Only recently hired after harvest, Mark Fiore is the new winemaker at EFESTĒ. A former PGA Professional, Mark worked two harvest seasons at Beresan and Balboa wineries, which led him to an all-encompassing job with Charles Smith Wines in August of 2011. Mark began making wine for K Vintners and then worked on other projects such as Sixto, Latta Wines, Wines of Substance and B Leighton in Walla Walla and Seattle. Mark has completed all of the extension courses at UC Davis and has traveled extensively to Portugal, Spain, and France. I think you will very much enjoy learning more about him. Here is my interview with Mark Fiore, winemaker at EFESTĒ.
WWB: What were some of your first impactful experiences in wine?
MF: My second to last job as a golf professional was a startup job on the Oregon Coast and I needed to turn this old shed into a golf shop. Part of this was an making an Oregon store and I had a little wine shop because that goes well with golf, I was purchasing, tasting and buying Pinot from Oregon. This led to helping to open a new golf course in Walla Walla. As soon as I got there, the Washington wine world fascinated me. A couple of winemakers befriended me, Tom from Balboa and Mike from L’Ecole. Most of my days off were spent at their wineries and the rest is history. Tom ended up offering me and position in which I worked 2 harvests 2009 and 2010.
WWB: Can you talk about how valuable it was learning under Charles Smith and his winemakers?
MF: Late Summer in 2011 I began working for Charles Smith. I had befriended Andrew Latta who was the winemaker for Charles. He offered me great opportunity for me to learn and grow as a winemaker.Learning from Charles Smith is something I will take with me forever. I had a period where I was working for Andrew, Brennan and Charles and all I did was soak it all up. Brennan came to the winery bringing a new white wine program. I learned so much from all three of those people, I consider them mentors and friends. In 2015 the challenge of moving the winery to Seattle loomed large. By the end of last year, in terms of his winemaking team, I was one of the longest tenured employees there. EFESTĒ currently is about the same size as K was when I started making wine there.
WWB: What are some of the benefits and challenges with working with such a successful and large program that EFESTĒ has created?
MF: The benefits are exactly what you said; it is large, exciting and successful. Its s on shelves everywhere and people know about it. That being said, starting something that is already successful leaves me wondering how I can improve without changing the formulas. O think making the wine at EFESTĒ offers me an exciting opportunity. The challenge is growing the brand and making the people that are already a part of this place happier. We have one of the more excited and enthusiastic wine clubs in Washington! I have met some of the members and they seem really passionate and also are thrilled to have me on board to see what I can do. Stylistically, I can improve the winemaking with my knowledge, education and experience. I can’t wait to see what we will to do with both the Burgundian Bordeaux varietals, as well as the whites. I am proceeding slow, trying to tweak things as we go along.
WWB: When you are not enjoying Washington wines, what are some of your favorite wines and producers of world wine?
MF: The past few years I have been traveling so much. This has been really influential to my learning more about the regions of the world. Going to Bordeaux and St. Emillon was a great experience. Some of the wines over there were thrilling. I am really open-minded and a few years back I was in Lisbon, Portugal and some of the Vinho Verde wines were just fantastic for only six or so euros a bottle. One of the things I will miss most about working for Charles is going downstairs into his cellar. He has an amazing wine collection… I would ask “What are we trying to achieve” Then he might pull out an old Chablis or old wines from the early 1980s or 1990s, or even older when we would get into his Italian stuff. . Going over to Charles’ house and learning about wine through old bottles was just amazing. I have a small cellar and keep a few of the library wines that I have made. I have a few bottles of wines from Walla Walla, and everywhere that I really love.