A record-breaking number of food and wine lovers attended the 22nd annual Taste Washington festival. We chose three winemakers we want listeners to know more about and swept them away to the press room for lightening interviews. We gave them one shared question and they delivered three, very different answers: ”What life lesson has winemaking revealed to you?”
JB Neufeld | Gilbert Cellars
Justin has been the winemaker for Gilbert Cellars since 2007 and in 2009, he took over management of the estate vineyards as well. Since the moment he became interested in wine Justin knew he wanted to start his own winery. As he learned more about viticulture and enology the more he became obsessed with the process, rather than the product. When he started his side label, JB Neufeld, his goal was to create a Cabernet Sauvignon that truly showcased the place it was grown. Justin believes it to be one of the best varieties for communicating a sense of place without too many outside interruptions. He sources from some of the best vineyards up and down the Yakima Valley and Red Mountain like Andrew Will’s Two Blondes Vineyard, Red Willow Vineyard, and the acclaimed Ciel Du Cheval.
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Not every Damsel is in distress. In fact, this damsel seems to have things pretty well in hand. Damsel Cellars is a boutique winery owned and operated by winemaker, Mari Womack. She spent several years in the restaurant business and transitioned to working in Washington wineries such as Obelisco, Baer and as the assistant winemaker at Darby Winery. Mary is cleverly blending sophistication with a playfulness and joy that comes from doing what she loves. Now releasing her sith vintage, this Damsel is amassing a loyal following and Damsel Cellars is quickly becoming a winery to watch.
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Goose Ridge Estate Vineyards and Winery
The spark that brought Casey to wine was speaking with a winemaker across the tasting bar at a small winery in Prosser in 2007. He described his work routine, and to her, it seemed to be the perfect marriage of intellect, creativity, and being physical. Casey took classes at the NW Wine Academy while she worked as a Lead Wine Educator at the Columbia Winery tasting room in Woodinville. After her course work was complete, she was chosen for a harvest internship at Betz Family Winery, learning under Master of Wine Bob Betz and then hired as Cellar Assistant until 2014. After a stint as Winemaker to Robert Ramsay Cellars, in 2018, she moved across the state to work as Winemaker for Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard and Winery. This extremely dynamic and growing family-owned winery has given her the opportunity to learn winemaking on a larger scale and has allowed her to be in the vineyard more often. This means that no two days are the same in her world and she loves the cyclical nature of the wine industry.
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You got to have Taste
We’ve caught up on our sleep now that the plethora of Washington Wine Month events has come to a close.
Taste WA, held at CenturyLink Field Convention Center, was the big kahuna. This year’s festival featured more than 240 Washington wineries and more than 70 celebrated restaurants. Per tradition, we call attention to newer wineries or ones we were less familiar with and winemakers with side label projects. This is not an exhaustive list so we encourage listeners to attend and adventure for themselves.
The NW Women Stars of Food and Wine was held at “The Sanctuary,” a converted church in downtown Seattle. Maybe it was the ascending escalator ride to the space of wine worship or the cool lighting inside the sanctuary, but we think that was the best “church service” we ever attended!