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My Current State of Wine

"Do I still work in the wine industry?"

Like many of you, the Covid pandemic altered my life trajectory. Today, I am going to re-cap where I am in the wine industry. My story will bounce back and forth for context. Remember, I like to connect the dots.

The Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center
The Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser, Washington.

First, everyone asks me, what happened to the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center (Clore Center)? Good question. The Clore Center, located in Prosser, Washington, birthplace of Washington wine, opened in 2014 as a not for profit. The primary mission of the Clore Center was to promote "Washington state wine." I began working at the Clore Center in October 2015. My last title was, Wine Education Coordinator. We finally, sadly, closed our doors in November 2020. 

It was my sincerest pleasure to work at the Clore Center for five years. I made many friends in the industry and in the community. I met many people from around the country and from around the world. Also, I learned a great deal more about wine, about wine and food pairings. And, especially, public speaking. Sharing my passion became easier and easier the more I interacted with guests. Speaking to large groups was a true pleasure. I love connecting with my guests. I think that is what I miss most.

The Clore Center serves as a central gathering place for industry and consumers to discover Washington wine and agriculture through engaging events and innovative programs. The Clore Center provides wine and culinary educational classes that cater to the needs and interests of industry professionals and consumers. Classes cover a variety of grape varietals, regions, AVA's and viticulture and enology practices.

As far as I know, Washington State University (WSU) has acquired the lease on the building. They are renting out the facility for events and meetings. As far as I know. WSU did have a plan for re-opening/re-imaging the Walter Clore Center. Sadly, the person in charge of the new initiative, Dr. Byron Marlow, passed away unexpectedly December 2021. The Clore Center became a ship without a captain. Byron was a good guy. I liked him tremendously. We had discussed ideas about the future of the Clore Center. My understanding is that WSU is discussing how to best utilize this facility.

*Note: At the bottom of this post I will share a number of photos from my time spent meeting, greeting and hosting educational wine tastings at the Walter Clore Center. It was an amazing time. 

Curbside wine pickup
Curbside Pickup please call.

Am I still selling wine and telling wine stories? Yes. But.

During the initial phase of the pandemic, The Clore Center opened sporadically for our wine club members. We would wait for them and then hustle out their bags of wine. I also hosted a few virtual wine tastings for our most loyal customers/friends via Zoom. In October 2020 I even hosted a real, in person, Italian wine tasting and food pairing. Felt great. Felt almost normal. A few weeks later the board was disbanded and our doors shuttered.

Wautoma Springs Winery
Winemaker dinner setting, Wautoma Springs tasting room.

In September 2020, Wautoma Springs Winery, also in Prosser, Washington, reached out to me. They asked if I would like to join their team and sell wine. I jumped at the chance. Wautoma Springs winemaker, Jessica Munnell, was on the Clore Center board. Rachel Mercer, manager at Wautoma Springs, had also been my manager at the Clore Center for a year. Shifting over to a winery was easy. Especially since I work with friends. 

Wautoma Springs wines
Wautoma Springs among the best Washington wines.

At Wautoma Springs, I met many of my Clore Center guests and friends. It felt good to be social again. The feeling of isolation momentarily pushed aside while I slung wine and told stories. Did I mention it felt good? Working at Wautoma Springs during a global pandemic became my medicine. It was my only social outlet, aside from grocery shopping. They helped keep me sane. 

Wautoma Springs Pandemic Tasting
Rachel Mercer and Jessica Munnell, Wautoma Springs.

Today, I am working a day or two a week at Wautoma Springs. Jessica makes stunning wines and Rachel makes delicious delights in the kitchen. We have the best selection of first quality tinned seafood in Eastern Washington. We have sardines from Spain, Portugal, France, Baltic Sprat from Norway, Lobster from Ontario and oysters from Washington state. We also sell chocolates from around the world: Brazil, Peru, Dubai, Barcelona, London, Vietnam, Singapore, Latvia, Arkansas, Hawaii and Seattle. We also have Tortas from Spain, spices from the middle east and Greek olive oil, among other specialty items. I tell guests that I drink and eat well. Yes, I know, I am spoiled. 

We have a talented team at Wautoma Springs. Last August we went out to our estate vineyards with our grower Tom Merkle. Here's a photo of Jessica and Tom at the Wautoma Springs estate vineyard below. Stop by the tasting room and say hello. And enjoy our famous hospitality.

Wautoma Springs Vineyard
Jessica Munnell and Tom Merkle walk estate vineyard.

Wautoma Springs Winery Tasting Room:
236 Port Ave, Suite C, Prosser WA 99350. In Vintners Village.

Am I still writing? Well, today I am.

While I was working at the Clore Center, I got my needed fix to share my thoughts, feelings and stories about wine. Consequently, I began writing less and less. Once the pandemic hit, I lost interest in writing. My thought was, why bother? Recently, I have felt the itch to share my thoughts on things not just about wine. Wine yes. But life is more than wine. This year, I have helped start a pottery studio.

Pottery Studio?

Late last year, I was approached by Julie Mercer. Julie is Rachel Mercers cousin. Small town. Julie heard that I used to be a potter and that I used to be the Pottery Studio Assistant at Columbia Basin College. All true. Julie asked if I would be interested in helping her open an art studio. And would I be willing to be an instructor? It had been 16 years since I was a pottery studio assistant I told her. And, it had been 16 years since I had done any quality work. Yes! I jumped at the chance to touch clay again.

Historic Mercer Building
Historic Mercer Building in downtown Prosser, Washington.

Julie owns the Historic Mercer building in downtown Prosser, Washington. Prosser is the same town the Clore Center and Wautoma Springs Winery are located. In the back of her building, there is a large garage area. This area has now been converted into a pottery studio. We have eight wheels and two electric kilns. We are The Bunkhouse Studios. My focus is wheel thrown pottery. We also have Megan, who is an artist instructing on hand building with clay. Other artists are participating as well in wood and textiles.

William Pollard, pottery instructor
I tend to have a silly grin in the studio.

I am now instructing my third group of new to pottery students. It is a blast. I love teaching and passing on what I know and of course my stories and anecdotes. So far, the work I am producing are demo pieces for my students; cups, bowls, plates, bottle and yesterday, lidded forms. 

Wheel thrown pottery
Demo pieces thrown in class.

Logo The Bunkhouse Studios

Sometime this summer I should start producing my own work. I just don't want to take over the studio with my stuff. Students first. Yes it is fun throwing clay again. Much, much fun. You are invited to drop in and visit our studio space. We have classes and studio space to rent by day and month.

The Bunkhouse Studios, 717 Sixth Street, Ste B, Prosser WA 99350. Entry in back of building.

Have I mentioned I am a wine tour guide?

Yep. I work for Taste Vacations. They offer premium, multi-day vacation experiences. For them, I cover Washington wine country. On my tour, we visit the Red Mountain AVA, Vintners Village in Prosser, and then we spend several days in Walla Walla. This is a premium wine country adventure experience with wine, food, and lodging. Taste Vacations is part of Zephyr Adventures an international wine tour and adventure company. Walla Walla has changed a lot since I first began visiting. I am privileged to be a wine tour guide with a Walla Walla emphasis.

Alan Wright and William Pollard
2010 with Alan Wright owner Zephyr Adventures.

*Note: In 2010 I connected with Zephyr Adventures at the Wine Bloggers Conference they hosted. They asked me to be a volunteer at the conference. The Wine Bloggers Conference has evolved with the times. It was re-branded in 2018 as "The Wine Media Conference." You can learn about what they do at Zephyr Conferences

Taste Vacations Washington Wine Tour - Learn more

About Walla Walla, Washington

Walla Walla is an especially important wine destination for me, for several reasons. My first forays into Walla Walla were in the late 1980's. This was before Walla Walla became the important wine region it is today. My regular stop was at Merchants for lunch. The Walla Walla cemetery was also an occasional stop for photographs. For me, nothing interesting happened in Walla Walla until the early 2000's.

The architecture and engineering design firm I used to work for, had several wine industry projects for Columbia Crest winery and Chateaus Ste. Michelle winery. They opened an office in downtown Walla Walla in the early 2000's which I helped setup. My friend, Architect Ed Luebben, manned that office and was involved in helping to restore several of the historic brick buildings downtown. 

Garrison Creek Cellars in Walla Walla
Ed Luebben at Garrsion Creek Cellars.

Wine Incubators Walla Walla, Washington
Ed Luebben at Walla Walla Wine Incubators.

Northstar Winery winemaker dinner
Northstar Winery winemaker dinner with Ed Luebben.

Ed also designed Northstar Winery, Garrison Creek Cellars, the Wine Incubators by the airport and he designed the buildings, Phase 1 and Phase 2, for the Walla Walla Community College Viticulture and Enology program. Ed and I have gone wine tasting several times together in Walla Walla. 

*Note: I have quite a few wine posts on Walla Walla. Here is the list.

Lost and Found

One of the important to me Walla Walla wine country visits Ed and I shared was in 2010. We visited several wineries, including Garrison Creek Cellars. Garrsion Creek Cellars is where and when I "found my palate again." I had misplaced my palate in 2009. Really.

Later that year was my first wine bloggers conference. The wine bloggers conference experience was one of my "wine epiphany" experiences. That conference in Walla Walla, Washington opened my eyes to the world of wine. Beyond Washington wine. There were a couple of deaths that I don't mention which led to my going to Walla Walla for the conference. The death of my best friend, and the death of my neighbor. You could also imply (don't they come in three's?) that my focus on only Washington state wine also died at that conference. 2010 was a pivotal moment in time for me. 2022 seems to be a pivotal time as well.

2018 Wine Bloggers Conference
Women Winemakers Panel, 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference.

2018 Wine Bloggers Conference

In 2018 I attended another Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla. It was phenomenal. One of the most passionate writings I have posted came out of this conference. There were many intense and interesting discussions at that conference. Not quite full circle, but a milestone in how I perceive Walla Walla and Washington wine country.

Read: Highlights from the 2108 Wine Bloggers Conference

Read: Northwest Wine Industry, The Next Phase, The Visionaries.

Three Rivers Winery
With Holly Turner, exceptional winemaker at Three Rivers Winery.

Well, that about catches you up with me and my state of wine. Next year a trip to Italy may happen. We are discussing a trip with friends. And I have a contact in Northern Italy (my sister in laws boyfriend.) Lately, I am watching a lot of Italian programs on MHz World TV. Il Commissario Ricciardi is my favorite. Set in Naples in the 1930s. Fun watch and I am training my ear for Italian. 

If you are interested in a quality Washington Wine Country tour, please contact Zephyr Adventures. I would love to be your guide. I love what I do. Just ask my guests. 

Here are the photos I promised.

The Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center - Events and Tastings

History of the Vines
Rob Griffin, Barnard Griffin Winery, first hand stories of the history of Washington wine.

Legends of Washington Wine
We got to taste old bottles of wine made by Dr. Walter Clore and his Associates.

Bubbles and Bites
I hosted many sparkling wine tastings. April 2017.

Bubbles and Bites
Bubbles and Bites with a food pairing component. June 2018.

More Bubbles and Bites
Have I ever mentioned I enjoy sparkling wine? June 3.

Washington Big 5.
The Wine River Cruise would also visit. I love speaking to large crowds.

Rose' Blind Tasting
Blind tasting wine is fun. You confront your bias and learn.

Concha y Toro team
Meeting the team from Concha y Toro, Chile. They loved the Reininger Carmenere.

International buyers
International wine buyers and restauranteurs visit the Clore Center.

Legends of Washington Wine
Inducting Chaz Nagel into the Washington Wine Hall of Fame. Legends of Wine fundraiser.

Victor Palencia
Rising Stars was a showcase of new Washington wineries. Victor Palencia pouring.

Tourism International Group
Hosting and touring the Tourism International Group.

Rising Stars
Brad Binko of Eternal Wines pouring at Rising Stars.

Sparkling Wine Cocktails
My Sparkling Wine Cocktail class was a blast! Great team support.

WIT Cellars
WIT Cellars at Rising Stars. They have grown tremendously since this event.

Outdoor Wedding
We also hosted many weddings at the Clore Center. Sadly we cancelled all in 2020.

Washington Wine Flight
One of our "typical" monthly wine flights. And our Washington AVA map.

Clore Center Wine Bar
A crowded wine bar at the Clore Center. Pre-pandemic.

September 2020 Albarino Tasting
September 2020 Albarino Tasting.

Trip to Italy October 2020
October 2020 the last wine tasting I hosted at the Clore Center.

Be safe. Be kind. Thank you for reading.


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