When our good friends Bob & Kathy drove up from Bend to rendezvous with us in Walla Walla, Bob was amazed that you good start a winery with a few barrel's worth of purchased grapes and set up shop in a quonset hut at the airport for just a few thousand dollars. What a fabulous collection of wineries got their start there - Buty, Reininger, Syzygy, Cougar Crest, Sapoleil, to name just a few. Dusted Valley is still quite literally in a garage.
In Oregon, Andrew Rich was incubated at the Carlson Studio and Ron Lachini started out making just a few cases of his fabulous Pinot Noir. While not exactly starting out in a garage, Tom & Kathy Schafer are launching Amaurice in Walla Walla and Chandler Reach is moving up the food chain, building their new winery near Benton City.
Speaking of Chandler Reach, real estate agent, Shawn Springer has been making wine from Chandler Reach grapes in his home here in Seattle. He recently moved up to stainless steel, leaving amateur status behind. At a Seattle Wine Society ( www.seattlewinesociety.org) meeting to plan next year's Wine Festival, we had a chance to taste Shawn's 2003 Sangiovese next to 2003 Columbia Winery Sangiovese made by Master of Wine, David Lake. The wines were completely different in style. The Columbia Winery Sangiovese, was more like a Merlot - fruit forward, elegant and refined. Shawn's wine had a more rustic character and reminded me the real thing - old style Chianti Classico Reserva. I preferred the "Springer Cellars."
In an age of rapacious capitalism and corporate marketing, it is a breath of fresh air to see the pioneering spirit of the Northwest carried on by individuals who love wine and winemaking.