Pepper Bridge Winery

Director of Winemaking & Partner – Jean-François Pellet

What is your/your family’s story around your winery?

I grew up in Switzerland in a winemaking family. My grandfather and father worked in the same winery their entire careers. I worked alongside them and went on to earn degrees in both enology and viticulture. My passion for innovation led me to the US in the early 90’s which landed me at Heitz Cellars in the Napa Valley. After meeting Norm McKibben in 1998 and learning about the Walla Walla Valley, I moved my family here and began creating a new history. Although I am the first generation from my family here, I am proud to carry on the legacy of family winemaking from Europe to the new world. 

How long have you been making wine in Washington state? 

Since 1999

What is your favorite part of being a part of the Washington state wine community? 

I enjoy the opportunity to merge innovative techniques and practices with old world winemaking.

What do you think the future holds for Washington state wine. Where are we headed or what trends are you seeing? 

Our commitment to setting aside trends and instead striving towards sustainable practices to produce premium wines is our biggest strength. 

What is your favorite wine and food pairing?

Being from Switzerland, I love Raclette in the winter. A traditional setting includes small potatoes, pearl onions, cornichons, and marinated mushrooms. Our 2018 Sauvignon Blanc pairs perfectly. The richness of the fruit plays well with the cheese and the acidity brings a lightness to the dish and refreshes the palate to prepare you for another bite.

Vineyard Manager – Tom Waliser

What is your/your family’s story around wine grape growing?

My family was not involved in grape growing but were fruit and row crop farmers.  To be honest, the last thing I wanted to do was become a farmer after graduating from college (1974), however fate had a different plan.  Upon graduating from college I went to work as a crop consultant in the Tree Fruit industry in Milton-Freewater, obviously nothing to do with wine or grape production.  After leaving that career in 1989 to become an apple farmer, I started working with Norm McKibben, which led to development of Pepper Bridge Vineyard and Seven Hills Vineyard.  This resulted in a 30-year career of farming wine grapes in the Walla Walla Valley.

How long have you been growing grapes in Washington state? 

30 years

What is your favorite part of being a part of the Washington state wine community?

Being a novice at grape growing in my early years, I reached out to the Washington wine industry (which was very small in those days) and gleaned everything I could from my peers in the industry.  I met a lot of great people and formed some long-lasting relationships.  It was a fast moving and exciting period for the industry, as it grew exponentially, and what a fun ride it was.  I really value those relationships that I have formed over the years, and I owe a lot to people in the industry that have help me to become a better viticulturist and person.  I value that time, and hope I gave back accordingly.

What do you think the future holds for Washington state wine. Where are we headed or what trends are you seeing?

Well, our wine industry has only grown and has not looked back, so I suspect that will not change.  The wine industry will continue to grow, bring more talent into our midst, wines will only get better, and grape growing will evolve to meet the challenges ahead.  Only the brave and most earnest should apply, as we will have many obstacles and challenges to overcome.  Fortunately, technology and hard work will allow for the growth and success of the grape growing industry in Washington.  The rest is all about making great wine and do a hell of a job selling it.

What is your favorite wine and food pairing?

My favorite wine is Cabernet Sauvignon, but not far behind is a good crisp White or Rosé, not to be omissive of an interesting Red Blend.  As far as wine and food pairing, I am open to any good wine with the great food, and especially with great company and not in necessarily in that order.

Vineyard Crew Supervisor – Arturo Enriquez

What is your background, how did you come to work in the vineyard?

I have worked in this industry for the past 25 years for various vineyard owners; however, I have worked for Pepper Bridge Winery for the past 17 years as their supervisor with a small crew that takes pride in caring for the vines and grapes.

How long have you been working in this capacity?

17 years

What is your favorite part of being a part of the WA state wine community?

My favorite part is working with the vines, excited that my part, although small, is important with helping the production of each cluster turning into high quality wine for this winery.

What do you think the future holds for WA state wine? Where are we headed or what trends have you seen?

I believe that we will continue to be seen as a state that provides high quality wines. I also believe that Pepper Bridge Winery will continue to lead or pave the way for future generations. We continue to focus on new ideas and ways to be more efficient with the work we do in the vineyard that will improve the quality of clusters we pick each harvest. I also see that Walla Walla wines will bring people from all over the world to taste and love our wines and that will continue to mean we are highly recognized and respected. 

What fact can you share about your job that wine drinkers might not know?

The fact I can share about my job is the skill and confidence that I have when working each vine. I know the number of buds each vine needs to produce colorful clusters that will be sufficient for the winemaker to use when harvest comes around for the quality of wine people like to enjoy when drinking our wines.


2200 6th Ave Suite 411
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 741-0212


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