatility of Syrah within our relatively small valley.

Les Collines is planted on rich, fertile loess soils hundreds of feet deep at the base of the Blue Mountains. Our Les Collines Syrah is all about texture, nuance, and complexity all in one. It combines dark fruit, beautiful herbaceous notes, and a mild salty, savory undertone -- each in an understated way, but which all combine to form a lively, expressive wine. It is, to us, a much more Old World-style expression of Syrah evocative of the northern Rhône valley. 

Resurgent Vineyard sits on the valley bottom of the South Fork of the Walla Walla River and is planted in ancient riverbed soils, full of cobbles and basalt sloughed off the surrounding cliffs. The soil types are virtually identical to the famous Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, though Resurgent sits almost 700 feet higher in elevation, and thus sees much more influence from the mountains. Our Resurgent Syrah is much more brooding and savory, exhibiting a more smoky, meaty profile; however, we tend to find acidity and aromatic notes of citrus zest that tend to lift and brighten the overall profile just a bit, making the wine a bit more approachable than "Rocks" Syrahs can sometimes be. We attribute this brightness to the elevation and mountain influences on the vineyard.

With the current crisis, it is easy to forget that the valley recently experienced catastrophic flooding. I’ve heard that Resurgent Vineyard was dramatically affected. Will you still be able to source Syrah from this vineyard? Do you know anything about the vineyard’s future, and the general future of the South Fork/North Fork plantings?

Resurgent took a huge hit from the spring floods. A significant percentage of the vineyard was washed away entirely -- vines, trellising, the works. Other blocks had significant damage short of total destruction. We are somewhat fortunate that our Syrah block is the highest block in the vineyard, and farthest from the river channel itself, so it was largely unaffected by the flooding. We've obviously been in contact with Dr. Brack, who at last check in was in discussions with FEMA about the resources available to help rebuild and recover. He is optimistic about the ability for our vines at Resurgent to continue with relatively normal production in 2020, so we are hoping for the best, but there's no doubt that this is a significant blow to Resurgent's overall production and operations.

Your new Gamache Viognier is delicious. Do you have any favorite Viognier producers that you look to for inspiration, either in Condrieu or elsewhere?

Not particularly. We tend to think of the Prospice Viognier as everything we love about Viognier, made in our own style.

How do your vinification techniques differ depending on fermentation vessel (oak vs stainless)?

The only thing we currently ferment in oak is the Viognier (all neutral barrel fermented). Any differences in vinification are driven much more by the grape/wine that's being produced than by the fermentation vessel. For example, our vinification techniques for the Rosé and the Viognier are largely identical, even though the Rosé is fermented in stainless and the Viognier in oak -- but these obviously differ radically from the techniques used across the board in our red wine production.

What winemaking project of yours are you most excited about right now?

This is a little like asking which kid is your favorite! Honestly, we're still at a stage where we're primarily excited about Prospice as a whole, and getting it established and running sustainably. There may come a time when we have a pet project, or a specific block of fruit that we're really jazzed about, but right now what we find most delightful are the surprises or the unexpected developments. For example, Jay was really concerned about our 2018 Les Collines Syrah for more or less its entire life up until the day we bottled -- he worried that the acid was just too prominent, too tart. Now that it's been in bottle for a couple of months, we find ourselves enjoying it possibly more than any wine we've produced up to this point.    

What do you hope to see Prospice accomplish in the next 5 years? (Winemaking or other)

More than anything, we would like to see the growth of an enthusiastic and devoted community around Prospice and the wines we're making. Critical acclaim and scores are great, and we've been fortunate to receive some great praise for our early releases. We'd love to reach a point at which Prospice is consistently mentioned as one of the most respected producers in the state (who wouldn't?). Honestly, though, that's less important to us than, say, a couple from Boise who comes into our tasting room for the first time and just falls in love with our wine, our story, and our experience. We just want to keep making wines that we're really proud of, and never sacrifice the commitment to craftsmanship and authenticity that's been central to everything we've done so far.

If you could make wine anywhere in the world other than Walla Walla, where would it be and why?

Jay: Pomerol or St. Émilion – while my first "aha" wine was actually out of the Graves on the left bank, I've consistently found the intricacies and complexities of right bank wines, rich with yummy Merlot and Cabernet Franc, to be the most inspiring for me.

Matt: Rhône Valley in France - I have always been Rhône focused. My appreciation for all wines, regions, and styles has grown immensely during my time in the wine industry, and even more so once we began production of our own wines, but I have always gravitated towards Rhône or Rhône influenced wines. 

What other wineries or wine professionals have you drawn inspiration from? What businesses and people outside of the wine industry have inspired you?

Jay: I don't have any "wine heroes" or any wineries that I've always idolized, to be honest. I will say that dozens and dozens of colleagues in the industry here in the Walla Walla Valley have been unbelievably generous and supportive -- I won't start listing names, because I'd inevitably leave one or two off. But I am so grateful to be living out this wine dream in Walla Walla, because I think the community here is so uniquely supportive of all its members. Outside the wine industry, I'd say Steve Jobs -- a guy who was unrelenting in the pursuit of his vision and his passions. I think personally I wouldn't have gotten along with him at all, but I deeply respect what he achieved. He also gave a commencement address at Stanford in 2005 (check it out on YouTube) that was influential on my own thinking as I made the decisions to step away from my corporate legal career and pursue this wine dream.

What would you like consumers to know about your business during this crisis?

That we will survive, and thrive on the other side. We appreciate everyone who finds a way to support us right now -- if you have the means and desire, by all means, we'd love for you to buy some wine. Our Wine Club members are amazing -- having a big community of customers ready and eager to receive our wines, and in many instances adding wine to their spring shipment, is a massive help in being able to keep the lights on and keep rolling.

But we know this is a time of huge uncertainty, worry, or fear for many people. Nobody should feel uncomfortable or bad if they don't feel able to spend money right now for what is, let's face it, a luxury good. We are in the enviable position that our main asset is arguably just getting better as it sits in barrel and bottle a little bit longer before we sell it!

Are you offering delivery? Pickup? Have you changed your shipping policies?

Absolutely! We are happy to provide free delivery to anywhere within reasonable driving distance of Walla Walla. We are also offering $15 flat rate ground shipping for all orders, with shipping included for any order over $400.

How have you been occupying your time during “shelter in place”?  In what ways has your life been affected outside of your work?

Jay: I am very much an introvert at my core, so the current circumstances play right into my comfort zone in a lot of ways. I think a key to maintaining an even keel in this kind of situation is to focus on the things you can control, and try not to worry about the rest. Certainly I have been spending a lot of time thinking about things I can be doing to stabilize, develop, and grow our business -- things like the live online tasting we did last week, or thinking about possible landscaping work at the tasting room. I have also been trying to appreciate the fact that this kind of "break" doesn't come along very often (I hope!), so I am also trying to make the most of that fact, and enjoying more leisure time. Reading more books, playing games, going for walks with my wife, things like that. I realized last spring that I typically won't be much help with gardening with the tasting room is open, as our spring weekends are generally peak season -- so I am trying to take advantage of this opportunity to be out in the yard and garden much more this year.

Matt: I have been getting a lot of quality family time, and in some circumstances too much quality time...any parent gets that. With schools and childcare programs closed down we have a 5 and 2 year-old to keep track of each day. My wife works remotely for a company on the east coast, so I watch the kids in the morning while she works and then I take care of my work responsibilities in the afternoon or at night. We look forward to an eventual return to "normal days" but consider ourselves lucky that we have the flexibility to approach each day in the manner that we do.           

Have you had to delay any rollouts or changes to your business because of COVID-19?

It remains to be seen how sales progress through the year, but we will almost certainly delay some future releases because of this slowdown. We are not entirely unhappy about it -- since opening we've had a desire to have the opportunity to give some of our wine more time in bottle before release.

No one really seems sure how long the pandemic will last, with estimates ranging from weeks to months. How long can your business survive the current climate?

We have been extremely disciplined and deliberate with everything we've done since starting Prospice. As a result, we've ended with production slightly larger than where we thought we would be at this point, without cutting any corners on any of the critical inputs (e.g., no compromises on fruit sourcing, barrel program, etc.) — but by focusing very hard on controlling costs and lots of sweat equity from us, our families, and our friends, we've kept costs as tightly controlled as possible. So aside from a truck loan, the business is debt free, with lots of assets in barrel and bottle. We are admittedly fortunate that neither of us is reliant on the winery for household income at this point -- that would be a game changer, no question.

Short answer, we are as confident as we can be, given all the unknowns, that Prospice is in a good position to ride this out until we can get back to what we'd all rather be doing.


Time Posted: Apr 6, 2020 at 12:01 AM
Allan Crum & Emily Riley
April 5, 2020 | Allan Crum & Emily Riley

itä Wines

We love the east side of Walla Walla. The weather is different, the trees are different, the animals are different (bears and elk and mooses, oh my), and the wines are different too. They marry the sunny power of eastern Washington to a streamlined, frisky structure. Kelsey Itämeri, the owner and winemaker of newly founded itä Wines, draws all of her grapes from cool, high elevation sites on Walla Wall’s east side, leaning into the brisk freshness of vineyards like Les Collines (which appropriately translates to foothills), Breezy Slope, and her family’s farm.

We recently had the opportunity to taste two different bottlings of 2019 Les Collines Semillon from the young winemaker.

“The packaging is smart, sharp, and so is Kelsey. She’s never been one to do things the usual way,” says Sabrina Lueck, Instructor of Enology at the WWCC.

The first was fermented and aged in stainless steel, and it is delicious. You could almost taste the wind in it, with its crisp fruit and taut structure. The second was fermented and aged in neutral oak, a Semillon with a bit more meat on its bones. Maybe it was the current atmosphere of uncertainty, but we really loved the warmth and generosity of this one. Don’t get me wrong, it is not a big or heavy wine. The east side lift is there, like a fresh squeeze of lemon on a home-cooked plate of food. This is comfort wine, pure and simple. Have a second helping.

An interview with Kelsey Itameri:

What other wineries or wine professionals have you drawn inspiration from? What businesses and people outside of the wine industry have inspired you?

Oh man, so many! I love making white wines, something that I first realized while I was working at Balboa Winery with Tom Glase and Tyler Grennan. Then I had the opportunity to work with Ali Mayfield when she was at The Walls Vineyards (she’s now at Wahluke Wine Co.). She’s an amazing winemaker, especially when it comes to white wines and it was great to work with her and pick her brain every day. Virginie Bourgue of Lullaby Wines has also been an incredible mentor - she helped my family prepare and plant a test plot of grapes at our property in the foothills of the Blue Mountains and she’s been an incredibly wise and calming teacher as I went through the throes of trying to manage the test vineyard without knowing anything about plants and then making wine in my garage and kind of messing things up, but also kind of doing things right… It was all over the place, viticulturally and enologically for a bit and she really helped me keep an even keel.

Outside of the wine industry I draw a lot of inspiration from small business owners within my family. My late grandmother, the inmutable Lataine Garrick, was a firecracker! She had four kids and still started several of her own businesses, first making and selling praline candies to the Bon Marché in downtown Seattle, and then founding and operating a successful clothing company for tall women for many years (all of the women - and men- in my family are quite tall). When things are tough I like to remind myself that they were almost certainly tougher for her, and she still got through it. I’m also very inspired by my parents, both of whom have founded and run small businesses throughout my life. They’ve really shown me that you can pave your own way in life.

Why did you choose to focus on east side vineyards? Could you describe the soil and climatic conditions of east side vineyards, comparing and contrasting with other parts of the valley? How do you feel these differences show themselves in the resulting wines?

I chose to focus on vineyards on the eastern side of the Walla Walla Valley because that is where my family’s farm is and eventually, I’d like to grow all of our grapes on that land. I figured that in the meantime, I might as well try to learn as much as possible about what grapes are doing well along that ridgeline and really dig deep into that terroir as much as possible.

Right now I source from Les Collines Vineyard and Breezy Slope Vineyard, both of which have silt loam soil types, as does my family’s property. The elevation of both of these vineyards is higher than most of the rest of the valley, with Les Collines ranging from 1100-ish to 1370 ft above sea level and Breezy Slope is at 1700 ft above sea level. This elevation has a bit of a moderating effect - in the summer it is not as hot at these sites as in the “bowl” of the valley and in the winter it is not as cold.

In terms of how these aspects of the vineyards show themselves in the wines: As a consumer, I like higher acid, lower-alcohol wines, possibly because my hangovers have gotten so much worse since I turned 30… In any case, I think that these sites are very good for producing that style of wine. In addition, the moderation of the climate compared to some other parts of the valley makes it so that some of the more delicate flavors from the grape aren’t as susceptible to being burned off during our crazy heat waves, which really adds depth and complexity to the wine.   The resulting wines all share a lighter-bodied, savory, highly complex and striking character no matter what the varietal, so I avoid over-ripening or manipulating the wine to preserve that.

Could you describe Les Collines vineyard, the blocks that you source from, and what you think are some of that vineyard’s signatures?

I think that Les Collines Vineyard is one of the bangin-est vineyards around, but I am incredibly biased because I buy most of my fruit from them. That said, the management is top-notch - Brad Sorenson and Brooke Robertson really know their stuff and they’re always incredibly patient with me when I ask them a million vineyard questions, both for itä and when I’m thinking about my family’s test plot. Les Collines is known for their Syrah, especially from some of the higher elevation blocks. I got really lucky to be able to scoop up a ton of Syrah from block 46 in 2019, which is pretty high up on the hill. The Syrahs from there are just incredible - savory and intriguing while still retaining a bit of delicacy, especially on the nose. I think I heard someone refer to it as “mountain wine” which to me conjures lovely images of Heidi hiking through the Alps eating tiny mountain strawberries by a brook. I also source Primitivo for our rosé from block 27  lower down on the property, which is very close to the Petit Verdot block 10 fruit I use.  The Merlot is sourced from middle of the hill in block 33, and probably one of the most under-rated fruit sources in Walla Walla - Les Collines Merlot has beautiful aromatics.  One site-specific note is that both of our  Sémillon wines are from Les Collines, one sourced from the top of the hill in block 51, and the other from the bottom of the vineyard in 4a.  I thought the lower-lying fruit would develop a little less quickly due to less sun exposure and ripening potential, but in fact it turned out ripen a earlier and  the lower-lying 4A went into the barrel-fermented sémillon 2 of 2, while the hillside grapes from block 51 went into the leaner, crisper sémillon 1 of 2.

Semillon makes some of the great wines of the world, from Sauternes in Bordeaux to the Hunter Valley of Australia. What drew you to Semillon? Why two of them? What are some of your favorite Semillons from Washington and abroad?

Real deal answer: it was available. Honestly, there’s not that much white wine grown here in Walla Walla, and I had limited myself even further by sourcing only from the eastern foothills. I chose Sémillon because it is a neutral grape, as opposed to the very aromatic wines produced from Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc. I wanted a neutral grape because I wanted to do a side by side production in stainless and neutral oak barrels to show the impact of winemaking on the finished wine.

Well, it’s kind of hard to find Sémillon bottled on its own, but I’ve had some lovely Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc wines from Washington as well as from Bordeaux.  Also, if I could afford it, I would have Sauternes for dessert every day… That said, hands down, my favorite wines are chardonnays from the Côte d’Or in Burgundy or Champagne. It’s always the right time for Champagne.

How do your vinification techniques differ depending on fermentation vessel (oak vs stainless)?

For the sémillons, both were picked on the same day and they had very similar chemistry even though they are from different blocks at Les Collines. The block with slightly higher Brix went into the barrel-fermenting program since the higher alcohol would give that wine a bit more weight. In general, I like to ferment white and rosé wines at a lower temperature, so they all went through a long, cool fermentation to preserve delicate aromatics. Toward the end of primary fermentation, the barrel fermented wines had some battonage (lees stirring)  once to twice weekly to add some more body to the finished wine. The barrel fermented sémillon also had a complete malolactic fermentation, whereas the stainless fermented sémillon and rosé did not. Since the stainless sémillon and rosé had residual malic acid, they were both sterile filtered prior to bottling, whereas the barrel-fermented sémillon is unfiltered.

You recently worked a harvest in Burgundy. Where did you work, and what was the day to day work like? Did you learn any cellar tricks? What were the biggest differences between Burgundian cellar techniques and those that you’ve experienced in Washington? What were the biggest differences between the vineyards? What were some similarities?

I did! I worked at Domaine Jean Charton in Puligny-Montrachet, where they make top notch grand cru and premier cru chardonnays, in addition to some village level whites and two tiny lots of pinot noir. It was an incredible experience and I kind of had to keep pinching myself during the first week or two of work. We started every day at 7:30 in the morning, and if I was in the cellar that meant getting the press and grape elevator ready before the first fruit came in, helping to take brix and temp on fermentations, and maybe going out to sample vineyards that hadn’t been picked yet. At 9:30 AM we took a break for casse-croûte, which is a snack of baguette, cheese or sausage, and wine. It only happens during harvest and it is pure magic. When grapes came in from the vineyard, everyone loads up the press and then I would clean the elevator. When the press cycle was over, I would clean the press pan and get ready for the next press load. When there was juice to get barrelled-down, I would clean barrels and mark them with the lot numbers. Lunch would happen from about 12-1:30 and during harvest everyone eats together and there’s amazing 3 course lunch every day. Then its more loading of the press and cleaning of the press, etc. Afternoons were also when innoculations would happen to start fermentations. There were 2 presses and sometimes we would have 10-12 total pressloads a day… They really had it down! And sometimes I would be in the vineyards picking or scouting for pests or counting missing vines to prep for the next year.

Cellar tricks! I don’t know. They have the coolest tools and I’m sure that trying to describe them with words would make me sound insane. Where I worked they didn’t use barrel racks, just wooden chocks, so I had to learn how to “drive” a barrel by rolling it on its head. It was not pretty at first. Also, I will not work another harvest without casse-croûte - definitely a tradition I’m bringing to itä wines. 

Differences in the cellar - Americans are constantly sanitizing everything, and that was not the case where I worked. But we’re playing different games. In Walla Walla there’s fruit coming in for 2-3 months versus 2-3 weeks in Burgundy. Things would get disgusting over that amount of time if they weren’t being thoroughly cleaned. Additionally, working entirely with white wines with a pH of 3.1-3.3 vs. working with Syrah from the Rocks with a pH of 4 opens you up to a whole different level of microbiological risk. So, different strokes for different folks.

Biggest differences in vineyards was vine spacing, training and height. The vines are planted meter by meter, so if you’re standing between two rows, they’re almost touching you on either side, and they’re not trained very high, so I could just straddle a row and hop the wires if I needed to move to a different row. Also no drip irrigation.

Similarities: This is going to sound like I’m tooting my own horn, but the way that the slope of the Côte d’Or dropped down to a very fertile plain full of wheat production did remind me of the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Also, I had just taken Weed Identification at WWCC and we have so many of the same weeds! I have a whole album of weed pictures I took in Burgundy on my phone. Because I’m a very cool person.

Tell us about your family's vineyard. Where is it? What’s planted? What are the wines like? What are some of the challenges that you have faced? What are your plans for the future of this vineyard?

My family’s vineyard is actually an acre test plot. It is located southeast of the town of Walla Walla in the foothills of the Blue Mountains pretty much smack dab between Les Collines and Breezy Slope. In the test plot we have 10 different varietals of grapes planted: Aligoté, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. Additionally, we have 3 varieties of cherries, 2 varieties of apples, nectarines, peaches and raspberries planted.

The wines are crazy! They all have very nice acid and an interesting savory note to them. They’ve all been dry farmed for the past two years, and they have very high YAN, which means that I haven’t needed to add nutrients to the must to finish fermentation.

Challenges have been that I moved here from a big city and knew nothing about plants or fermentation! The first few years were rough, especially when it came to managing powdery mildew. But I went to school and we got a real sprayer for the vineyard and that’s really helped make it so that I don’t cry every time I go there. It’s also been a challenge making the test plot wines in my garage. There’s no drain, the water has chlorine in it so we have these ghetto ass filters you screw on to the hose from Amazon. And we have 10 freaking micro lots of wine… so it’s finicky.

We’d love to plant a commercial scale block or two and start sourcing from there for itä wines!

What is your desert island wine?

Champagne! Grand Cru Burgundy!

How has your business been affected by the virus?

Well, I had this grand plan to get a boatload of interest in itä wines by pouring at Taste Washington, which was scheduled for March 21-22, and then move straight into opening our tasting room the following weekend (March 28-29) when I would work out all of the opening weekend kinks in time for WW Spring Kick Off Weekend the first weekend of April. As you know, Taste Washington and the WW Spring Kick Off Weekend were both cancelled, and in a supreme moment of irony, the order to close tasting rooms was enacted on the same day as my final County Health inspection for the tasting room. I’ve had to pivot to online sales (something I know/knew very little about) and hope that all of the friends and family who have ordered wine actually like it! It’s tough not being able to give folks the chance to try before they buy, especially since itä wines is a completely new winery.

In the latest Silicon Valley Bank State of the Wine Industry report, they addressed the contemporary tasting room and club model with this question, which seems particularly salient now during the pandemic: “In an increasingly digital world, what industry would insist that its consumers first physically come to its place of business to buy its wares?” How has your business addressed this tension? Have you changed your practices or sales focus in the face of COVID-19?

Yes, we’ve pivoted to entirely online sales and trying to make sure that our web presence is representative of the brand and that it “feels” as similar as possible to the vibe we were going for in the tasting room. That said, I think people are going to be jonesing for a wine country weekend when this is all over, and the tasting room experience is an integral part of that type of escape.

I know that, before the ban, you were planning to open your tasting room in the incubators. Is the space finished? Has there been any discussion of rent forgiveness or postponement in the face of the crisis?

The space is 99% finished… I’ve left some projects on hold since I know I won’t be able to open for a bit and the focus is now squarely on online sales and marketing. I think there has been some discussion about rent forgiveness, but I’m not sure what the status is there.

What would you like consumers to know about your business during this crisis?

We have wine to sell! And we can ship to most states in the US! We are offering free delivery in the Walla Walla area and $15 ground shipping on orders of 6 or more bottles to help folks stock up while staying home. Right now we are offering our whites and rosé from 2019, our inaugural vintage. In the fall we will release our 2019 Pinot Noir from Breezy Slope and in 2020 our remaining reds - a Syrah and Merlot/Petit Verdot blend from Les Collines Vineyard.

Are you offering delivery? Pickup? Have you changed your shipping policies?

Yes, free delivery of any order in the Walla Walla area and $15 ground shipping on orders of 6 or more bottles.

No one really seems sure how long the pandemic will last, with estimates ranging from weeks to months. Can your business survive a prolonged shutdown?

Ummmmm I sure hope so. I think that there are advantages and disadvantages to being a business that is just starting up. In terms of disadvantages, I don’t have a large customer base or wine club that I’ve built up over the years, and no one has ever heard of me as a winemaker or itä wines as a brand. So that’s an uphill battle - every single customer so far has bought wine blind…  On the other hand, we’ve been really scrappy in terms of making sure our “burn rate” is as low as possible. I’m the only employee at the business, so I don’t have to worry about grappling with laying off other workers. Most of my wines that I’m selling this year are in bottle already, and I won’t have another big round of expenses until the fall during harvest, so maybe we can squeak by. Changing our level of production is always a possibility.

Time Posted: Apr 5, 2020 at 12:01 AM
Allan Crum & Emily Riley
April 4, 2020 | Allan Crum & Emily Riley

Ducleaux Cellars

What do you keep in your garage? Probably a car, or a lawnmower, maybe some tools. How about a small winery? Toby Turlay and Chris Dukelow produce their small lot wines in their garage turned winery, continuing a garagiste tradition that has its roots in Bordeaux. They craft white, rosé, and red wines in their Rocks district garage, but it was their pet-nat that really caught our attention. What’s more fun than impeccably made wine from a garage? Impeccably made sparkling wine from a garage!

Pet-nat, or petillant naturel, a sparkling winemaking style that has taken the world by storm recently, has deep old-world roots (much like making wine in a garage). It goes something like this:

Rather than going through the complicated, multi-year rigamarole of traditional methode champenoise, a winemaker making pet-nat simply waits until their fermenting grape juice is at the correct sugar level, then sticks it in a bottle, often under a bottle cap rather than cork. The yeasts in the wine will continue to eat sugar and produce CO2, which will be trapped in the bottle, causing carbonation. Hurray, bubbles! We are very excited that more local winemakers are experimenting with this technique, producing joyous wines that seem to disappear faster than physics should allow. We could all use more bubbles in our lives, especially if they’re artisan garage bubbles from a small, exciting new producer like Ducleaux Cellars.

An interview with Toby Turlay and Chris Dukelow:

Ducleaux Cellars is named after one of you.  Can you tell us that story?

The name originated from Chris’s last name, Dukelow.  The Dukelows originated in France and the spelling was probably Ducleaux or Duclos.  They were Huguenots (Protestants), were persecuted by Catholics, and they fled to Ireland in the 1600’s.  The potato blight brought them to the US in the mid 1800’s.  The Huguenot Cross has concentric Fleur de Lis and is part of our label.

How did the two of you decide to make wine? Why Walla Walla? 

There are two different story versions. (1) Chris grew up in Richland and moved to Seattle for his professional career.  Returning to visit his parents periodically, they would go wine tasting and Chris became enamored with the winemaking craft and “perceived” lifestyle.  Between jobs in 2011 we decided to make wine in our garage as a hobby.  This hobby spiraled into bonding our garage and doing our first commercial vintage in 2013.   Since then, Chris attended the Northwest Wine Academy and Toby the Walla Walla Enology and Viticulture program.  We wanted to move to Eastern Washington wine country to escape the craziness of Seattle and loved the soul and vibe of Walla Walla. We found this amazing house and property in the eastern most corner of the Rocks District with an unobstructed view of the Blue Mountains.  It was love at first sight.

(2) We have a combined family with 6 kids and there was a 9 month period where all of them were teenagers at the same time.  Given the kid’s milk consumption and our wine consumption, we were faced with the dilemma of either buying a cow or starting a winery.  A winery seemed like a better long term solution.

Has Ducleaux Cellars opened to the public yet?

No, our plan was to open at the beginning of April, but obviously that has been put on hold. We will open as soon as it’s safe and the all clear signal sent.

When did you start? How many cases do you produce? Do you have a specialty or focus, either varietally or stylistically?

We started commercially with the 2013 vintage and stayed very small (<400 cases annually) until the 2018 vintage when we became more serious about growing the winery.  We produced a little over 1000 cases in 2018 and 2019.  We expect to make approximately 1,500 to 2,000 cases annually from our new estate Rocks District vineyard.  Stylistically, we are predisposed to Rhone inspired blends with little to no new oak. Toby loves sparkling and will always do something with bubbles annually.

Does Ducleaux Cellars have any vineyards of their own? If so, what approach are you taking in the vineyard?

We currently have 8 acres of new vineyards planted in the Rocks District which will start to produce in 2021.  We planted Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc. The vineyard is managed by Chris Banek, one of the top viticulturists in the Northwest.  We are trying to farm sustainably and Salmon Safe.

We love the Ducleaux Call Sign Pet Nat, and we’ve been really excited by the growing number of Washington producers that are producing them. Take me through the production of your pet nat. How do you make your picking decisions? At what point during fermentation do you bottle it? Is it disgorged?  

We love the Pet Nat craze!  Toby wanted to make a true Methode Ancestrale wine and keep it very natural.  Although it looks like a white grape, it’s 100% Grenache that was picked early to keep sugars low and acid high. At harvest, brix was 19.5 and PH of 3.23 and she felt the phenolics had developed sufficiently to pick.  There is a rule of thumb that for every 4 grams/liter of remaining glucose/fructose you get 1 bar of pressure (Champagne usually has about 6 bars) from further fermentation.  We wanted Call Sign to be around 4-5 bar so we bottled at 16 grams/liter and kept it in a warm room to finish fermentation.  We don’t disgorge, so you’ll get the murky lees at the bottom. Chill upright to let the lees settle. When pouring, it will get more cloudy.  This is natural. The name “Call Sign” was chosen to honor Toby’s father, a career Naval Aviator, whose call sign was “Champagne One”.

What is your vision for Ducleaux Cellars in the next 5 years?  

We want to be the fun, non-pretentious winery that you always want to visit when you are in Walla Walla. Serious wines by not so serious people. We have great Rocks District wines at a fair price and it’s the place to bring your friends and family to share a glass, hang by the firepit, play shuffleboard and have a picnic with a great view.

If you could pour your wines for anyone in history, who would it be and why?

Toby: I don’t have a specific person in mind, but it would definitely be someone in France before the phylloxera outbreak. If I could go back in time, I’d travel around France, work the land, go through harvest and see their winemaking process. I’m sure I’d have to work on not freaking out about their sanitation practices. It would be interesting to see their reaction to our style of wines today. If I had to choose one person, it might be Marie Antoinette. I’d love to hear what she was thinking and why she made the choices she did.

Chris: It would be amazing to sit down and pour wine with Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and talk about the current state of affairs.  While imperfect in many ways, both of them practiced civility and unselfishness in helping to craft this amazing democratic experiment while having wildly different views. In spite of their differences, they became very close friends corresponding until their deaths on the same day, July 4, 1826 (50 year anniversary of signing the Declaration of Independence).  What a novel idea that you can be friends, be civil, while disagreeing on many things.

If you could make wine anywhere in the world other than Walla Walla, where would it be and why? 

Southern Rhone areas of Chateauneauf du Pape and Gigondas and the Champagne region.  The beautiful old small villages and vineyards, amazing food and wine along with a simpler life. We’ve been once and we loved it. We’ve found some of Toby’s ancestors are from the Loire Valley, Bordeaux and Champagne regions.

What other wineries or wine professionals have you drawn inspiration from? What businesses and people outside of the wine industry have inspired you?

We both have a background in sales and marketing and an entrepreneurial spirit. Chris’ expertise is business development, launching new tech companies and the financial side while Toby has more expertise in identifying new trends and customer experiences. We were drawn to family wineries with interesting stories, such as Dusted Valley, Cairdeas, Guardian Cellars and Kiona.

What would you like consumers to know about your business during this crisis? 

We’re a small business that was just about to launch when this hit.  It’s unfortunate, but we’ll be ready when the virus subsides. We’ve got a ton of projects to complete in order to open, so in some ways, the crisis is helping us focus. We are happy to offer curbside pick-up and local delivery.

Are you offering delivery? Pickup? Have you changed your shipping policies?  

We are offering both delivery and pickup along with a 20% discount.  We also are offering free shipping for our customers beyond the local area.

How have you been occupying your time during “shelter in place”?  

Working on finishing our guest houses, long walks on country roads, blending trials for our 2018 reds and 2019 whites,  binging on The Newsroom, The Expanse and the trainwreck called Tiger King :-). We have a running scoreboard for our Sequence game.

In what ways has your life been affected outside of your work? 

The realization of how Tom Hanks made a real friend with a volleyball called Wilson in Castaway. We really miss our kids, our family and our friends. Everyone is coping in their own way. Some days are more of a struggle than others. We are trying to see the silver lining and embrace this time, and still allow room for processing and, in some ways, grieving. Toby has no one to feed but Chris, and this is a real problem.

Have you had to delay any rollouts or changes to your business because of Covid-19? 

Launching the entire winery and tasting room.

No one really seems sure how long the pandemic will last, with estimates ranging from weeks to months. How long can your business survive the current climate?  

We have cases of wine, ample toilet paper (we didn’t hoard!) and some savings to hold us over until we can start to grow the business. This situation was obviously not part of the plan, but we are trying to find ways to keep costs down but still try to support other local small businesses so they survive as well. We are all in this together.


Time Posted: Apr 4, 2020 at 12:01 AM
Allan Crum & Emily Riley
April 3, 2020 | Allan Crum & Emily Riley

Devison Vintners

From scrubbing tanks to dusting bottles, if it’s a job in the wine industry, Peter and Kelsey Devison have probably done it. After years of making and selling wine for other folks, they recently decided to launch a label of their own, Devison Vintners. The 2018 Boushey Vineyard Rosé was one of our favorite rosés of last year, a serious rosé made by a serious winemaker that also managed to be fun and delicious. Peter assures us that the 2019 is even better!

Peter Devison studied Enology in New Zealand before running the wine programs for EFESTE and Cadaretta, two very well-known Washington wineries. This experience allowed him to established relationships with some of the best vineyards in the state, including the aforementioned Boushey Vineyard in Yakima, as well as Stoney Vine and Southwind Vineyards, located here in Walla Walla. Peter’s winemaking has a light touch. He utilizes native yeast fermentation for all of his wines, and his reds are typically neither fined nor filtered. This hands-off winemaking may seem as easy as making a list of things that haven’t been done, however, to quote Aubert de Villaine, one of the greatest living winemakers, “Nothing is more difficult than simplicity.”

An interview with Peter and Kelsey Devison:

Devison is a husband and wife team. Do you have any rules about shop talk at the dinner table?

We sit down as a family every night for dinner, which means our 3 year old generally determines the topic of conversation. That being said, he always asks, how are the grapes in your glass? That is about as far as we go at dinner or we just get interrupted.   

Your 2018 Boushey Vineyard Rose was very popular in the shop. How do you approach rose production? What makes Boushey vineyard a great site for rose?

We approach this wine like a white wine, looking for freshness and acidity when we pick the fruit and it goes directly to the press with minimal skin contact native fermented for texture and complexity. The ancient soils, elevation and the Boushey’s expertise make this an exceptional site.

You make two different Walla Walla Syrahs, one from Stoney Vine Vineyard in the Rocks and one from Southwind Vineyard in the hills to the west of Milton Freewater just a few miles away. Compare and contrast the vineyards and the wines. Do you vinify the two wines differently? How do the picking dates compare?

The big differences between the two vineyards are the soil type and elevation (and thus pick dates). Stoney Vine Vineyard, in The Rocks, is at much lower elevation and planted in newer soils that consist of large river stones (like something you would see in Southern Rhone), whereas Southwind is planted almost 600 feet higher and with a steep southern exposure on much older soils consisting of fractured basalt. This imparts drastic differences stylistically, as the wine from The Rocks is extremely supple and funky with a fuller, albeit more delicate, mouthfeel contrasted with the wine from Southwind which displays more purple fruit, flowers and minerality. Stoney Vine has a lighter color as well, more in the red spectrum. Southwind is deeper, more purple/primary inn color.

The pick dates vary drastically, with Southwind coming in 3-4 weeks after Stoney Vine.

The Southwind spends less time on skin (18-21 days) and with less whole cluster inclusion (33%) compared to Stoney Vine which has 50% whole cluster and 42 days on skins.

Many winemakers who work with fruit from the Rocks have commented that the wines have a higher than average ph. Have you found this to be the case? If so, does this change your approach in the cellar?

Yes that has been the case, it doesn’t change much in my approach other than minimizing oxygen. We don’t move the wine much.

What is your cellar protocol like? I know that you specialize in native yeast ferments. How long are your fermentations? Do you use a pied de cuve? Have you had any issues?

We are 100% native. Fermentations last anywhere from 15-21 days unless extended. We do not use pied de cuve, everything is spontaneous. There is always a risk with doing spontaneous fermentation, over the years I have learned how to eliminate the potential for issues.

What do you wish the consumer knew about native ferments? What do you wish other winemakers knew?

It is a beautiful natural process that can bring more depth, richness and complexity.

Whole cluster fermentation in red wine seems to be having a moment. Do you work with whole clusters? If so, how does this affect the fermentations and the finished wines? If not, why not?

With our Rhone’s we do practice whole cluster inclusion at various rates. We like the structure it brings to the finished wine in addition to the aromatic complexity.

What’s a variety that you haven’t worked with yet that you would like to?

Gamay, of course!

What is your desert island wine?

We’d have to fight for this one if we were both on the island.

Kelsey – Nicolas Joly Coulée de Serrant

Peter – Any Barolo from Brunate Vineyard in a good vintage

How has your business been affected by the virus?

We were scheduled to officially launch in March with Taste WA and various wine dinners. We were also actively searching for a tasting room, which is on hold. We were able to shift and launch virtually, but much smaller than planned.

Are you offering delivery? Pickup? Have you changed your shipping policies?

Absolutely! We can deliver locally in Walla Walla and surrounding areas. We are also offering free shipping on orders of 6 bottles or more.

No one really seems sure how long the pandemic will last, with estimates ranging from weeks to months. How long can your business survive the current climate?

The honest answer is we just don’t know. Our strategy was to build DTC while selling directly through many of our channels in the Seattle market. It will take some time to know what that will end up looking like.



Time Posted: Apr 3, 2020 at 12:01 AM
Allan Crum & Emily Riley
April 2, 2020 | Allan Crum & Emily Riley

Rising Star Wineries of Walla Walla (Part 1)

Devison Vintners, Ducleaux Cellars, itä Wines and Prospice 

Four very small, artisan Walla Walla producers are producing inspiring, thoughtful and – best of all – delicious wine!  We will be featuring each of these wineries in blog posts over the next few days.

We asked each of them a series of in-depth questions about vinification, inspiration, their travels, how they've been affected by the flooding and health crisis, and MUCH more!  Check back daily to learn about these great producers.

For today, here are there responses to "Are you offering delivery? Pickup? Have you changed your shipping policies?"

Click on their names to shop on their website, or click here for the special Thief Walla Walla Rising Star 4-Pack featuring one wine from each producer.

Devison:     "Absolutely! We can deliver locally in Walla Walla and surrounding areas. We are also offering free shipping on orders of 6 bottles or more."

Ducleaux     "We are offering both delivery and pickup along with a 20% discount.  We also are offering free shipping for our customers beyond the local area."

itä:      "Yes, free delivery of any order in the Walla Walla area and $15 ground shipping on orders of 6 or more bottles."

Prospice    "Absolutely! We are happy to provide free delivery to anywhere within reasonable driving distance of Walla Walla. We are also offering $15 flat rate ground shipping for all orders, with shipping included for any order over $400."

Time Posted: Apr 2, 2020 at 10:10 AM
Bryan Brammer
March 27, 2020 | Bryan Brammer

Beer Me

While it's super important to support (y)our local breweries, why not alternate with a delicious brew from Ohio or Connecticut? Or even further afield - Belgium or Sweden.

Check out the lineup of beer we have available for in-store shopping (6 feet apart, people!), curbside pickup, FREE local delivery and $10 flat rate shipping. 

Click any beer name to shop! Use code MIX6 to get 25% off a mixed 6-pack!









Bro Beer

Session Hazy IPA – juicy and tropical, brewed with flaked wheat and oats




Abomination & Drugges Bryggeri (Sweden)

Apelsiner Nektariner Vanilj och Spöken IPA

Hazy IPA – loaded with vanilla and citrus flavors with limited distribution; we are lucky to have it!




Against the Grain

Rico Sauvin

Double IPA – brewed with NZ Nelson Sauvin hops which give it a strong fruity flavor described as resembling white wine; Rate Beer gave it a 95




Against the Grain

Retitled Pils

Pilsner – classic, session-able lager




American Solera


Pale Ale – double dry hopped with Citra Cryo and Ekuanot hops




Barrel Mountain

No Bad Days IPA

IPA – citrus, pine and tropical notes with moderate bitterness and light malt base




Blackberry Farm

Classic Saison

Belgian Saison – farmhouse ale, refreshing with complex flavors; Rate beer gave it a 97!




Blackberry Farm


Belgian Saison – hazy farmhouse ale with a creamy mouthfeel; brewed with Huell Melon hops




Blackberry Farm

Boundary Tree

Belgian Saison - hop-forward farmhouse ale brewed with Hallertau Blanc and Citra hops




Brouwerij Verhaeghe

Duchesse Chocolate Cherry

Flanders Red Ale –sour base with 20kg of cherries per 100L, matured in oak casks; Rate Beer score of 97




Evil Twin

Oh My God He’s a Bozo

Imperial Stout- aged in bourbon and maple syrup barrels




Evil Twin

90 Days Dry Aged Stout

Milk Stout – brewed with dry aged malt; 90 points from Rate Beer




Evil Twin

Bikini Beer

Session IPA – 2.7% ABV, “Put on your best bikini and enjoy this very, very drinkable beer in the sun, at this summer’s festivals, or even better use it to slowly seduce your nagging friends with an anxiety for craft beer”




Evil Twin

Excuse Me, Do You Speak French Toast?

Imperial Stout – 13% ABV with soft hints of cinnamon, chocolate & maple




Evil Twin & Two Roads

Geyser Gose

Gose - with ingredients sourced from Iceland including Icelandic moss, rye, herbs, sea kelp, skyr and birch smoked sea salt




Fat Orange Cat

Write Drunk, Edit Sober

Hazy IPA – brewed with Citra, Mosaic and El Dorado hops




Fat Orange Cat

Sweet Jane Blueberry

Hazy IPA – milkshake-style brewed with fresh Connecticut blueberries




Fat Orange Cat

Severe Tire Damage

Hazy IPA – brewed with Simcoe, Citra and Mosaic




Fat Orange Cat

Remember What the Dormouse Said

Hazy IPA – brewed with Eureka and Citra hops




Fat Orange Cat & Decadent

Baker’s Dozen

Imperial Stout – cinnamon, chocolate fudge & ancho chili peppers (no heat, just flavor)




Gueuzerie Tilquin

Tilquin Oude Gueuze à l'Ancienne


Gueuze – cult favorite, highly sought-after; spontaneous fermentation beer, produced from the blending of 1, 2 and 3 years old lambics; unfiltered and unpasteurized, and refermented in the bottle for at least 6 months




Hoof Hearted

Rosé Gosé

Gose – hot pink, tart berry flavor with hibiscus, Rate Beer score of 93




Hoof Hearted

$60 Nachos

Double Hazy IPA – brewed with Citra, Simcoe and El Dorado Hops; scored 93 on Rate Beer






Double IPA – award winning Swedish beer; 99 points from Rate Beer!




St. Bernardus

Abt 12

Belgian Quad- widely regarded as one of the best beers in the world; original 1946 recipe, Rate Beer score of 100!




St. Bernardus

Abt 12 Barrel Aged Sour

Belgian Quad- aged for 3 years to let the beer go sour, then blended with fresh beer





Socks & Sandals

Hazy IPA – peach and tropical flavors; double dry-hopped with Citra, Summit, Mosaic & Rakau hops





Festive Berries

Fruit Sour - kettle soured; brewed with orange peel and Meridian hops; fermented with cranberry and dry hopped with juniper






Madame Molly

Irish Red Ale – clean, balanced, traditional Irish Red





Grapefruit Radler

Fruit Beer/Radler – uses real grapefruit and is very refreshing





Himbeere (Raspberry) Radler

Fruit Beer/Radler – light and fresh, made with fresh raspberry juice




Stillwater Artisanal


Sour/Wild Ale – dry-hopped sour ale with plum




Stillwater Artisanal

Cellar Door

Belgian Saison – balanced and intricate with a dry finish; Rate Beer gave it a 94




Stillwater Artisanal

Extra Dry

Belgian Saison – Annie’s favorite saison; brewed with rice designed to mimic the subtle flavors of sake




Stillwater Artisanal

Gose Gone Wild

Gose – dry-hopped sour wheat ale fermented with Brettanomyces; 99 from Rate Beer!




Stillwater Artisanal

Stateside Saison

Belgian Saison – old world tradition meets new world innovation in this classic farmhouse ale




Stillwater Artisanal

General Gose

Gose - Sour amber wheat ale brewed with orange peel powder, thai chili powder, sea salt and msg seasoning




Stillwater Artisanal & Casita Cerveceria

On Fleek

Imperial Stout – brewed with dark sugars and molasses; Rate Beer score of 98


Time Posted: Mar 27, 2020 at 12:04 PM
Allan Crum
March 25, 2020 | Allan Crum

Thoughts on the Loire Valley

Chenin Blanc

 Harvest at Domaine du Viking

 Silex flint soils at Domaine du Viking

 Plowing at Huet

Quick, name the most versatile wine grape you can think of. A grape that conjures operatic roars from traditionalists, yet also makes the hipsters quit slouching and sit up in their 1chairs. A grape whose dry wines offer depth and lift in equal measures, like lightning striking the ocean. Whose sweet wines can last for generations 2. A grape that makes brilliant sparkling wines with pedigree, age-ability, and vintage statements. A grape that was planted extensively in eastern Washington during the early years of vineyard establishment, championed by Walter Clore. This grape, of course, is…

Shouts from the assembled digital crowd - “Riesling!!!”

Chenin Blanc!

Ok, you’re right, I forgot about Riesling. Fine, Chenin Blanc is one of the most versatile wine grapes. Would you like wines of “punk rock violence, yet of Bach-like logic and profoundness”, to quote the estimable Becky Wasserman? Chenin can do that. Do you need a vine you can crop at 10+ tons/acre while maintaining acidity? Chenin can do that too, Mr. California Chablis. The Dutch brought Chenin Blanc to South Africa in the 17th century to ward off scurvy and boredom, and it is still the most planted variety in that country. The Central Valley of California crushed 300,000! 3tons of Chenin in the late 80’s. From stubby bush vines in the deserts of the Swartland, to tight, temperate rows in the Willamette Valley, Chenin Blanc can go anywhere and be anything.

Though it travels well, the Loire Valley is Chenin’s home. There are references to it as far back as the 9th century, which, I am told, was a very long time ago. If the Loire is its home, then the village of Vouvray is Chenin’s bedroom, complete with Ramones posters and Dead Kennedys stickers. The ultimate punk rock empress of wine, one Jancis m-fing Robinson MW, wrote in her mandatory tome The Decline of Western Civilization 4, “Vouvray is Chenin Blanc, and to a certain extent, Chenin Blanc is Vouvray.” Vouvray contains all of Chenin’s multitudes 5 (dry, off-dry, sweet, very sweet, sparkling, red 6), as well as many of its greatest individual expressions. The biodynamic wines of Domaine Huet are probably the most famous in Vouvray. They cover the full stylistic range, and their sweet wines are especially well known for their capacity to age. Their vineyards, planted on the soft local limestone known as tuffeau and harvested in multiple passes (or tries), produce what many would consider the archetypical moelleux (soft, aka sweet) Vouvray.

The Chenin vines of Domaine du Viking dig through hard silex flint that is only found in the very north of the appellation. There, Francoise and Lionel Gauthier vinify their Vouvray in the sec tendre style (tender dry), similar to a halbtrocken Riesling. There is some residual sugar here, but it is well balanced by Chenin’s brilliant acidity. The Domaine’s importer has this to say of Lionel Gauthier’s winemaking prowess - “It can be said without any equivocation that Lionel Gauthier can eat more sweetbreads than you can.” A glowing endorsement if I ever heard one.

Chenin’s versatility lies with that acidity. If picked underripe, it can be bony and puckeringly tart7. It maintains this acidity late into the season while adding heft and curves to its bones, draping itself in waxy pome fruit while never losing that structural framing. The best Chenins are like an orchard next to an apiary, or like you thought a quince might taste before you’d actually tasted one. Botrytis might bring ginger and honey to the party, and the low so2 crowd might bring mixed nuts, but Chenin will bring acidity with it wherever it goes.

Notes From the Author

[1] Ok, you caught me, “our.”

[2] The 1947 Huet was named one of the 100 greatest wines ever by Decanter magazine.

[3] That’s 40,000 more tons than all of the grapes crushed in Washington in 2018, our largest harvest ever.

[4] Or was it The Oxford Companion to Wine?

[5] I believe Walt Whitman wrote I Sing the Body Electric while sipping a particularly glowing Vouvray

[6] Jk, although the rare red grape Pineau d’Aunis is sometimes known as Chenin Noir

[7] “One of the nastiest wines possible” according to Oz Clarke.

Sauvignon Blanc

 Monts Damnes Photo Courtesy of Rare Wines

 Monts Damnes

This is the story of a vineyard in Sancerre that has been forgotten in plain sight. A vineyard that checks all of the great terroir boxes: originally planted in the 10th century by very thirsty Benedictine monks, precipitously steep south-facing hillside that wouldn't look out of place in Cote Rotie or the Mosel, bright white limestone soils1studded with freakin’ fossilized sea shells2, old vines tended by hand out of necessity on said black-diamond steep hill, with a name like a Norwegian metal band, in the best village in one of the best regions for white wine in all of France. Somehow, wines from the vineyard of Les Monts Damnes, translated literally to the Damned Mountain, the greatest terroir in Chavignol, are criminally undervalued. For now.

Outside of the wines from a couple of visionaries like Didier Dagueneau and Edmond Vatan3, very few wines from Sancerre are considered vin de garde. Most Sancerre is fresh and immediate, as easy to slurp as it is to pronounce, and we love it unabashedly. The wines from Monts Damnes are different animals altogether. It starts, as always, with the vineyard. As mentioned, the slopes of Monts Damnes are so steep that some producers provide cushions for their pickers to sit on while they slide down the hill. It’s a hill made for skiing4 rather than planting, and many vignerons allow grass cover crops to grow between the vines to prevent erosion. The southern aspect and extreme pitch maximize sun exposure for the vines, allowing for greater ripeness than in the flats of Touraine.

Producers use more wood for fermenting and aging Monts Damnes than in the rest of Sancerre. Young Matthew Delaporte of Domaine Delaporte uses large format5 used oak barrels on his Monts Damnes. His family has operated in Chavignol for more than 300 years, but the 31-year-old winemaker refuses to rest on his laurels, converting his vineyards to organic certification6, allowing full malolactic fermentation, and extending the lees aging of his finest cuvees up to 12 months. His tweaked vinification, which mirrors the efforts of regional stalwarts like the Cotat cousins Francois and Pascal, embraces the substance and heft that this site provides.

Accordingly, the wines from Mont Damnes are richer than your typical gooseberry and nettle Sancerre, with yellow fruit, ripe citrus, and a resinous density that would not seem out of place in good white Burgundy. This is the sort of lazy comparison that normally drives me crazy, a shorthand way of saying that this white wine is delicious and complex now and will remain delicious and complex for several more years, but I just can’t shake it. And maybe I shouldn’t. Chavignol is closer to Chablis than it is to Nantes. The soils are the same, clay and limestone marl over an ancient seabed. Most importantly, the wines of Monts Damnes, like the wines of Les Clos, taste more of the place they are from than the grape they are made of. Les Clos doesn’t really taste like Chardonnay, it tastes like Les Clos. Monts Damnes doesn’t taste like Sauvignon Blanc. It might not even taste to you like Sancerre. More than anything, it tastes like the Damned Mountain.

Notes From the Author

[1] Terres blanches, the same soils as Chablis, which is less than 75 miles away.

[2] That everyone says you totally can’t taste, but the itty bitty shells are right there, and it’s so rocky, and naaah naah naah, I can’t hear you, minerality, minerality, minerality! Ok, fine, it tastes salty. Happy?

[3] Both of whom source their Sancerres from Monts Damnes

[4] Imagine slaloming among meter by meter plantings of old vine Sauv Blanc!

[5] 600l demi-muids

[6] “We have also stopped feeding the vines like at McDonalds.” - Matthew Delaporte

Muscadet (Melon de Bourgogne)

 Photo Courtesy of Weygandt-Metzler

Muscadet, for better or worse, has been defined by what it is not. Not heavy, not oaky or buttery, not overly fruity, certainly not expensive. A neutral, rather than aromatic, white. A wine so transparent that it is best known for the turbid solids that it ages beside, the pillowy spent yeast cells of sur lie aging that are cast aside at bottling. Muscadet can be ephemeral if it is treated dismissively, seeming to exist only in the spaces between oysters. Its transparency, though, is also its greatest strength, enhancing and exaggerating the regional differences among Muscadet’s 9 newly established crus like a terroir-magnifying lens.

Muscadet only has one grape - Melon B, formerly Melon de Bourgogne. This lattter name was confusing for several reasons1, not the least of which being that Melon is not grown in Burgundy, at least not anymore. Melon’s tumultuous relationship with, and eventual banishment from, Burgundy mirrors another of our favorite grapes: Gamay. You could say that they both got Beauned. Gamay was famously cast out of Burgundy by Phillipe the Bold in 13952, while Melon lasted until the 18th century before being evicted because of overproduction3. Melon and Gamay didn’t just get kicked out of the same childhood home; in fact, they’re siblings! Melon, Gamay, Chardonnay, Aligoté, and countless other varieties resulted from crosses between the aristocratic Pinot4 and the nearly extinct Gouais Blanc, which was a grape of the peasantry.

While Gamay was able to find a new home just to the south of the Cote d’Or, Melon landed 600 km west, as if Burgundy tried to throw it into the Atlantic Ocean and came up just short. Here, in one of France’s most marginal climates, Melon’s productivity and hardiness were welcomed by a local wine industry rocked by winter kill.  It was here, around the city of Nantes on the coast of Brittany, that Melon met “la mer”.

Wines grown near the ocean, from Ligurian Vermentino to western Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir5, often taste salty, and Muscadet is no different. If oysters remind me of eating the ocean, then Muscadet is like drinking it6. When young, its nerviness makes it “the quintessential springtime wine,” according to Richard Hemming MW, a wine that pairs as well with delicate spring produce as it does with Cthulhu pulpo. Save some in your cellar and you will be rewarded with one of the great wine transformations. Aged Muscadet maintains its transparency and vitality while adding a warm sepia lens. Its briny origins and maritime structure remain, though the ocean grows as honeyed and round as if you spun cotton candy from seawater. Muscadet vigneron Jo Landron describes it as, “sugared, but with no sugar.” I can’t help but taste Burgundy by the sea.

Notes From the Author

[1] And has led me down some youtube rabbit holes that started in Muscadet vineyards and ended in a Dijonaise backyard looking at canteloupe.

[2] His description of a “very great and horrible harshness” makes me wish I could pour him a silky, pillowy glass of Lapierre Morgon.

[3] The same complaint levied at Gamay.

[4] Either Noir, Gris, or Blanc, which are genetic variations of the same grape rather than distinct varieties. I’m not an ampelographer, I don’t make the rules.

[5] See also: Santorini, Corsica, Tenerife, Cassis, the west Sonoma Coast, Chile’s Casablanca Valley, parts of Rias Baixas and western Galicia, Madeira, etc.

[6] Do not attempt to drink the ocean.

Time Posted: Mar 25, 2020 at 3:50 PM
Emily Riley
May 1, 2019 | Emily Riley

Devium & Delmas - Walla Walla Curator Club

In this inaugural shipment of the Curator Club, we have chosen to feature two exceptionally dedicated, energetic producers with tons of promise on the horizon: Delmas and Devium.  

The wines of Delmas first came to my attention 8 years ago.  Steve and Mary Robertson founded SJR Vineyard in 2007 on 10 acres “in the rocks” and, subsequently, created their flagship Syrah. Steve was at the forefront of the movement to create an AVA within Walla Walla solely defined by the characteristics of its terroir, and the first of its kind to cross state boundaries.  The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA was granted final TTB approval in 2015.  The SJR Vineyard sits firmly on the western boundary of the AVA and Steve remains a vocal advocate for the region throughout the wine industry.  Brooke Robertson, Mary and Steve’s daughter, heads up viticultural operations and plans to take the helm as head winemaker in the next five years.  In the meantime, “Dad and I tag-team the winemaking protocol” according to Brooke. Billo Naravane of Rasa Vineyards has been the consulting winemaker throughout the project and remains close.  On the horizon for Delmas?  An estate Viognier and Grenache.  We can’t wait.

Devium Wines is the passion project of the exceptionally talented Keith Johnson.  A graduate of the Enology Program at the WWCC in 2011 (a year before Brooke Robertson), Keith has quickly proven himself to be one of the rising stars of the Walla Walla wine industry, though he’s so modest you would hardly know it.  Spending time with Keith in the cellar talking about winemaking might just be one of my favorite things to do while out on a winery visit in Walla Walla.  When not acting as Production Winemaker for Sleight of Hand Cellars, he devotes his time to producing his focused and inspired low-intervention wines.  In fact, the reason Devium exists at all is due to the pure chance of the senses.  While on a visit to French Creek Vineyard for Sleight of Hand’s old vine Chardonnay back in 2011, Keith was immediately impressed by the vineyard and vineyard manager, Damon Lalonde. Keith picked the French Creek Mourvédre’s first fruit in 2015 after an epiphany smelling the Syrah from the same site and the impetus to start the Devium project was created.  Keith told me, “It’s ultimately about the vineyard, not about me.”

Delmas Producer Profile

Family owned and operated, Delmas is the realization of the Steve & Mary Robertson's dream, 35+ years strong, to honor a distinctive place, a distinctive taste. Born of unique geology found within The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, as well as the climatic eccentricities of the Walla Walla Valley, Delmas is dedicated to producing exceptional wines of enduring value. Elegance is preferred to power and exoticism at Delmas; restraint, nuance, and those impossible-to-define, (pleasurable), qualities that elevate all great wines. Brooke Robertson accentuates the importance of the SJR Vineyard to her family’s vision: “The most important part of what we do is the family factor and our estate vineyard.” 

Devium Producer Profile

Keith Johnson doesn’t like points given to wines and avoids it whenever possible.  He’s confident in his wines’ pedigree and he should be – they’re deeply thoughtful and personal.  Founded in 2015, Devium is his wild brain-child, devoted to creating something unique in the Walla Walla Valley, a commitment to minimalist winemaking, early picking and special vineyards.  He doesn’t do blending trials for these wines either, believing that his wines should speak to “a moment in time and a specific terroir” that blending might obscure.  It is about tradition and history, spontaneous fermentations and foot stomping.  Keith Johnson is a purist and expresses his devotion to his craft with the utmost care in the production of these beautiful wines.  

Time Posted: May 1, 2019 at 10:00 AM
Emily Riley
April 1, 2019 | Emily Riley

Trousseau - The Artful Dodger

Trousseau is somewhat of a mystery to many wine drinkers. Indigenous to the Jura region of France, in the town of Montigny-les-Arsures, the dark-skinned grape varietal has quite the history in Europe and is known to have been cultivated for at least 200 years under a variety of names. Curiously, until recently it has most widely been known in Portugal as Bastardo where it is made into dry red table wines as well as their most famous exports, Porto and Madeira. In Spain, it can be found under other names, Merenzao and Verdejo Negro, where it is used both alone and in red blends.

The most compelling Trousseau are those that can be coaxed into a subtle and balanced expression of tart red fruit, minerality and mossy earth. Trousseau can easily become a high-octane wine, due to the naturally abundant sugars in the grape varietal. Due to this, it can be considered fully ripe and ready to pick when at a lower sugar level than other varietals, thus producing a wine that is higher in acid with less alcohol.

I first discovered Trousseau while “palate trouncing” through the wines of the Jura in my first years in the restaurant world. I was instantly taken by these unusual and rustic wines, at times confused by their strangeness and curious as to what made them so much different than the polished New and Old-World wines to which I’d become so accustomed. The initial rawness and brutality impressed but intimidated me. I was confused but not put off. As I began to dig deeper into the world of Jura wine, I discovered there existed a subtlety and odd grace to these wines that I had never had the opportunity of tasting. Odd grace – like an elephant on ice skates.

Let’s not beat around the bush: I have fallen for Trousseau. I am drawn to varietals with strange minerality and evocative dark forest matter, bright and light fruit piercing through the undergrowth to create a truly compelling wine. It can take on notes of light and bright sour cherries, ripe red fruit and expiring green matter or, depending on vinification technique, become a pungent, alcohol-driven, red fruit beast in need of a good chill. It is the forgotten street poet of grapes – full of nuance, easily irritable (thus “Bastardo”), and waiting for recognition of its subtle, easily-overlooked beauty.

New World winemakers are clearly catching on to the appeal of the varietal and Trousseau plantings are popping up with established producers’ names attached throughout the West Coast of the U.S., notably in regions where Pinot Noir, Gamay, and other Burgundian varietals have shown a success. 

For the wine drinker who appreciates Pinot Noir and Gamay, these wines should easily appeal. This is food wine: gracefully footed with delightful acid and bright, pungent fruit expression, offering excellent pairing opportunities.

Pair Trousseau with: Game birds, smoked pork, berry reduction sauces, paté, or hard cow’s milk cheese (Morbier, e.g.).

“Bring in the bottled lightning, a clean tumbler, and a corkscrew.” - Dickens

Time Posted: Apr 1, 2019 at 10:00 AM
Bryan Brammer
April 1, 2019 | Bryan Brammer

Faith and Beer - A Monk's Tale - A World of Beer

If you are a beer lover, and I am guessing that you are based on the fact that you are reading this blog post, you would be remiss not to understand the history of faith and beer. For over 1,500 years, monks around the world have used their faith and dedicated their lives to the perfection of the beer-making process. So, the next time you run into a monk (never thought I could say that), thank them for helping make craft beer what it is today.

As you study monks and brewing, you will quickly figure out that there are hundreds of monasteries around Europe that all have an incredible history and create amazing beer. However, we need to keep some focus so we will look at the most famous in Germany and the Trappists. To understand their history, we will start the story in the 6th Century and learn about Saint Benedict of Nursia and his writings that roughly translate as The Rule. These writings essentially built the first template for monastic life and imparted the wisdom of the spiritual and the administrative. At the core was the golden rule of Ora et Labora – pray and work. Each monk dedicated themselves to eight hours of prayer, eight hours of sleep, and eight hours of manual work, sacred reading, or works of charity. Augmenting this rule, was another rule that monks and the monastery must exist without outside money and through the work of the monks’ own hands through the production of goods and services built a framework for faith to perfect beer and other goods such as cheese and honey. 

Now that we know where the faith and precision of the monks come from, let’s look at the history of the German monks who are among the oldest continuous brewers in the world. Today, Weltenburg Abby and Weihenstephan Abbey both claim to be the oldest continuous operating breweries in the world starting somewhere around 1040. Records aside, this has given these monks almost 1,000 years of brewing history to create some of the most revered beers not only in Germany but in the world. Each Abbey, as with most breweries in Germany, follows very strict purity rules set out in law in 1516. These principals allow for only the use of malted barley, hops, water, and yeast (wheat was added after an uprising years later). The rules make German beer narrow in variety but utterly perfect in execution.

If Germany has the history, the Trappists have the notoriety when it comes to monks making beer. The name Trappist comes from the Cistercian monastery in La Trappe, France (not where the beer La Trappe is made). In 1664, these particular monks thought that too many of their fellow monks were becoming too liberal. They introduced new, more rigorous rules, to live by and the Trappist movement was born. To carry out the financing of their strict monasteries and to expand their practices, breweries began to appear around the middle ages in Europe. Today these original Trappist breweries are world renowned for the focus on constantly perfecting the brewing process and keeping exact records. 

In 1997, eight of the original Trappist abbeys came together to protect the Trappist name and the highest quality that comes from their strict production process. They created the International Trappist Association and the private logo that is assigned to any goods (cheese, honey, beer, wine, etc.) that are produced with respect to the precise production criteria. These criteria include: The product must be produced inside the walls of a Trappist monastery either by the monks themselves or with supervision, the goods are produced as secondary importance that places primary value on the monastic way of life, and finally the goods are not intended to be a profit-making venture. 

Time Posted: Apr 1, 2019 at 10:00 AM

Want the latest updates?

Subscribe to our newsletter to find out about our events, special offers, and new products.