By Timothy Vasile, Wine Captain, El Gaucho Tacoma
I just returned from a whirlwind five day road trip starting in Seattle, winding through Yakima, Columbia Valley, Red Mountain, and finally finishing in Walla Walla, where 50 of us from across the country were able to get deep one-of-a kind tours of vineyards, learn some techniques, hang out and pick the brains of the wine-makers and vineyard managers, and of course taste pretty much all the great wines of Washington. We attended 2 educational seminars, 3 regional tastings, had 7 winery hosted meals, 13 vineyard exercises, and 34 winery exercises. It was a truly remarkable, and inspirational trip and let me see first-hand why El Gaucho is so committed to Washington wines. As Winemaker of the Year, Chris Peterson of Avennia noted, ‘We are in a golden age, and this is just the beginning.’
This trip allowed me to see all of Washington’s great beauty and dramatic landscape and taste some truly wonderful wine, but most importantly, I met the best people. These winemakers are true artists, yet incredibly humble. They each expressed amazement at how beautiful something of their own turned out. But they give the credit to the grapes, to the earth, to those who grew the fruit, and feel lucky that they were able to capture it. The Washington wine community considers itself a ‘cooperation’. There is, of course, healthy competition but they know that their communal effort to raise and keep the bar high, and really keep pushing Washington State wine is paramount.
The incredible paradox of Washington wine is this: what took thousands of years to create — from the formation of the land, to the receding of the great glaciers, to the Missoula floods, to the receding of the waters and formations of the mountains, and the deposits of fertile lands, and formation of the specific soil — is now being remarkably encapsulated in wine bottles today. It is hard to imagine, that a wine industry that started getting serious in less than 40 years, is already achieving what great winemaking strives to achieve — a sense of place. It was remarkable to think that this terroir was made over the course of thousands and thousands of years and is now being captured and bottled right before our eyes.
After moving here in 2015, I am new to the Pacific Northwest, so this trip gave me a chance to really feel proud of our wine industry. Most of the others the trip were from other parts of the country and I feel grateful that these are the wines and winemakers I work closely with day in and day out. These are people I am happy to get behind and feel proud to share their wines with our guests.