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W.T. Vintners, part 2

Elegance, finesse, and fun

In part one, winemaker Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen talked about his philosophy on winemaking, what he looks for in a vineyard, and what he hopes for the future. This month we'll find out what he sees for the future, tasting options, and about his background.

Currently, W.T. Vintners produces around 2,000 cases of wine. "We've stepped back a little this year due to the pandemic," explains Jeff. "It's hard to know how much wine will be purchased. Each step in making the wine is an expense and storing it is an expense; we're taking precautions so we won't get behind. Our future goal is to be able to have two more full-time workers and for me to draw a salary. 2,500-3,000 cases are the breaking point. But beyond that, we want to create a community with customers and workers. We start with our shared love of wine and go from there."

Old school technique

Their wine club, The Alchemists Guild, is small and open for new members. "We don't aggressively push the club. It's about having a passion for the wine. Pre-COVID, we held two release parties a year where I brought in notable chefs. I built a farm table that can seat a maximum of 12 and we had quarterly dinners for members with Pacific Northwest chefs. Hopefully, we'll grow that, bringing chefs from Portland and beyond. There are usually library wines alongside new releases, and maybe a vertical. I also like to bring in a couple of outside wines, ones that inspired me. Those dinners usually include me, my wife Cortney, or maybe my partner George and his wife Casey. Sometimes I'll pose questions to get conversation started, sometimes it just happens organically. The dinners grow community and they're my favorite part of all this. I'm not usually in the tasting room, so this is where I get to know people by name and build relationships.

The wine club has access to two club-only wines, one is The Best Barrel. "As I taste through barrels, a single barrel usually stands out as just a bit more, sometimes it seems more age-worthy, other times it truly resonates the voice of the vineyard with tremendous poise, so it is bottled as a stand-alone wine. The second is a sort of wine-by-committee selection. At our Spring Release, I mock up five or more experimental blends outside our usual bottlings. Everyone who attends chooses their favorite and the winning blend is bottled as our Philosophers Stone blend and released to the Alchemists Guild when it is ready. It's another way to make people feel involved and build our relationship with our members."

W.T. Vintners makes 13 wines including wine club wines. Their tasting experience includes five wines and changes weekly. They usually include one library wine. There is a tasting fee which is refundable with a purchase. "Normally we sit down and talk while tasting, but right now it's less personal, but we are finding ways to connect."

Experimentation is always fun and this year they've released a 2019 Carbonic Syrah from Destiny Ridge Vineyard. They used the classic technique of placing whole clusters in a closed fermentation tank under a blanket of CO2, allowing grapes to ferment within themselves. After fermentation, the wine was aged briefly in neutral oak and stainless steel. The wine is lower in tannin with juicy, fruity character. $10 (100% of profit) from each bottle sold goes to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The label was done by a local artist who used a 1924 mug shot. They've raised over $6,000 so far, and plan to do it again this year.

They're also forming a small non-profit with their Rainmaker Rosé and Chardonnay to raise funds for farmworkers - health care, education, and more. Working with Syncline Wine Cellars, the two wineries will make one Pinot Noir. Rainmaker was a new vineyard for W.T. Vintners in 2018.

Another project has been Raconteur (storyteller) Wine Company. Jeff's background includes tasting tens of thousands of wines over the years. With all his connections in Washington, he gathers excess grapes and wines that aren't the ones winemakers use in their main wines. He works with them to elevate the final product and is able to sell amazingly good glass wine at affordable prices.

Everything W.T. Vintners creates is a product of Jeff's background. He worked at Bisato, Cascadia Restaurant where he was the Wine & Spirits Director, Wild Ginger's Bellevue location, Café Juanita, and RN74 in downtown Seattle (which will hopefully reopen). He has an Advanced Sommelier Certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers, and a Sommelier Diploma from the International Sommelier guild.

Destiny Ridge, Block 15, Syrah

He and his wines have garnered praise: Washington Wine Commission Sommelier of the Year, Wine Enthusiast Magazine 40 Under 40 Tastemaker, Wine and Spirits Magazine Top 100 Winery in the World 2019 and 2020.

After he and Cortney married, they took an extended honeymoon around the world. "It was 2008, Kerry Sear was selling Cascadia, and things were falling apart economically. We took the money we'd been saving for a house and went: Scotland, Ireland, Germany. In France I worked a harvest in Burgundy. Then off to Italy, spending a fair bit of time in Sicily; we had been to Spain and Portugal previously, so we skipped those. We spent a month-and-a-half in Turkey, then a hot and sunny Christmas in Indonesia in Bali and the surrounding islands. We then went to Australia and then New Zealand where I worked harvest. I've also worked a harvest in Oregon."

All of this cemented his belief in wine being rooted to the land, and that it is more than just a beverage. "Wine's profound amounts of aroma and flavor evoke olfactory memories - it's magic and intrigue. It taps into human connection and conversation. A few drinks and you're thinking differently. Whether the joy is fleeting or not, it's there. Add in the craftsmanship and art and you have Western Civilization in a bottle. It's a subtle element that elevates the human experience."

Connie Adams/November 2020

W.T. Vintners
19495 144th Ave NE, Ste B210
Woodinville, WA 98072

Click here to read Part 1

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