It’s not solely the well-crafted wines, or the talented growers and winemakers, making Washington state wine worthy of seeking out. This burgeoning region also has a tight-knit fellowship of goodwill wine professionals that dedicate themselves to giving back to the earth and the community that gives to them. If there isn’t enough reason to pick up a bottle of Washington State Wine already, know that by doing so, you’re also supporting some phenomenal partnerships, local and small businesses, and giving back to the community at large.
A Match Made in the Vineyards
Grape growers here have garnered their fame and status as prime caretakers of some of the state’s best vineyards. Crossover relationships between growers and winemakers exist throughout the state, allowing for some truly dynamic duos producing some eponymous and terroir-driven Washington wines.
Dick Boushey is a household name, attached to many awards naming him “Grower of the Year.” He’s an orchard fruit farmer who planted some of the state’s most premier vineyards, including his namesake, Boushey Vineyard in Yakima Valley. Known as one of the best sites for Syrah, his partnership with wineries, including Two Vintners, has put these wines on the map. Winemaker Morgan Lee founded the winery with Covington Cellars owners, David and Cindy Lawson. They source from Boushey’s vineyards, and the results are cool-climate Syrahs and Merlots that change the conversation of these New World varieties.
Brittany Komm is Washington-born and bred, while her studies and scholarly writing in Enology have gained high acclaim. She’s worked at Precept since 2014 and has most recently been promoted to Senior Viticulturist and Vineyard Manager at Browne Family Vineyards. She works with Director of Vineyard Operations Dustin Tobin and winemaker John Freeman after being hired by the family-owned Browne Family Vineyards. She oversees their namesake Browne Family Estate Vineyard, 103.1 acres of red varieties, such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay, Syrah, Malbec, and Petite Sirah. The results are award-winning Bordeaux-style wines.
It’s not just celebrity grape growers but celebrity musicians as well. The wine community is an integral part of the state’s identity that Washington native Brandi Carlile couldn’t help but tap into it. The result is a project that works for the local and global communities at large. Brandi launched XOBC Cellars in 2019 with her wife Catherine and friends Amy and Jeri Andrews. She tapped Sean Boyd of Rotie Cellars as winemaker, who is known for his elegant Rhône-style wines. XOBC produces the same. All proceeds go directly toward Brandi’s Looking Out Foundation—where donations go to multiple non-profits, covering organizations that aid causes from the arts, education, public health, and civil rights.
Rockstar winemakers all over the state have taken their passions to produce wine and give the proceeds right back into the community.
Vital Wines is an entirely non-profit winery founded by winemaker Ashley Trout. Ashley is also the owner and head winemaker at Brook & Bull Cellars and has been featured as one of Wine Enthusiast’s 40 Under 40. Based in Walla Walla, all profits from Vital Wines go towards efforts that provide better access to healthcare for vineyard and winery workers in Washington. To help fund their efforts, all parts of the process, from bottles to cork to soil, come from donations. Part of their mission stated on their website says quite succinctly, “Winemaking and vineyard work is both physical and seasonal, making it a prime industry for this kind of care.”
Upsidedown Wine is located in Hood River, OR on the Washington state border. They source from vineyards all over Washington state, making wines with minimal intervention. After you’ve clicked through their tantalizing wines on their site, you’ll find their Give Back Campaign. By ordering directly from the winery or by joining their clubs, 20 percent of the proceeds from those sales go to non-profit organizations. Donations go to the Young & Brave Foundation aiding families of children and young adults battling cancer; A21, which helps combat human trafficking; and The Chill Foundation, helping youth development by offering board sport training and opportunities.
Aluel Cellars, founded by Alex and Samuel brings Old World-style wines from New World grapes to consumers in urban Seattle. Their tasting room is located on Capitol Hill, where you can purchase “The Scholar” bottling. Purchases of this red Bordeaux blend help to fund scholarships with the Greater Seattle Business Association for LGBTQ and allied students. In 2020, they raised over $5,000, and in 2021, they hope to beat that goal.
A Net to Fall Back On
The Washington wine community as a whole shows up for each other, evidenced by how they have come together through a devastating and unpredictable pandemic. The Washington State Wine Commission launched programs throughout the year, and their hashtag #WAwine paired with #WAdine aimed to help local and small hospitality businesses through the pandemic. They launched Drink for Washington, which helped to spotlight local sommeliers and winemakers and helped consumers navigate closures, openings, and direct-to-consumer ordering. They also began State Nights, inspiring patrons to order take-out food from local purveyors while pairing it with a Washington wine. You can continue to follow them @wa_state_wine to see how this burgeoning wine region is growing, making beautiful wines, and in turn, giving back to their community.