1984, the year following my high school graduation, I was attending classes at Shoreline Community College in Seattle’s north end. Meanwhile, across the state, in Walla Walla, a small group of people were very focused on their collective dreams of making world-class wine.
This evening there was an anniversary celebration with seven of these people as honored guests in a charming old theatre building – its original purpose was coal power, then electric power – called the Powerhouse Theatre. We were treated to the stories of their beginnings: passions, dreams, friendships and challenges. There is no doubt that success was not optional.
They talked about family wine making traditions, fruit wines they made, and the challenges of hand powered machinery, hand feeding presses bucket, by bucket. A couple of horror stories about loosing fruit off of vehicles, full barrels crashing to the floor, and tanks over flowing. It brought home the similarities between the few years of experiences we have had with their many years.
Following the panel there were several local wineries pouring, including those of the original seven represented this evening, while a caterer supplied us with tasty tidbits to pair with our wine. Our palettes were treated to the likes of: 2012 Leonetti Cellars Merlot, 1999 Pepper Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon (poured by Jean Francois Pellet, the wine maker), 1999 L’ecole No. 41 Syrah (Marty Clubb, owner & wine maker pouring), and 1994 Waterbrook Merlot. It was slow moving due to the mass of humanity, so that is most of what we tasted although there were several more wineries. There were big names in the Washington wine industry present, there were a few big names in the world wine industry present. The venue was quite cozy for the number of people celebrating. More than shoulders were rubbed as the crowd milled between tables, it was impossible to avoid. My ears are still ringing from the volume of voices, which increased with each taste of wine despite the slow drift of people out the door. We found ourselves by the door and chose to use it, Cinderella fashion.
I am now attending classes at Walla Walla Community College, in the Enology & Viticulture program that was developed in 2000 with the help of some of the people present this evening. It is with my own passion and excitement that I look forward to being a part of the wine industry.