“I’ve never been one to do things like other people,” laughs Roger Gamache, a fourth generation farmer and Washington Wine Industry Foundation (WWIF) board member. Although he started out growing hops, today Roger finds himself in a very different place: proprietor of his own wine label.
“I just thought there was something to this whole wine thing,” says Roger. “I read a lot of research by Dr. Walter Clore on growing grapes. And I thought, ‘Why can’t we do that?’”
When Roger and his brother, Bob, started growing wine grapes in 1982, there were only a handful of wineries; “Eleven maybe 12,” he says. With 185 acres of wine grapes and 30 acres of peaches and nectarines, the brothers were soon selling their wine grapes to 35 small and large wineries.
As wine makers, we have a responsibility to pay it forward, and WWIF is a big part of that.
In 1995, Bob and Roger started crushing fruit to develop their own blend and in 2002, Gamache Wines was born. At times, starting his own vineyard and winery was ‘scary,’ but the unknown created a level of excitement Roger grew to love. “I have always been passionate about the success of this industry,” Roger says. “But you can’t just sit on your laurels. You have to keep moving forward.”
Roger chose to get involved with the Washington Wine Industry Foundation because of their philanthropic giving and their unified drive to identify and solve industry challenges. “WWIF get results for Washington entities,” Roger says. “This is such a young industry; we need grants and scholarships to keep progressing.”
Roger points out that that while the industry is young, current winemakers and growers are retiring. New talent needs to be cultivated. WWIF is helping by providing scholarships to continue the momentum behind Washington wine.
“As wine makers, we have a responsibility to pay it forward, and WWIF is a big part of that,” says Roger. “We have the opportunity and the responsibility for the continued success of Washington wine. The industry, as a whole, will determine what the legacy is.”
What’s Next for Washington Wine
While it may seem that the future is bright for Washington wine, much of its success hinges on education.
“The research that WSU is doing is going to keep us moving,” says Roger. “The work done at the Wine Science Center is focused on the finishing side of wine. WSU is creating viticulturists through academia. And I’ve always said that wines are made in the vineyard, finished in the cellar.”
Winemakers and growers from France, Italy and Australia are setting up shop in Washington to learn from local experts. Roger says that universities from all over the country–namely, UC Davis and Cornell–are collaborating with Washington State University to affect the wine industry on a national level.
Trends in Wine
“Rose’ was big last year; new blends are big,” says Roger. “In fact, we have people growing new varietals from different countries; Italian and Portuguese grapes in Washington–-that’s a new trend.”
Other trends such as microbrews, hard apple cider and a renewed focus on Riesling are all good for Washington. “You don’t have to pay $100 for a good Washington wine,” says Roger. “You can get a great pour at every price point. What’s happening is that Washington wineries now have the confidence to have their wine right next to higher priced varieties because they know their Washington wine is that good.”