Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Wine and a Grape time

QUINCY – White Heron Cellars is a vineyard and winery just outside of Quincy where they grow grapes and make them into wine sold all around Washington. Washington native Cameron Fries owns the vineyard and takes great pride in his craft.

The winery is family-run and is the oldest north of I-90 and will sell directly to consumers, Fries said. They began in 1986 and have been experiencing success since.

The main goal of the winery is to grow everything themselves and be as self-sufficient as possible. From the planting of the grape vines all the way to the bottling of the wine it is all done in-house, he said.

“We’re just vertically integrated,” he said. “We’re growing everything from the ground, putting it in the bottle and selling it as a finished product.”

White Heron Cellars has two tasting rooms with one being located in Quincy and one over at Pike’s Place in Seattle.

Fries has spent years learning the ins and outs of winemaking and grape growing which has opened his eyes to the complexity and balance that comes with it, he said.

“Being a winemaker and grape grower is sort of art, but it's sort of science,” he said.

He learned how to make wine in Europe where winemaking is seen as a trade equivalent to becoming an electrician or a plumber. He took on an apprenticeship at his school there to learn the ways of the trade, he said.

“Half the week was grape growing and half the week was winemaking and you could either do one or the other or both,” he said. “All of us who did both agreed that if we had to choose we’d do the grape-growing side.”

The grape growing aspect of the process is to Fries the best part of the whole experience. He would much rather be outside in the vineyard than inside in a typically darker environment, so being a grape grower rather than making the wine just makes more sense to him, he said.

Fries came to the Quincy area after working for another winery and fell in love with the area. He eventually decided that it would be best for him and his family just to live there, he said.

Fries said he followed the advice of Richard Smart who is also known as the “Flying Vine Doctor.” According to Smart, Fries said, the best place to grow grapes is a cool desert which is exactly where White Heron is located, he said.

The area’s arid environment helps regulate grape growth through irrigation. Through this process Fries is able to control the quality of the grapes as he sees fit, he said.

“With grapes, we use this term called deficit irrigation so we don’t give them as much water as they want,” he said.

This also helps with another process where they force grapes into certain shapes. This process helps expose the grapes to the sun and prevents the grapes from being allowed unlimited growth, he said.

All of this comes together to help ensure that the grapes being produced are of the desired quality ensuring a consistent experience with every glass of wine, he said.

“In other parts of the world where they grow grapes, if you have a wet year it can be bad or if you have a dry year it can be bad,” he said. “For us here if it's a wet year we water less, if it's a dry year we water more.”

This provides high versatility as the environment does not get enough water to grow grapes naturally giving them even more control over how they grow their grapes. In areas with higher rainfall there also comes the disadvantage of needing to spray for fungal diseases more often, he said.

While Fries does not have a favorite type of grape grown at the vineyard, there are grapes that are easier to grow than others. There are always going to be grapes that are more likely to work well with the desired shapes and adapt to the environmental changes coming each year, he said.

“Some grapes are just like, ‘I like this shape, it’s cool!’ and other grapes are like, ‘We really really don’t wanna do this,’” he said. “Obviously there are grapes that are easier to work with, but I wouldn’t say they’re my favorites.”

Caleb Perez is a graduate of Moses Lake High School and a 2023 graduate from Big Bend Community College. He lives in Moses Lake with his family and his dog, Aura.

White Heron Cellars

23832 Fine Wine Road NW

Quincy, WA 98848

509-797-9463

Thurs.-Mon.: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

www.whiteheronwine.com

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CALEB PEREZ/SPECIAL TO THE COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

The building where White Heron Cellars wines are created is surrounded by their vineyard. Inside sits the wine-distilling equipment and crates of freshly bottled wine.

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CALEB PEREZ/SPECIAL TO THE COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

White Heron Cellars for the first time began watering the vineyard using drone technology.