What’s the story..? Tell us about your journey into the world of wine: It began at the University when studying for a career in hospitality. I took a wine appreciation class as it involved drinking wine on a Monday night! I fell in love with wine, struck by the creative aspect of winemaking and intrigued by the agricultural side.I had a year left on my course but took a semester out to get experience in wine. I bothered my Professor incessantly (the aptly named Dr. Vine!) to help me gain an internship. It paid off: I got a harvest at a Michigan vineyard and didn’t return to catering! I got a second harvest placement in Washington, moved my family out there and the rest is history…
Which wine sparked your love of the grape?
Again, back in the University days, I got started drinking actually quite sweet white wines with my now-wife! We particularly enjoyed some local Michigan Riesling and Gewurztraminers. I would say it’s Riesling that grabbed me, later discovering Alsace Rieslings such as Domaine Zind-Humbrecht. They’re so unique and impossible to replicate here in the US.
What makes your wines unique?
I come from an artistic family and take a creative, artistic approach to my winemaking. I find there are two camps of winemakers: the artists and the scientists and I’m definitely in the former! I take a somewhat risky approach, focusing on a-typical varietals for the Washington region. I like challenge the status quo but with a commitment to the highest quality.
My farmers are also my key priority – seeking the best and building a great relationship with them. 80% of the work in making wine is in the vineyard, so close relationships with my farmers and a fastidious approach to good practice is paramount.
What’s in the names (‘Some Days Are Diamonds’; ‘Some Days Are Stones’)? Tell us the story behind the brand name and these two bottles …
The Two Vintners name represents the relationship between my partners (David and Cindy Lawson of Covington Cellars) and I. I wanted a name that’s easily recognisable, easy to pronounce and accessible. I was shocked no one had used it before!
The Diamonds and Stones wines emerged from the making of my founding Columbia Valley Syrah, a pan-Washington Syrah blend. In making it I was struck by the utter distinction between two particular sources a mere 60 miles apart: Stony Vine Vineyard and Discovery Vineyard. I decided to make signature varietal wines from these, to showcase Syrah’s aility to reflect the uniqueness of place and the distinctive quality of Washington Syrahs.
The name? A favourite song of my wife and I originally, by John Denver but covered by Amos Lee, about life’s twists, turns and changing nature! listen here
Loving the labels... tell us more about your style and design...
Initially they Diamonds and Stones labels were similar to the overall range, but a few expensive accidents in the winery (picking these higher priced flagship bottles by mistake!) led me to design something unique for them. My wife and I literally designed them together, sitting on the sofa of an evening, glass of wine in hand… my creative heritage must have come through!
My family have been involved in the branding from the start. Some of the names are family members (and my dog, Lola!) and my parents have designed some of the labels in the range.
What are we eating with these wines (‘Diamonds’ & ‘Stones’)?
Diamonds is the darkest Syrah in the range, a heavy, tannic wine that needs food. My favourite pairing is with Middle Eastern/Mediterranean spiced meat dishes like shawarma, with grilled vegetables and humus. The spice in these foods brilliantly complement the spice in the Syrah.
Stones has a funkiness, savory quality and element of the forest floor about it. It’s ideal with seasonal mushroom dishes, cooked with butter and rosemary.
Who are we with, what’s the occasion? Set the scene!
My dream is for my wines to be enjoyed by the people you love, your friends and family. While it’s nice to have those special bottles tucked away for rare occasions, I hope people ‘seize the day’ with my wines, don’t wait to enjoy them but just drink it! Even if it’s a Monday or Tuesday evening… cherish the moment, those you love and enjoy good wine.
Who’s inspired you most in wine world?
Lots of people, I’ve been fortunate to have great mentors and advisers along the way. Dr Vine of course who got me started! The winemakers who taught me on my internship that I’m still in close contact with. And my partners David and Cindy for having faith in me despite my limited experience when I started and taking a risk on a risky winemaker.
Best advice you’ve been given?
That knowing and respecting your audience is key. When I started talking about making less usual varietal wines, someone said “great idea but are you sure you can sell it”. You need to make sure it will be bought, not just be a quirky project.
What’s your proudest achievement in wine life?
Being placed 31 in the Wine Enthusiast Top 100 Wines last year, with my Columbia Valley Syrah. It was a goal to make that list at the outset and I was thrilled to feature in it.
If you were a wine, what would you be?!
Syrah of course! In Washington, I feel it’s the single most expressive grape and so reflective of the terroirs and land. I find its varietal variability so exciting.