How did Andrew Wilson, a graduate of Georgia Tech, a university known for its top notch engineering program become a winemaker? “My parents have always been interested in wine, [it] was always on the table with dinner and even when I was young, I knew the basics of how red and white wines were made and the great producers of France, just from my parents talking about wine,” Wilson recalls. “I still remember being very interested in the whole idea of the Mondavi-Rothschild partnership that created Opus One even though I was only 8 or 9 when I first heard my dad talking about the wine.”
His parents visited the Walla Walla Valley and were impressed with the region’s wine. Realizing their family farmland in Oregon had a similar climate they decided to pursue the idea of turning the wheat farm into a vineyard. Wilson moved to Walla Walla after graduating college and enrolled in the Enology & Viticulture program at Walla Walla Community College to learn the industry. After a few summer jobs at local wineries, he was hooked and knew he wanted to continue learning about the process. Armed with his degree and working alongside some great local winemakers and mentors, he spent the next 10 years honing his craft working at wineries in the heart of Washington Wine Country.
In 2014 Wilson was offered the winemaker position at Goose Ridge Vineyards. The family-owned company operates one of the largest, state-of-the-art wineries in Washington, producing 40,000 cases of wine under its own brands. All Goose Ridge brand wines are made with 100 percent estate fruit from the more than 2,000 acres of estate vineyards.
1) Around the Goose Ridge tasting room, you are known for your obsession with Grenache. What about this varietal is so appealing and how do you use it in your winemaking?
Grenache can make a wonderfully elegant and finely polished wine with alluring aromas, nuanced flavors, and fresh liveliness. It is a challenging variety to grow — it’s a very productive variety, so it is hard to keep the yield under control — and to make into wine since the wine can be very fragile, more like a white wine than a red. But, made correctly, I find the resulting wines very enticing and profound.
2) Can you tell us a little bit about Goose Ridge’s wine in a can? What was the idea behind that?
Cascadian Outfitters is crafted to be the same quality as all of our estate wines, but made in an accessible, easy-drinking, refreshing style. Packaging in a can makes the wine more portable, the can is more disposable and easily recycled and the wine stays fresh and clean. We intend the wines to be something you want to bring along on an outdoor adventure like hiking, skiing, boating, concert or day at the beach — all places where a bottle would be a lot less convenient.
3) What is your favorite wine to drink in the summer?
I love dry rosé, particularly made from Grenache. I also love Sauvignon Blanc in the summer. For summer reds, I prefer Rhône-style wines that pair well with grilled meat since we do a lot of grilling in the summer, so Syrah and Mourvèdre are my top choices.
4) What are your winemaking pipe dreams — if you could make anything what would it be?
Goose Ridge’s Chardonnay is very special and distinctive. Given enough time and resources, I would love to explore making different estate Chardonnay wines using different fermentation vessels, different aging and different Chardonnay clones to truly push the limits of what our Chardonnay can be.
Even though falling down a Chardonnay rabbit-hole would be fun, my actual dream for Goose Ridge is to learn enough about our estate wines and how to handle them that the wines become widely known to convey a quality expressive of the Goose Ridge site. I see the distinctiveness of our estate wines because I work with them constantly, but my dream is to have it be commonly known that our wines show a profile that directly illustrates the place they are grown and the vintage they grew in and all that we do is allow that expression to shine clearly and loudly.