Paul Beveridge's story is one often told in the wine industry: He began making wine at home, and soon his passion became his profession.
"It was a hobby that got out of hand," said the owner of Wilridge Winery. "I couldn't drink it all myself."
So the environmental lawyer launched Wilridge, a name that combines his and his father-in-law's last names (his father-in-law was an investor in those early years). Beveridge launched Wilridge a quarter-century ago in Seattle's Madrona neighborhood. Wilridge is now Seattle's oldest winery.
Seven years ago, Beveridge retired from working as a lawyer so he could focus full time on Wilridge and its 3,500 cases of wine. However, his legal background became useful a few years ago when he helped create the Family Wineries of Washington, an organization of small producers. This means Beveridge spends some of his time working in Olympia with lawmakers and bureaucrats to represent the interest of small wineries.
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This year, Beveridge worked on two bills: One would allow refillable bottles, known as "growlers," to be used by consumers, and the other would allow a winery and a distillery to be in the same building. Neither bill made it out of committee this year, but Beveridge is hopeful for next year.
Beveridge owns 40 acres of land in the Naches Heights American Viticultural Area near Yakima, 11 of which are planted to 22 varieties. He has harvested grapes for the past three years and looks forward to determining which varieties do best so he can expand his plantings.
Beveridge wryly points out that he ignored the viticultural side of the business when he was learning winemaking and now wishes he'd paid more attention.
"It's a huge amount to learn," he said. "But I'm enjoying it."
Beveridge also buys grapes from the Yakima Valley and Horse Heaven Hills. He is one of the few winemakers in the Northwest to craft a Nebbiolo, a red variety that results in some of the world's greatest wines in its native Italy.
"It's a challenge to grow," he said. "It makes Pinot Noir seem easy. Its whole issue is getting it ripe. It can be vigorous and aggressive. You have to beat it -- and baby it."
Kind of like working with the Legislature.
Here are three Wilridge wines we've tasted in recent weeks. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or order directly from the winery. Wilridge wines also can be sampled at The Tasting Room in Seattle's Pike Place Market or the tasting room in the Naches Heights.
Wilridge Winery 2011 Rosebud Vineyard Viognier, Yakima Valley, $18: This white wine comes from a cool region of the Columbia Valley during a cool vintage -- a perfect combination for Viognier. This opens with aromas of slate, orange oil and lemon zest, followed by flavors of pear, apple and lemon. We love the combination of its fruit-forward approach, clean lines and bright acidity.
Wilridge Winery 2010 Six Prong Vineyard Nebbiolo, Horse Heaven Hills, $30: Nebbiolo is among the most noble of wine grape varieties in the world and is famous as Barolo and Barbaresco in Italy's Piedmont region. It is among the most tannic and age-worthy varieties, and it is rare to find in Washington. This is a delicious example that opens with aromas of cherry juice, cranberry and pomegranate. It reveals flavors of plum, dark Bing cherry and dark chocolate, all backed by classic bold tannins.
Wilridge Winery 2009 Wilridge Vineyard Melange Rouge, Columbia Valley, $30: This Bordeaux-style blend includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. The grapes come from Wilridge's estate vineyard in Naches Heights. It offers aromas of Tennessee red cedar, cinnamon, dried cranberries and watermelon, followed by flavors of strawberry, pomegranate and dark chocolate. It is nicely balanced with long flavors and a superb finish.
*Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. For more information, go to www.greatnorthwestwine.com.