By Kori ~ December 28th, 2009.
Today’s post is part of a series featuring the Women of Washington Wine. In an industry once dominated by men, more and more women are joining the ranks as winery owners, vineyard owners, and winemakers. Being a woman myself, I am fascinated by these women and what they have done and continue to do. Through this series, I hope to introduce you to some of the brightest female faces in the Washington wine industry.
Adams Bench Winery is a small, family-owned winery located in Woodinville, Washington. Founded in 2005 by owners and co-winemakers Tim and Erica Blue, Adams Bench produces Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab blends exclusively. After being bitten by the wine bug, Tim and Erica took enology courses at the famed UC Davis and began making home wine in 2004. They have produced some excellent wines in their short history; their current releases are only their third vintage. They produce 1,000 cases per year. We had the pleasure to meet Tim and Erica and visit their winery last year. The winery is located in a converted horse barn just down the hill from the Blue’s home. It is a gorgeous setting on a few acres overlooking horse pastures with a view of the Olympic Mountains on a clear day. Tim and Erica are both very friendly, welcoming, and extremely enthusiastic about what they are doing.
Recently, Erica was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule during this holiday season to answer some questions for me and our Wine Peeps readers.
Highlights from Q&A with Erica Blue:
How did you first get involved in the wine business?
Isn’t wine endlessly interesting? I was first captivated as a learner, a taster, and a traveler—but eventually became drawn into the experience of making wine at home, then decided to create Adams Bench with my husband Tim.
What were the steps that led to where you are now?
It’s always hard to identify all the steps. In retrospect I think there were foundations laid as far back as college—I was a chemistry major and loved it. My father, Vance Peavy, was an advocate, who believed wine was part of a good life. He influenced Tim to open his life to wine, and the rest is history. I was an Ob/GYN physician for many years, where I learned the value of patience, and developed a deep respect for the natural rhythms of life. I worked many years in a world of ideas, and at some point developed a longing to create something quite tangible, something I could hold in my hands, which represents the rhythm of the season, and speaks of a time and place, unique, never to be repeated, yet captured in a bottle.
Has being a woman been an advantage or a disadvantage in your wine journey? Please explain.
I think my feminine traits are a natural fit for winemaking—I know what tastes good to me, and others seem to like it too. I am also adventuresome, so I have enjoyed learning many new skills, such as understanding gas fittings, metric wrenches, how to assemble and customize a labeling machine, drive a forklift (though my husband hates to watch me do this), troubleshoot our bottling machine, and work with fermentations to get the results we want.
What advice do you have for a woman wanting to get involved in the wine business today?
Go to school. Study, learn all you can, and then apprentice yourself to a good mentor. I greatly valued Chris Camarda (Andrew Will Winery), who was our consultant, for his patient mentoring. Understand your goals. Be prepared to work hard.
What are your thoughts about the Washington wine industry, in general?
Infinite potential. The best climate for wine in the U.S. Washington is evolving and finding its place in the world. We have a great Wine Commission here and great people involved in the industry.
In recent years the Washington wine industry has grown at a rapid rate. Do you expect that trend to continue?
Yes, and more importantly, an increase in recognition for Washington’s place in the world of wine.
How do you and your husband, Tim, divide the duties at the winery?
We both do everything, but I am primarily responsible for harvest picking decisions and fermentations. I love this aspect particularly. The long, solitary trips to the vineyard during harvest, punctuated by fragrant walks down the vineyard rows, tasting and testing, color, flavor, seed and skin make me feel alive. I love it.
I understand that Tim continues to practice law full-time and you work part-time as a medical clinic administrator. How do you balance your day jobs with your work at the winery?
Yes, Tim is a trial lawyer and loves his work. And actually, I work full-time for The Everett Clinic. We are both very energetic, and committed to our first professions, and bring the same energy and dedication to Adams Bench. We make it work—during harvest we do work 7 days a week, and we have family who have come to play important roles.
What is your vision for the future of Adams Bench Winery?
Our vision is to continue producing 1,000 cases each year—creating Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab blends which continue to evolve as something truly special, consistently special—making just a little, and working very hard to make the best. We’ll develop our 3.25 acres over time, in a manner which complements the rural environment, maintaining peace and ambience as we improve our buildings, add a small vineyard, gardens, and more lavender. We will remain open only by appointment, as small groups allow us to enjoy getting to know our customers, many of whom are just as interested and devoted to Cabernet as Tim and I are!
Many thanks to Erica for sharing her story and thoughts with us. I wish her and Tim all the best and will be following their work and Adams Bench Winery with great interest, and I hope that you will too.
Filed under: American Wine, Interview, Washington State Wine, Women of Washington Wine