The votes are in, and it's official: the new "winery to watch" is Dusted Valley Vintners, owned by two newcomers to Walla Walla.
Dusted Valley was anointed by a media and trade panel in advance of the annual WAVE (Washington Arriving Vintner’s Event) held last weekend in Benton City.
Dusted Valley’s story is a familiar one: a lifelong love of wine, a dream of owning a winery, and seizing the opportunity to turn the dream into reality.
What's different here is that the players are two brothers-in-law, Corey Braunel and Chad Johnson, who married sisters from Wisconsin’s dairyland. Having discovered over a ten-year period that they also shared a love of wine (as well as a professional background in related medical fields), they found themselves in Walla Walla over Memorial Day weekend in 2003.
“It was as if we’d been struck by lightning,” recalls Corey, 30. “By Labor Day, we’d packed up and moved the family from Madison to eastern Washington.” Chad, 34, didn’t have quite as far to travel; he already lived in Vancouver.
They originally hired Steve Lessard of Whitman Cellars to make their first vintage of 1,000 cases, all from purchased fruit. In 2004, Lessard became a consultant; Corey and Chad are co-winemakers.
The Dusted Valley Vintners 2004 “Old Vines” Chardonnay was also singled out by consumers at the WAVE tasting. Hand picked and whole cluster pressed, then barrel-fermented in neutral French oak, the wine did not undergo a secondary malolactic fermentation, thus retaining fruit flavors, racy acidity and natural balance. A total of 400 cases were produced; retail price is $20.
“It’s a dream come true,” Corey said of the WAVE award.
Nineteen new wineries—in their first or second vintage—participated in this year’s event, which was held at the Hedges Cellars Family Estate on Red Mountain.
Trade and media representatives had a preview of the 2005 event but the result of the voting wasn't announced until after the WAVE tasting. Cornichon, having been out of town, out on the town in Chicago, as it happens, missed the tasting. Just found out about all this. Cute story, no?