Winery turns town into little Italy

By Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman, Wine Press NorthwestAugust 15, 2012 

Though he grew up far from wine country, David Volmut always had an idea that the passion he was born with would lead him to a better life.

Volmut was raised in an Italian family in the Midwest, where wine on the dinner table was ubiquitous.

"It's part of my heritage," he said. "I learned that wine and food go hand in hand. It's part of the meal, like salt and pepper."

After graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in medieval history, Volmut worked in telecommunications until he decided to follow his heart. He moved to Washington wine country in 2007 and began earning a winemaking degree at Yakima Community College in Grandview.

At the same time, he wanted to get practical experience, so he worked in the tasting room at Barnard Griffin in Richland, then as a lab technician and enologist at Olsen Estates in Prosser for nearly three years.

By 2009, he earned his degree and began to plan his next move, which was to launch a small winery called Wind Rose Cellars. He knew he wanted to locate in an area that was not saturated with wineries but also was a tourism draw. He initially focused on the Columbia Gorge town of Hood River, Ore., but rules that required him to have a working vineyard before he could sell wine were a deterrent.

Meanwhile, his wife, Jennifer, got a job with Battelle in the Olympic Peninsula town of Sequim, one of the sunniest places west of the Cascade Mountains. The peninsula and San Juan Islands are growing wine regions, so they made the decision to move there.

Volmut focuses primarily on Italian grape varieties grown in the Columbia Valley, including Barbera, Dolcetto, Primitivo, Nebbiolo and Pinot Grigio. Nebbiolo, grown in the Piedmont region Italy, is considered one of the finest red wine grapes in the world, though few have been successfully made on the West Coast.

His first vintage was from the 2009 vintage, and his rosé immediately gained attention from professional wine judges and critics. Volmut has been able to use quality winemaking and out-of-the-mainstream varieties to quickly distinguish Wind Rose amid the more than 1,300 winemakers in the Pacific Northwest.

So far, Volmut produces fewer than 1,000 cases annually, and he has no plans to grow that beyond about 1,500.

Here are some of Volmut's newest wines. Ask for them at your favorite merchant or contact the winery directly.

Wind Rose Cellars 2011 Rosado, Washington, $18: This rosé blends Barbera (60 percent), Primitivo (20 percent) and Dolcetto into a package that's pretty in pink. Aromas of bubblegum, strawberry/rhubarb jam, pencil lead and minerality funnel into brisk flavors of cherry, red currant and apricot.

Wind Rose Cellars 2010 Dolcetto, Columbia Valley, $18: This wine includes 14 percent Barbera and 9 percent Tempranillo. It opens with aromas of poached plums, blueberries and cedar, followed by flavors of pomegranates, fresh cranberries and blueberries, all backed with a rush of acidity and a long, easy-drinking finish.

Wind Rose Cellars 2009 24K Vineyard Nebbiolo, Wahluke Slope, $30: The nose leads with black currant, Rainier cherry, sassafras, moist earth and a sliced portobello mushroom. On the attack, it's light and lively with more black currant, slightly underripe blackberry and leather. The firm tannins and savory finish call for London broil served with a mushroom sauce or a bowl of teriyaki.

Wind Rose Cellars 2009 Bravo Rosso, Washington, $20: This is a blend of Primitivo (46 percent), Barbera (44 percent), Dolcetto (4 percent), Nebbiolo (4 percent) and Cabernet Sauvignon, and it sends out aromas of cherry, cranberry, licorice, rose hips, lilac and cedar. The drink is lively, fruity and lighter bodied than you might expect. There's a follow-through of cherry and red licorice, joined by strawberry, plum with orange juice acidity. Its tannin structure is remarkably low.

*Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, a website that provides news and information about the wines of Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho.

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