When Spanish wine executives Jesús and Ana Martínez Bujanda first constructed a vineyard in Walla Walla, folks anticipated them to do issues the Spanish manner.
As an alternative, they planted totally different sorts of Tempranillo, used irrigation and trellising, employed a Walla Walla winemaker and viticulturist, and adopted the lead of locals who had already constructed a profitable, if younger, trade within the Pacific Northwest.
“We got here right here to be taught,” Jesus mentioned. “We have now not come right here to attempt to do issues like we do them in Spain.”
In 2019, the household opened Valdemar Estates in Walla Walla, a vineyard hub in Southeast Washington.
The general firm, known as Familia Valdemar, relies in La Rioja, a province in northern Spain identified for Tempranillo and has a wine-growing historical past courting again to medieval monasteries. The household wished to broaden however could not discover the correct slot in Europe. Jesus requested them to contemplate Washington, the place he had visited as a global research pupil on the College of Washington in 2008. After a couple of visits and contacts, they selected Walla Walla.
Shortly after, the household employed Devyani Isabel Gupta, a graduate of Walla Walla Group Faculty’s viticulture and enology program, as assistant enologist. She now works as an oenologist and viticulturist. She additionally has levels in psychology and Spanish from Whitman Faculty, one other Walla Walla college.
As we speak, Jesus is the CEO of Valdemar Household and lives in Walla Walla. Ana is the operations director and lives in Spain. Her father, Jesús Sr., is the president however has semi-retired to an advisory place, additionally in Spain.
“He is a really, excellent taster as a result of he has a whole lot of expertise,” Ana mentioned throughout a go to to Walla Walla in June.
His mom, Carmen, isn’t concerned within the enterprise.
Ana has two grownup kids in Spain. Each have expressed not less than some curiosity in changing into the sixth technology. Jesus’ kids are nonetheless small.
Ana mentioned she’s going to doubtless stay in Spain to pursue her diploma, however she communicates with Jesús and the Walla Walla crew day by day through video convention to debate the variations and similarities of ailments and pests.
“The perfect factor is that we’re studying loads,” he mentioned.
Variations and similarities
Regardless of the household’s dedication to Washington, they imported some European concepts, giving the 2 strands of their companies similarities and variations.
The 2 places function on a special scale. Valdemar Estates presently produces about 3,500 instances a yr, however has capability for about 10,000. Its vineyard in Spain, known as Bodegas Valdemar, produces 120,000 instances a yr and exports about 75 % of that quantity.
Enterprise selections additionally differ. On the one hand, selection choice and administration practices in the US depend upon particular person corporations. Most growers have contracts, however corporations can plant and harvest as a lot as they need. In Europe, designations of origin authorize the usage of grape varieties and regulate yields.
Valdemar Estates’ enterprise techniques replicate Spain’s emphasis on meals. Walla Walla Vineyard has a tapas restaurant, and in September, the corporate opened a tapas wine and cocktail bar in Woodinville. Moreover, they harvest a little bit sooner than their neighbors, in search of a more energizing model that mixes higher with the meals, Jesús mentioned.
Each wineries export to one another by their current distribution networks, so European drinkers in eight international locations are uncovered to Walla Walla wine.
The vineyards are additionally a mixture of outdated and new world concepts.
They’ve lots of the horizontal cordons widespread within the Northwest, however Gupta trains the corporate’s Grenache into tall, three-rod glasses. It is a widespread model in Europe, though different producers in components of the Walla Walla Valley are additionally attempting it.
“That is primarily based on what I noticed on the household farm in Rioja,” mentioned Gupta, a board member of the Washington State Wine Fee, pointing to some vines in April, simply as they have been starting to sprout.
Nevertheless, use trellis wires to make the fruit grasp increased, away from drip irrigation traces. The vineyards in La Rioja are solitary and don’t have irrigation.
The Valdemar household has partnered with Washington State College to check Spanish varieties in Washington and plans to plant one in every of them, Maturana Tinta, within the coming years.
Greetings to Washington
Valdemar’s choice to undertake Washington methods is a testomony to the state’s trade, mentioned Erik McLaughlin, CEO of Metis, a Walla Walla meals and beverage consulting agency.
“It is a fantastic validation of Walla Walla and Washington state that they wish to come and embrace it and be part of it as an alternative of transplanting and doing one thing totally different,” mentioned McLaughlin, who’s a advisor with Valdemar Estates and bought a winery property to the corporate.
They may have had success with Tempranillo, McLaughlin mentioned. A number of high-end wineries in Washington and Oregon produce it (see “Tempting with Tempranillo“).
McLaughlin sees Valdemar Estates as a part of a development of main European wine producers investing within the American West. One issue could also be that earnings and inheritance taxes are decrease in the US. European wineries think about the US the world’s largest marketplace for high-priced bottles, though demand for affordable wine has declined.
“America is actually seen as the expansion space,” McLaughlin mentioned.
Valdemar additionally requested locals for technical assist, together with Kevin Pogue, a professor of geology at Whitman Faculty and writer of the petition to kind the Rocks District, a federally acknowledged subset of the Walla Walla Valley American Viticultural Space.
In the meantime, different native wine leaders cheered on their new Spanish neighbors. Norm McKibben, founding father of Pepper Bridge Vineyard and one in every of Walla Walla’s pioneering winemakers, helped the brothers discover property and bought them a parcel for the vineyard subsequent to Amavi Cellars.
McKibben mentioned the household has a “long-term imaginative and prescient” for the vineyard possession, which is nice for the Walla Walla neighborhood and Washington’s wine trade.
—by Ross Courtney