EFESTĒ owner, Daniel Ferreli, has an amazing story in wine. I recently had the chance to sit down with him and talk about his past, as well as the future endeavors for EFESTĒ . Daniel’s winery has achieved incredible success in a very short amount of time. With high scores from a host of wine publications, EFESTĒ is hitting their mark with red and white wines. I was very impressed with my recent tasting there and the quality of fruit and winemaking shows. Here is my interview with Daniel Ferreli, owner of EFESTĒ .
WWB: How did you become interested in wine? Can you talk about your grandfather’s influence?
DF: My grandfather has a wonderful story. He was born in 1886 in Calabria Italy and those people were starving, and his folks gave him money to get to America and get out of there. He wouldn’t read or write and bounced around and ended up in Chicago and got a job in distilleries. They always make wine in Italy and he continued to make it in America. He made it during prohibition and sold it. When prohibition was over he kept making wine because it was good and my dad moved me here when I was 6 months old to Seattle and then grandpa followed in 1959 and then he came and lived her and started making wine. That old press that is in the tasting room [at EFESTĒ] was the original that we used in making wine. My grandfather and I made wine together. When he died, my dad and my brother lost interest in making wine but I kept doing it and keeping it in the family. My grandpa was a great guy. We made Zinfandel, which is Primitivo in Italy, and went on from that and after a few weeks we made it every year. We were getting the fruit from Lodi, California. The grapes would come up in refrigerated box cars. We would go to the trains and buy the fruit. It was cold, and we would have to let it sit in the basement. Later we would crush it and then ferment and press it out and then drink it after midnight mass Easter. We would come home and have a little food celebration with the wine. That process went on for years and years, and then I kept making the wine. I learned a lot from my grandpa.
Grandpa couldn’t read or write but he got along fine in the United States. He couldn’t even sign his name and I even had to teach him how to sign his name. He was just a hard working guy and I think I took after him in that respect. Grandpa lived across the street from us and we spent a lot of time with them growing up which was great. It was a wonderful relationship I had with him. He loved that I loved making wine too, so we had the same passion. When I was young I remember going there in Chicago and we walked there everywhere because he couldn’t drive. He had a garden and grew spinach I would eat it even though I wouldn’t eat it in Seattle. I just loved him a lot and it was great being around him. My grandpa had this very practical common sense intelligence that worked well for him. He was able to raise his kids and had some money when he died. The work he did and what he accomplished in his life was amazing.
The tradition of winemaking in our family went on and then my now son in law, Kevin Taylor, was dating my daughter in the 80s. Kevin wanted to know about making wine and we made a quick bond and then he made wine with me every year when he got back from college. After many years of making wine we decided to go commercial and Kevin was a big part of that process. Kevin is the one that owns the vineyards that we use for EFESTĒ. There are several vineyards that we own, two on Red Mountain – Angela’s Vineyard and Taylor Mag Vineyard - and Oldfield Estate in Yakima. We bought property from Dick Boushey and planted there and also planted a vineyard right smack in the middle of Red Mountain. Some big names in wine are now are buying the excess grapes from us. Duckhorn [Napa] is buying some and they are not the only ones. There is a lot of interest right now. We are really loving the fruit that we get from Red Mountain.
WWB: Can you talk about your winery and how you decided to start EFESTĒ?
DF: In 2004 we formed EFESTĒ. My son in law kept saying that we should sell the wine we were making. I said that the Zinfandel we were making wasn’t good enough to sell and I would laugh at my son in law, as I told him that we needed to work on improving the quality of wine. Finally I got a hold of Chris Upchurch at DeLille and invited him for dinner. Upchurch agreed with me that the winemaking fun and liked what we were doing but our Zinfandel wine wasn’t a sellable product? We started talking to him during the dinner and Upchurch agreed to take us under his arm. At that time we didn’t realize what a break that was. Upchurch has had many years of success and he made our wine for several years but he got us in vineyards where we had no business getting into. Then in 2006 we produced a red wine, 100% Syrah, from Red Mountain, and also a Syrah from Yakima, Jolie Bouche. Our Red Mountain Syrah was on the Top 100 wine, number 36 in the world, from Wine Spectator. Two years later the Jolie Bouche got on the Top 100 from Wine Spectator and now wine writers are calling us to make appointments to go pour. We have had some good luck and I thank God for that. I see a lot of wineries that start and then fumble for many years. We have been very happy to get some good breaks and to be where we are after a decade.
WWB: With the white wines I have noticed that you source from some of the best vineyards in the state. Can you talk about your portfolio of white wines?
DF: We source primarily from the Evergreen Vineyard which is in George, Washington, and is a cool site for grapes. Our white wines tend to be great food wines and the Sauvignon Blanc [Feral bottling] gets bought by many restaurants and is a glass pour at many places. We make another Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvage, from Yakima which is softer and was on the Enthusiast 100 in 2014, 1st place Sauvignon Blanc in the Seattle Wine Awards, and “Best of Northwest” by Sip Northwest.. I think the best white wine we make is the Lola Chardonnay. Not only is Lola the name of my granddaughter but I think that the wine is very French like. It is oaked but not over-oaked, which is just right. The Chardonnay received 96 points from Wine Enthusiast the first year out and that was a big accomplishment for us. That was the highest rating that any white wine from Washington had received from Wine Enthusiast. We are very proud of our Riesling as well. Our Riesling is on the dry side and I read in this country that one percent to 1 to 1.8 percent residual sugar is off dry but it still has the nice acid and makes it a nice food wine. Our Riesling has won many awards and was on the “Enthusiast 100” this year, giving it the distinction of being the only white wine from Washington state on the list. Sommeliers pour it by the glass at many restaurants and it tends to sell well overseas. London ordered a whole pallet of it, 55 cases or so, and we thought that was a big compliment, given that Germany is so close to London. The Riesling is always one of our best sellers.
WWB: I had the chance to review your wines. The 2012 Final Final impressed and has received a ton of acclaim over the years. Can you talk about how you created this wine?
DF: We knew that was a good wine when we originated it [Final Final] in ’05. It is a great value for the quality and brings people into the tasting room and that is how we built our club up. The wine is approachable young and is easy to find at retailers and restaurants.
WWB: You have a major presence with your wine club. Can you talk about how you created your wine club?
DF: The wine club has been a really big part of the winery. We do a lot of events with the wine club and have all kinds of dinners and pizza parties, preparing the food in-house with our own recipes. Many of our wine club members rave about our wine club and the perks. We craft club wines that are a cut above and very limited. We really give them no reason to quit the wine club.
WWB: Can you talk about the family influence in your business?
DF: We have a lot of family influence at EFESTĒ. It is a wonderful thing to have family work with you. My daughter Angela, is also an owner in the winery. I am down there at the winery a lot. I have another daughter, Tina, that works at EFESTĒ, and it is just great to come in to work and see the family. My wife works there too, and she helps out with a lot of projects. We do a lot of the cooking for the wine club and that is really fun that we can be involved in these projects together. EFESTĒ is a family deal, a family business, and the people coming for wine tasting really like that aspect. They can see how close we all are. They like that the family is always there at the winery and is involved.