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Truth Teller Winery

Associate Winemaker, Truth Teller Winery

Assistant Winemaker – Keith Whisenhunt

What is your/your family’s story around your winery?
I fell in love with homebrewing and home winemaking in my early 20s. I had always dreamed of working in the industry, but never really had an idea of how to make that a reality. When my parents decided to start making their crazy dream come true, I was working weekends and volunteering my time with them as much as I could. One day they called me and said that they were ready to hire me as a full-time winemaker and business partner. Well, I turned in my resignation to my day job the very next day and haven’t looked back.

How long have you been making wine in Washington state?
I started volunteering with TruthTeller in 2014 and became a full-time winemaker and business partner in the summer of 2017.

What is your favorite part of being a part of the Washington state wine community?
I love that we all have a mentality of ‘sink or swim together’. We support, encourage, and are genuinely pleased to help each other out. And our mutual preference for Washington wines

What do you think the future holds for Washington state wine. Where are we headed or what trends are you seeing?
BUBBLES!! We, as a state, might also be moving away from just the BIG bold reds, to a more delicate, or unique feel/taste.

What is your favorite wine and food pairing?
Red blends and street tacos!!!

Growers, Truth Teller Winery Spotlight

Owners, J&S Vineyards – John Jex and Sari Graven

What is your/your family’s story around wine grape growing?
Perhaps 40 or more years ago we fell in love with the wine culture as a result of many trips to Napa. It became a far-off dream that someday we might become a part of this culture, not really knowing how, when or where this might happen. Fast forward to 2000 our thoughts turned to where and how we wanted to retire from our 40-year careers in design and architecture. Sari, being a WSU Cougar, was drawn to the idea of returning to the Palouse. After hours of conversation, road trips, and research we realized we could bring together our love of wine with our desire to settle in the Palouse. Hello Walla Walla. The journey has been great, the learning curve steep and with the relationships we have made in our community, with vineyard managers, and wine makers, “we are liv’in the dream”.

How long have you been growing grapes in Washington state?
Our vineyard is located on the South side of Walla Walla, an area with historical roots as agricultural farmland. Upon purchase of the property in 2012 we began working on the land, reviving the soil, and installing the infrastructure required for the growing of grapes. Our Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec vines were planted in 2013.

What is your favorite part of being a part of the Washington state wine community?
We cannot say enough great things about our local wine community. As a relatively new vineyard we have relied on the help and expertise of so many people, all of whom have generously offered their help and support. This is an amazing community, competitive yes but dedicated to helping people be successful.

What do you think the future holds for Washington state wine? Where are we headed or what trends are you seeing?
As a grower we enjoy helping our wine makers market their wines, especially in other areas of the country that know little about Washington wines. Once they taste they become hooked. It is a lot of fun to participate in this educational process. As with most industries change is inevitable. The wine business in Washington state is no different. Pre-pandemic, Walla Walla’s wine community continued to see significant growth, characterized by an ever-increasing number of new, smaller wineries, consolidation of large wineries and an explosion in the development of new vineyards. Post-pandemic the market appears to have an overabundance of grapes as winemakers both large and small try to second guess what will happen in the short- and long-term future of their business. Climate change is going to increasingly impact our growers as witnessed by the recent devastation visited upon the wine regions of California and Oregon. We believe the state of Washington will increasingly become an important provider of high-quality grapes.

What is your favorite wine and food pairing?
We encourage people to drink what they like and not get to hung up on what food is “right” to drink with a specific wine. Having said that one of our guilty pleasures is a fabulous cheeseburger with a delicious bottle of Malbec.

Vineyard Workers, Truth Teller Winery Spotlight

Owners, Banek Winegrower Management – Chris Banek and Ramon Esparza

What is your background, how did you come to work at the vineyard?
The founders of Banek Winegrower Management, Chris Banek and Ramon Esparza, joined forces in 2010, after being in the industry for over 15 years. Combining Ramon’s farming experience in the rocks with Chris’ farming experience in the hills worked well for the company.

How long have you been working in this capacity?
Banek Winegrower Management has been in business for over 10 years. Our business has thrived due to the professional and hard-working crews that have been a part of our operation.

What is your favorite part of being a part of the Washington state wine community?
Our favorite part about this industry is the people, from the crew members to all the winery folks, we share a mission to produce high quality wine. Planting a vineyard and watching it grow, and the effort it takes has a large impact on us when we see the final product in a bottle.

What do you think the future holds for Washington state wine? Where are we headed or what trends are you seeing?
The wine industry in our valley is young and we have a bright future ahead of us. The future is wide open for growth in this area. New growing regions are popping up around the state and it will be great to see these wines and new sites develop. There are so many young and bright talented people coming up, including industry professionals and leaders moving into our valley and that is huge. We feel there is so much more to look forward to with wines from Washington state. Trends for our company moving forward: the importance of our talented people that work for our company. We believe retaining knowledgeable crew members is the key to our long-term sustainability.

What fact can you share about your job that wine-drinkers might not know?
Soil nutrition and biological balance in the soil is crucial to vine health, which is a very important part of growth and sustainability.


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


The Northwest Wine Benefit Foundation, DBA Auction of Washington Wines, is committed to supporting the growth and awareness of the Washington state wine industry through a series of celebrated events benefiting our community. We have raised over $63 million since our inception in 1988. 

The Auction of Washington Wines is an equal opportunity employer and prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital or familial status.

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