Rick Small & Darcey Fugman-Small
Woodward Canyon Winery


Rick Small grew up on a fourth generation Walla Walla Valley wheat farm and attended Washington State University, graduating in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture while also studying architecture. No one could have foreseen the wine industry that Small would help build when he returned to Walla Walla and soon began making wine as a hobby. 

By 1977, he began planting the first of 35 acres of vines across his land in Woodward Canyon. Darcey, a University of Washington graduate working in Walla Walla when she met Rick through her work. They bottled some of Rick’s homemade wine on their second date and would marry in 1980. The following year they launched Woodward Canyon Winery, becoming just the seond bonded winery in the Walla Walla area. There are now more than 140 wineries operating in the Walla Walla Valley. 

Darcey’s employment as a land-use planner for Walla Walla County provided critical capital for the startup winery. She had worked her way up to the county’s planning director position when she stepped away after 22 years to become general manager of Woodward Canyon. 

Early on, the Smalls took on a leadership role in the region’s emerging wine industry. As president of the Walla Walla Valley Winegrowers Association, Rick spearheaded the petition (with the help from Darcey as a land-use expert) for the Walla Walla Valley American Viticulture Area. It was established on March 7, 1984 by the federal government. 40 years later, their family’s vineyard remains the westernmost planting in the AVA. 

In spring of 1992, Rick’s winemaking successes landed him on the cover of Wine Spectator. Two years earlier, Spectator ranked his 1987 Cabernet Sauvignon as the number 10 wine in the world. The age-worthiness of his Cabernet program (particularly his Dedication Series) became the standard by which other Washington state producers are measured. The Small’s early investment in Champoux Vineyard also proved prescient as that site in the Horse Heaven Hills grew into arguably the Northwest’s most acclaimed for Cabernet Sauvignon. 

In recent years, Rick and Darcey transitioned operations of the vineyard and winery to their children. Sager graduated from culinary school and worked in the kitchens of some of Seattle’s top restaurants before going through the Walla Walla Community College viticulture and enology program. He manages the family’s vineyards, farming them under Salmon-Safe certification with an eye on organic and regenerative practices. Jordan joined the company in 2013 and was promoted to general manager in 2021. This spring, she was named an Emerging Leader by the Auction of Washington Wines.

In the 37-year history of the Auction of Washington Wines, only Rick Small has been awarded as both the Honorary Vintner and Honorary Grower. He’s also served as chair of the Washington State Wine Commission. And although they have both retired, he and Darcey remain involved in the wine industry and support community efforts in the Walla Walla Valley and educational institutions. Darcey served eight years on the board for the Walla Walla Community College and is currently on the college’s Foundation Board of Governors. 

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