The third head winemaker in Dunham Cellars history, Tyler Tennyson will now be leading the white and red wine production at Dunham. Tyler originally had a background outside of wine but became enamored in the world of wine and followed the gradual progression into full-time winemaking. Tyler has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington. He has worked under some great teams at Dusted Valley, Seven Hills and Gordon Estates, prior to coming to Dunham. He is very excited to be the new headwinemaker at Dunham and I wanted to share his story. Meet Tyler Tennyson, the new head winemaker of Dunham Cellars:
WWB: Can you talk about how you became interested in winemaking?
TT: I got my degree in Urban Geography from the University of Washington and was working in commercial real estate in the Seattle area. I came from a family that didn’t do much wine drinking but my wife is Italian and I learned from their family who always had wine at their table. At the same time, I was working with Tom Shafer when he was starting a’Maurice in Walla Walla. So I fell in Love with wine and Walla Walla. My wife and I made some wine in the basement, and I’m not going to lie, it was terrible, but we loved the process of winemaking and I started taking some classes at South Seattle Community College. The wine bug grew and it became more and more of a passion, rather than a hobby. I finally decided to quit my job and moved to Walla Walla in 2009. From there I worked with Dusted Valley and then worked as an assistant winemaker at Seven Hills for three years. Then I got my first head winemaking job at Gordon Estates in Pasco which was really exciting. Gorton Estates had a wide range of wines, from all estate fruit, so that was a really exciting opportunity for me.
WWB: Gordon Estates has a wide range of wines and you bring that wide range of winemaking to Dunham. Was that a factor in deciding that Dunham Cellars was the right fit for you?
TT: That was definitely a factor. There were a number of factors. But the biggest factor was simply that it is Dunham, which is such a Walla Walla icon, a Washington wine icon for that matter. But there were a lot of factors for me. Personality wise, there was a great fit and my skill set matched up perfectly. My path to this point had really set me up for this. During my time at Dusted Valley, Seven Hills and Gordon Estate I had the opportunity to work with most major varietals white and red from all over the state and production levels similar to Dunham. And for me it feels like all of these stars have aligned and made Dunham a match made in heaven. Not to mention that when I even when I worked in Pasco I was living in Walla Walla so this is a nice home coming. I couldn’t be more excited about this being the right home for me.
WWB: What are some of your favorite varietals to work with? What excites you about Dunham’s wine lineup?
TT: I don’t know that it’s any one varietal I am most excited about. But I am excited to be working with such a diverse spread of fruit from some of the best vineyard sites across the state. All the different vineyard sourcing and the ability to work with all the site specific nuances is very exciting. Dunham has been such a nice reflection of wines throughout the state working with fruit from the Lewis vineyard in Yakima, to the Stone Tree vineyard on the Wahluke slope, to our Walla Walla sites and everything in between. Kenny Hill in Walla Walla is just fully coming online and it is exciting to be joining the Dunham family while we launch these Walla Walla Valley vineyard designate wines. I’m excited about it all.