Upsidedown Wines

Owner/Winemaker – Seth Kitzke

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? As a farming family in Yakima Valley, labor starts young! I started working in the vineyard for my dad in 2000 planting and training the vines on Candy Mountain at Kitzke Family Vineyards. I worked in the vineyard every summer through college. In 2013, my parents were looking to start the transition out of their boutique winery, Kitzke Cellars, and that’s when I jumped in.   I enrolled in winemaking school at the Northwest Wine Academy in Seattle, where my wife and I were living at the time.  Weekdays were spent in school, and weekends were spent pouring wine for shops, and selling wine at the many Seattle Farmers Markets and retail shops.  I made my first vintage in 2016 in Woodinville while working at another winery.  I quickly realized how hard the logistics of that were, and that’s when my wife and I decided to move back to Tri-Cities (where we’re both from).  Together we started the Upsidedown Wine label in 2015.

How long have you been making wine in Washington state?
10 years

How did you first begin working with the grower?
I met Mark in 2019. My friend Andrew Schultz at Brothers in Farms was consulting for him on the development of Equus. Knowing my love of Grenache, he told me to check out this new high elevation site in the Moxee Valley. After a couple photos of the soils with Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams in the background, I figured I had to check it out! The soil profile was drastically different from the basalt that is commonly found in Washington.

What excites you the most about the wines you’re making?
Pushing the boundaries of what Washington wine is known for. Sites like Equus excite me as they attempt to grow grapes in ways that might be different from the norm in Washington. Cooler sites with elevation often haven’t been farmed before and hold a higher density of nutrients found organically in the soil. This creates a healthier environment for natural fermentation. The cooler days and longer hang time into the fall help phenolic ripeness mature at lower sugars, which amounts to lower alcohol in the wines and freshness. This is something we look for if we are sourcing fruit. I think the most important part of my job is to showcase a sense of place first. To me this means lower yields with precise vineyard management that allows you to pick balanced fruit. Then my job is to guide the fermentation, if needed, but mostly to simply get out of the way and let the site come to life.

What is your favorite part about the Washington state wine community?
How young it is and the possibility we have here for improvement. We are just starting to figure out what clones do well, experimenting with vine spacing and what rootstocks can give us. Everyone here for the most part is eager to learn and share what is working and what hasn’t. At the beginning of Washington wine there was a larger disconnect between growers and winemakers. Farming has continued to evolve in our state for the better and the relationship continues to strengthen between growers and small-scale winemakers looking to craft higher end wines in the vineyard.

What excites you the most about what the future holds for Washington state wine? Where are we headed or what trends are you seeing?
The possibilities here are endless. Washington is a huge state with tons of microclimates from the Rocks District to Yakima Valley. I am excited for the consumer to continue learning about Washington and that it’s not all Cabernet and Riesling. Showing them that varietals like Roussanne and Grenache have distinctive personalities of their own and with some vine age have the potential to rival even some of the benchmark regions around the world. Although Cabernet and Riesling obviously have solidified their spot here, I am excited about the future of Rhone varietals.

What is your favorite wine and food pairing?
Probably a shellfish boil with Marsanne/Roussanne but there are too many to choose a favorite!


Growers/Owners, Equus Vineyard – Mark and Debbie Roy

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?
We are fourth generation growers here in the Upper Yakima Valley north of Moxee on a south facing slope of Yakima Ridge at 1300 – 1400’ elevation.  Our main crops are hops, apples and cherries. Our hands have been in this dirt since 1907.  Farming is in our blood, and we are excited to diversify into growing world class grapes for the Washington wine industry.

How long have you been growing grapes in Washington state?
Our family has been looking for the perfect grape location and we’d been dreaming of planting on this site for years. In 2017 the property came up for sale, so we named it Equus (Latin for horse) because it was a thoroughbred horse farm for over 30 years.

Our first grapes were planted in 2018.   After lengthy discussions with numerous grape experts and studying our site, we decided to plant five varieties, Grenache Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Sauvignon Blanc.

How did you first begin working with this winery?
We are very fortunate to be working with Upsidedown Winery, one of the newer wineries in Washington state.  Seth and Aubrey Kitzke have the vision and passion to create spectacular wines and our mission is to grow world class grapes for those wines.  Partnering with them since 2020 has been a great learning experience as we discover the best growing techniques for our cooler, higher elevation site.

What excites you the most about the grapes you’re growing or the techniques/equipment you’re using?
Every vinifera variety is different and we are learning how to best grow them to optimize the fruit quality each year.  Every vintage is different, and it takes some tweaking to bring out the very best in each variety. We must constantly be out there with our vines and aware of what Mother Nature, growing degree units, and sunshine brings us.

What is your favorite part of being a part of the Washington state wine community?
The Washington wine community has been very open and helpful in sharing with us as we began this journey to produce wine grapes.  Everyone is there to encourage and share what they have learned.

What do you think the future holds for Washington state wine? Where are we headed or what trends are you seeing?
We are so blessed to be here in this place at this moment in time.  It’s exciting to be in our industry; as our perfect combination of soil, desert climate, irrigation systems along with the best scientists and educational resources help us to run with the best.

What is your favorite wine and food pairing?
One of our favorite pairings is the Upsidedown Equus Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon with prime rib (med. rare), baked potato, seasonal green salad, and broccoli.


Vineyard Foreman, Equus Vineyard – Gabriel Renteria

What is your background, how did you come to work at the vineyard?
I worked for Jackson Horse Farm for 20+ years.  The Roy’s purchased the farm in 2017 and converted some of the farmland to vineyards in 2018.  I was able to participate in the Washington Wine Growers Latino Viticulture program for two years, which taught me many of the hands-on skills to grow wine grapes.

How long have you been working in this capacity?
Since 2018. 

What excites you the most about working in the vineyards?
One of the most exciting parts was to be able to help plan, plant, and grow the vineyards from just open horse pastures.  It was a wonderful opportunity to be part of this project.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
Every season is different in the vineyards.  My absolute favorite time is during the spring, when everything is coming back to life and watching the grape buds begin to grow into clusters.

What do you think the future holds for Washington state wine? Where are we headed or what trends are you seeing?
One trend that I am seeing is that more Latinos I know are trying wine for the first time. It’s been wonderful to see what they have been enjoying.

What fact can you share about your job that wine-drinkers might not know?
We live in a desert here in the Yakima Valley, only getting six to eight inches of rain & snow per year. One of my jobs is to irrigate another eight to 10 inches throughout the growing season, depending on the soil and variety.

AUCTION OF WASHINGTON WINES

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

aww@aoww.org

OUR MISSION

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.

OUR newsletter

Website by

Photos courtesy of Curbow Photo, Duval Images, and Suzi Pratt © 2008-2023 Auction of Washington Wines
Read our Privacy Policy