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The Great Divide

Vintners in western Washington aren't letting faraway vineyards stop them from crafting fabulous wines
Bruce Schoenfeld
From the Print Edition:
Steve Wynn, Jan/Feb 03

(continued from page 3)

Gary Figgins takes a sip of Leonetti's 1998 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, made for the first time with a Walla Walla Valley designation, then a drink of cool water drawn from a well on the property. We're sitting in his yard, behind the house and in front of the winery, eating cold cuts and bread and olives and three kinds of cheese, and drinking Leonetti. This is because there isn't really anywhere to eat a terrific lunch in Walla Walla on a Tuesday afternoon, but also because it's somehow more fitting to eat meat and cheese out under the open sky. "We're pickup country," Figgins says, smiling. He isn't kidding.

That night, back in Seattle, I meet winemaker Chris Camarda for dinner at Campagna. Together, the 55-year-old Camarda and his wife, Annie, own Andrew Will Winery, which they named after their son and nephew. They live in the middle of Vashon Island, cut off from the mainland by the East Passage of Puget Sound. When he wants to come to Seattle, Camarda drives his silver Porsche Boxster onto a ferry, makes the 10-minute trip across the water, and rolls into downtown.

Over foie gras, we taste the 1999 Andrew Will Klipsun Merlot, which is on the wine list at the restaurant, and then some barrel samples from the 2000 vintage that he has brought, and we soak up the urbanity of one of America's most cosmopolitan cities. Vintage French posters adorn the wall, and a waiter seems to know Shakespeare. With his silver hair and articulate manner, Camarda could pass for a university professor, except for the Boxster.

I ask him if he would make better wine if he lived in Walla Walla, and he assures me he wouldn't. "No, what lets me make better wine is trying other wines a lot, and just thinking about what I'm doing," he says. "You just have to think, and contemplate, and figure out what you need to do." Even now, having made wine commercially for more than a decade, he'll still find himself sitting in the barrel room of his winery, lost in contemplation.

Camarda has to catch the ferry back to the island, so he clambers down the steep, cobblestoned streets around Pike Place Market, then ducks into his Boxster to make his way home. Home is a winery, in his case, though it's surrounded by water, across Puget Sound and over a mountain range from the nearest grapevine. Camarda roars into the night, confident that his wine will never give the secret away.

 

Bruce Schoenfeld wrote about California Chardonnay in the October 2002 issue.


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