Name: Gordon Venneri
Location: 225 Vineyard Lane, Walla Walla, WA 99362
Winery: Walla Walla Vintners
How long have you been at this: Commercially since 1995, Hobbyist since 1981
1. Who or what inspired you to become a winemaker?
In the summer of 1981 I travelled to Europe including Italy for 6 weeks. I learned to enjoy wine with meals and visited my cousins in southern Italy who were making wine for home use and to share with friends and family.
2. If you weren’t working with wine what do you think you’d be doing instead?
I am a CPA and at the time we started Walla Walla Vintners I was working in Financial Services. I would probably still be doing that type of work since it was my major in college.
3. What is your go-to wine (varietal, region) – other than Washington, of course!
Italy. I like the Piedmont and Tuscany area but enjoy wines from all over Italy.
4. What’s your favorite wine and food pairing?
I enjoy so many types of wine and food that there is not one favorite for me.
5. What advice can you offer to a first time wine drinker?
Find a few wines you like and enjoy them with food or meals. As you start to enjoy wine with meals, then expand your palate by trying new wines always with food at first.
6. “I want to own a winery and make wine.” – Any Advice?
In the early days I was very encouraging of new wineries and even helped several get started. Since there are now over 700 in Washington state alone, I would advise anyone getting into wine making to start as a hobby and grow slowly. If you see the quality of your wine is excellent, then branch out. Have a great marketing plan that would differentiate your wine from everyone else and make sure the demand for your wine exceeds the supply.
7. If you could make wine with any winemaker in the world, who would it be?
Someone from California that I admire a lot is Paul Draper from Ridge Vineyards. I stole a saying from Al Davis the football owner of the Oakland Raiders. “If you are thinking like everyone else, you are not thinking” I think that is Paul Draper. I would also like to find a winemaker in Piedmont to study under maybe one in Tuscany since I like wines from those regions. One person does not stand out although Angelo Gaia would be interesting. It is hard to find only one Washington winemaker in this category since “you are never a prophet in your own country.” That being said there are several Washington wineries I would like to visit in the fall and observe their techniques. AKA: Steal some secrets.
8. What do you like to do when you are not making wine?
Traveling for pleasure, gardening, cooking
9.What charitable organization pulls at your heartstrings?
There are many great charitable organizations and causes but obviously ones like AWW that involves helping children have to be at the top.
10. What do you think Washington wines will be known for in 25 years, as compared to now?
I know this is an arguable point, but I believe Washington will be known for the best Merlot in the world and a world leader of many other types of wines.
11. Winery pet and name?
The winery cat that was with us for 17 years recently passed. Her name was Nellie and she is missed by all of us and our customers. My pooch at home is Bella.
12. What’s something about you that few people know?
I always talk to people about the Italian side of my family and my Italian roots, but on my mother’s side of the family we have very deep French connections. We can trace our family back to 1790s’ France. They left France during the ‘Reign of Terror”, came first to Canada then later to USA and Yakima Valley.
13. Something about your winery that few people know?
We are an open book and I can’t think of anything in this category.
14. What is the strangest place you’ve served your wine?
In 1997 we made a trip to Italy and brought some wine to share with our cousins in southern Italy. That was a strange place to have our wine. We felt out of place serving our wine in Italy.
15. Describe your wine in 5 words or less.
Consistent, elegant, approachable, affordable.
16. What do you like most about the Auction of Washington Wines weekend?
It is an event that brings folks together for love of food, wine and friends combined with raising money for a great cause.
Meet Gordy Venneri at the upcoming Auction of Washington Wines 25th anniversary celebration, August 16-18.
Visit www.auctionofwashingtonwines.com for more information.