Winemaker – Elizabeth Keyser
What is your/your family’s story around your winery? How did you first become involved in the wine industry and what has your trajectory looked like?
I grew up in the suburbs of New York City, and first entered the wine industry as a junior wine buyer for a NY-based wine retailer. The exposure to wines from around the world sparked an intellectual curiosity that I hadn’t experienced before and led me to working my first harvest in the Sierra Foothills in 2012. I was hooked and eager to learn as much as I could so at the end of harvest, I applied to several enology programs across the country and landed in the Finger Lakes for my enology degree. Since then, I have risen in the ranks from cellar internships to key winemaking roles in the Finger Lakes, Willamette Valley, McLaren Vale Australia, and most recently Napa Valley.
How long have you been making wine in Washington state?
I am a newcomer to Washington state, 2023 will be my second growing season!
What excites you the most about the wines you’re making?
Our estate vineyards in the Rocky Reach AVA are relatively young, with the oldest plantings being only 10 years old, yet even in their youth they express so much site-specific character. It’s exciting to taste these young vines that come to life and build intensity of flavor and complexity with each vintage.
What is your favorite part about the Washington state wine community?
The collaborative spirit and camaraderie – there’s a genuine willingness to share, explore and celebrate each other’s success. The community was one of the things that drew me to Washington from Napa Valley.
What excites you the most about what the future holds for Washington state wine? Where are we headed or what trends are you seeing?
What excites me the most about the future is the winegrowers and winemakers who are pushing boundaries, experimenting with new techniques, and keeping the pioneering spirit of Washington wine alive. The quality and diversity of wines produced in Washington is unparalleled, and the bar continues to be pushed higher.
I am equally excited by the SustainableWA program, and the commitment of participating growers to make enduring financial, social, and environmental changes in their farming practices.
What is your favorite wine and food pairing?
Cooking and gathering around the table with friends and family is one of my favorite things, so it’s hard to choose just one! But a favorite of mine this summer has been what I call “Curry in a Hurry” which is essentially a basil-green curry paired with Rocky Pond’s bone-dry Clos CheValle Gewurztraminer.
Owner/Grower – David Dufenhorst
What is your/your family’s story around wine grape growing? How did you first become involved in the wine industry and what has your trajectory looked like?
I grew up on a farm in Idaho 45 years ago and always wanted to own my own farm. We never grew grapes but many of the farming practices that I learned as a kid did help with the planting of our vineyard. Our exposure to the wine industry first began with trips to Italy and France and that was the catalyst for our family to find a piece of land in Washington that we could create something unique and extraordinary that would hopefully pass from generation to generation.
How long have you been growing grapes in Washington state?
Ten years. We planted our first vines in 2013 and then planted more vines in 2014, 2015 & 2017.
How did you first begin your estate vineyards?
We started out by buying a 30-acre piece of land that we graded and then planted 15 acres from scratch in 2013.
What excites you the most about the grapes you’re growing or the techniques/equipment you’re using?
We are growing grapes in unique soil and rocks that are not found anywhere else in the state and that’s what convinced us to hire a geologist to write a report and petition for our own AVA five years ago. We received approval in July of 2022 and the Rocky Reach AVA became the 20th AVA in the state. We are constantly evaluating new equipment and techniques to reduce our growing costs which keep climbing even though the price of our fruit keeps declining.
What is your favorite part of being a part of the Washington state wine community?
The wine community in Washington and around the world is a great group of people who are passionate about the business and enjoy life to the fullest which makes the industry super fun to be a part of.
What do you think the future holds for Washington state wine? Where are we headed or what trends are you seeing?
The industry is extremely competitive, and my sense is that we will see consolidation and shrinking of the number of wineries and planted acreage in the state. The wine industry is seeing flattening wine consumption and declining per capita consumption which are not good trends. The premiumization trend is continuing and this is the space we are focused on.
What is your favorite wine and food pairing?
Our Tumbled Granite Bordeaux red blend with a nice steak.
Vineyard Manager – Javier Rocha
What is your background, how did you come to work at the vineyard?
I worked as a maintenance manager for David before Rocky Pond, then he asked if I would start clearing out property to prep land for vineyards.
How long have you been working in this capacity?
What excites you the most about working in the vineyards?
I’m excited by the constant challenges you must overcome in farming. I feel as though I am always learning more about vineyard management and wines which only enhances my love for my job.
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I love the care and fine attention to detail around the vineyards.
What fact can you share about your job that wine-drinkers might not know?
I think people might be interested to know that well-tended vines can live for 50-100 years if you take special care of all those small details.