Ste. Michelle winemaker makes move to Mattawa

By Andy Perdue, Tri-City Herald staff writerJuly 16, 2011 

MATTAWA -- Chateau Ste. Michelle's red winemaker is moving from one large operation to another.

Joshua Maloney, who joined Chateau Ste. Michelle at its Canoe Ridge Estate facility west of Paterson in 2005, has taken the job as director of winemaking for Milbrandt Vineyards and Wahluke Wine Co.

For Maloney, a native of upstate New York, the commute and the amount of wine he makes will not be too different.

Instead of driving from Richland to Canoe Ridge near Crow Butte Park, he will make wine an hour away in Mattawa. At Chateau Ste. Michelle, he oversaw the processing of about 8,500 tons of grapes -- all red -- while at Milbrandt, he will be in charge of about 6,500 tons of red and white grapes each harvest.

"It will be less tonnage, but it's a mixture of reds and whites," said Maloney, who came to Washington six years ago from Napa Valley, where he worked at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars and Estancia Estates Winery.

After graduating from Cornell, Maloney got into the wine industry in the Finger Lakes region of New York before moving west. Now that he has spent more than a half-decade in Washington, he doesn't plan to ever leave.

"I love making wine here," he said. "I love the quality, the style and the people in Washington. I have no doubt in my mind that I'll spend the rest of my winemaking career in Washington."

Maloney takes over for Gordy Hill, another Chateau Ste. Michelle alum who has moved to Coventry Vale, a large custom-crush winery in Grandview. Maloney said his time at Ste. Michelle has been invaluable.

"This is the greatest winemaking classroom I could possibly imagine," he said.

Maloney will start at Milbrandt on Aug. 8.

With about eight weeks to go until harvest begins, he will have a pretty sharp learning curve to get up to speed with Milbrandt. This includes making wines for Milbrandt Vineyards, which has a tasting room in Prosser, as well as a custom winemaking operation in Milbrandt.

"There's always some nerves that go with a new system, and I don't know entirely what to expect," he said. "I will be relying heavily on the crew already there."

But Maloney, 38, already has used some Milbrandt fruit in the past, and he has worked extensively with nearby vineyards on the Wahluke Slope, so he is excited to get his hands on the grapes grown on by the Milbrandts.

Milbrandt Vineyards is owned by brothers Butch and Jerry Milbrandt, who grew up in a farming family in the Columbia Basin. They own about 1,000 acres of vineyards on the Wahluke Slope and in the Basin around George and Quincy. In fact, their Evergreen Vineyard near Quincy is one of the key suppliers for Chateau Ste. Michelle's Eroica Riesling, arguably the most famous Riesling in the United States.

A Ste. Michelle Wine Estates official said Maloney's replacement has not yet been named.

* Andy Perdue is editor of Wine Press Northwest magazine. Reach him at editor@winepressnw.com.

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