One of the outstanding boutique producers of Washington, Kevin White is one of the hardest working people in Washington wine, founding his winery in 2010 while continuing to hold a full-time job at Microsoft. It all started in 2006 when Kevin was influenced by a great Cote Bonneville wine and caught the wine bug. He had to learn more about how wine was made and enrolled in classes in chemistry, microbiology and enology. Kevin started making his wines at famed Woodinville outpost, Baer Winery, before opening his tasting room in the warehouse district of Woodinville. His wines have consistently been some of the best values produced in this state. I recently had the chance to sit down with him and chat about his career in wine. I think you will very much enjoy hearing more about his wine journey. Here is my interview with Kevin White, owner and winemaker of Kevin White Winery.
WWB: What drew you to wine initially?
KW: For me it all started in my mid-20s and we were buying a bottle of wine for my father in law’s birthday. We were recommended a bottle of Carriage House from Cote Bonneville, the 2003 vintage, and ended up buying two bottles - one as a give and one for us. That wine was an aha moment for me. I realized what great wine tastes like and the experience set me on the journey to learn about wine. I was so interested that I drove out to DuBrul Vineyard to meet with Dr. Hugh Shiels and learn what DuBrul Vineyard was all about - a sense of place, time, and culture. How wine embodies all of that. As a lifelong learner, that was intriguing to me. After that first step, I was inspired to learn about the wines of the world and fell in love with Rhone wines. Around this time there were some great winemakers establishing Washington in a Rhone-inspired direction. Greg Harrington [Gramercy Cellars], John Meuret [Maison Bleue], and various others were showing that Washington can make great Rhone-style wines and were a huge influence on me. In 2010, after taking classes at the Northwest Wine Academy and volunteering at wineries in Woodinville, I was able to start my inaugural vintage with 4 barrels of Syrah in the corner of Baer Winery.
WWB: How did you decide to start Kevin White Winery?
KW: French wines from the Northern and Southern Rhone, became a passion, if not obsession for me. I particularly fell in love with Syrah from Saint Joseph in the North and Grenache blends from Gigondas in the South. After tasting some Rhone inspired wines coming from Washington, it was clear that we could excel with Syrah and Grenache. I decided that I wanted to be part of the early generation of winemakers showcasing the best of what Washington could do with these varietals.
In addition, when I started, there were very few wineries using little to no new oak in the wine profiles. What I loved about the wines I was tasting from France what the nuance that each varietal and terroir was offering. Too often I felt that new oak was overpowering the wines I was tasting in Washington. So, there was an opportunity to dial the oak way back, focus on Syrah and Grenache from great vineyards in Yakima Valley, and see if wine consumers would also fall in love this this style from Washington State. It worked!
WWB: Tell us about the red wines from 2017?
KW: I love the aromatics of the 2017 wines. It is a warmer vintage that reminds me of 2013. Our wines from 2017 have a rich fruit profile and show blue and red fruit characteristics. I believe that vintage has a depth at its core but also a great finesse - so we are straddling a wonderful line. 2017 is going to be very consistent across the board. I think consumers are going to love the 2017's.
WWB: Can you tell us about your wine cellar?
KW: We love to drink wines from all around the world, especially France and Italy. We buy wine that goes well with food -- wine that complements and doesn’t compete with the flavors of our meals. At home, we enjoy eating food that you would typically find in Provence, so we drink quite a bit of Rhone wine. In Gigondas, Domain Saint Damien is a favorite. Clos St. Jean, Le Vieux Donjon, Domaine de la Janasse are favorites from Châteauneuf du Pape. Chave does an amazing Syrah from Saint Joseph. Lately we have been drinking more and more Sothern Rhone white wines. These tend to be Roussanne dominant wines and we have discovered a love for wines which have a large blend of Clairette. A great example is the Le Vieux Donjon Blanc. We also really enjoy Pinot Noir from Oregon. Producers like Bethel Heights, Big Table Farm, Soter, Brickhouse as well Beaux Freres are favorites. In Washington, I love what our Woodinville friends at Avennia, WT Vintners, Two Vintners are doing. Those are a group of winemakers that I highly respect.